I learned a lot of history from my father.
If you knew my dad, you might find that statement a bit obvious. After all, Dad was a college history professor. But, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. I’m not referring to what you think that I am. I’m talking about Dallas Cowboy history.
Dad was born in Dallas. He was originally a fan of the American Football League’s Dallas Texans. Back then, the American Football League (AFL) was a rival professional sports league to the National Football League (NFL). The AFL had the Dallas Texans, and the NFL had the Dallas Cowboys. After winning the AFL championship in 1963, the Texans moved to Kansas City and became known as the Chiefs, but now I’m boring you with too much history. For the record, my father would have made all that sound exciting.
Regardless, by 1966, my father was a Cowboy fan. In October of that year, the Cowboys visited St. Louis to play an undefeated Cardinal team. With the score tied at 10 and only a few minutes left in the game, diminutive Cowboy punter, Danny Villanueva, took the snap at his own 33-yard line intending to punt the ball away. However, after quickly recognizing that a few of the Cardinal defensive linemen had already begun retreating to setup the punt return, Villanueva made an unexpected move. He suddenly took off and ran with the ball. Villanueva surprised the Cardinals by scampering 23 yards to obtain a critical first down which kept the Cowboy’s hopes of winning alive.
After the game, when asked by reporters why he took it upon himself to run, Villanueva answered immediately:
“Well, somebody needed to do it, and I had the ball.”
I love that story as told to me by my father. Somebody needed to do it, and I had the ball. You might even prefer that the story end there. But, the honest truth is that it doesn’t. In fact, I’ve only told you half the tale. And, life really should be about relishing the remarkable ride in its entirety.
You see, despite being aided by Villanueva’s critical first down run, the Cowboy’s drive stalled a few plays later. Villanueva once again returned to the field; but, this time, he was coming out to attempt a field goal. Villanueva was a talented player, and in fact, he played two positions for the Cowboys. He was both the punter and the field goal kicker, bringing two different pairs of shoes to every game. In any case, Villanueva’s 33-yard field goal attempt missed wide left, and the Cowboys failed to win the game.
That’s the full story. And, contrary to what you might think, the complete story–the one full of seemingly the good and the bad–is actually the one, now with each passing day, that I’m starting to enjoy more and more. In essence, Villanueva brought good news to Cowboy fans with his first play and bad news with his second. Good news. Then, bad news. But, in the end, is there really a difference between the two? Are you sure?
The Cowboys would go on to win the NFL Eastern title that year, only to lose the NFL Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. The following year, they would lose the NFL Championship Game again to the same team, in a game that would forever be known as the “Ice Bowl.” Villanueva would retire from football after the 1967 season and become a successful self-made business man. The Cowboys would ultimately win two Super Bowls in the following decade, and the cycle of life would carry on.
Ultimately, time is its own illusion comprised of neither good or bad news. There is just news that occurs throughout one remarkable ride. Relish it. Remember to bring your shoes. And, when you find the ball in your hands, run.