By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
This isn't still about that JFK thing, is it?
Perhaps then it's eternal payback for the Dallas Cowboys' Hail Mary, Brett Hull's "no goal" for the Dallas Stars, the Texas Rangers' exploitation of 18-year-old David Clyde or all those second chances afforded Roy Tarpley by the Dallas Mavericks?
OK, then you tell me. Because, in case you've lost count—or interest—since 1999 we haven't won diddly-poo. Whether it's Lady Luck, Father Time or Cousin Karma, someone up in the sports sky has got it in for us.
In the early, triple-overtime morning hours of Sunday, June 20, 1999, the Stars—thanks to Hull's controversial game-winner—won the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Finals with a 2-1 victory over the Sabres in Buffalo. Since then, Dallas sports has been like Betty White—repackaged and temporarily tantalizing, but ultimately bone dry.
Our tortured fans have been dragged through the Cowboys' owning a 13-3 record and home-field advantage in the 2007 NFC Playoffs, only to lose to the New York Giants in the wake of Tony Romo deciding to jet off to Cabo San Lucas during the bye week. And then there was Romo's botched hold in a playoff game at Seattle and this year's Super Bowl expectations eroding into a 1-7 start and the firing of head coach Wade Phillips.
In 2006 the Mavericks authored the worst come-from-ahead loss in NBA Finals history, puking up a 2-0 series lead and a 13-point fourth-quarter lead in Game 3 to the Miami Heat. Like a squirt of jalapeño into a scratched cornea, the Mavs went out the next year and won 67 games in the regular season, then promptly were embarrassed by the Golden State Warriors in becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 in a best-of-seven first round of the playoffs.
After a 39-year wait in which almost every record their fans cheered deteriorated into a steroid asterisk, the Rangers finally made the World Series and then inexplicably forgot how to hit in a 4-1 series loss to the San Francisco Giants.
We can host everything from the Stanley Cup (2000), NBA Finals ('06), World Series ('10) and Super Bowl XLV ('11). But we can't win anything.
Thanksgiving be damned, we're a bunch of turkeys.
And so it continued last Sunday night in Toronto, Canada. Now even our soccer team kicks us in the crotch.
With a 1-0 lead and Major League Soccer's stingiest defense conservatively packed in tight, FC Dallas was headed for a victory in its MLS Cup championship match against the Colorado Rapids. Dallas' drought—11 years and counting—was 33 measly minutes from a desperate dousing. But then—in the spirit of Patrick Crayton dropping a pass against the Giants, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard missing free throws against the Heat and Vladimir Guerrero striking out against San Francisco—shit happened.
After a scramble in front of Dallas' goal, Colorado's Conor Casey found the ball on his right foot and—while sitting down—poked home a quirky goal for a 1-1 tie. And then in overtime FC Dallas found its Jackie Smith. Like the tight end who infamously dropped a touchdown pass in a 35-31 loss in Super Bowl XIII, defender George John accidentally deflected a Colorado shot into Dallas' net. The Rapids' Macoumba Kandji sent a ball sort of in front of the goal but not on target. In his attempt to clear it, John instead redirected it off his left knee past goalie Kevin Hartman and into the net. That's right, an "own goal."
Colorado 2, FC Dallas 1. We've found lots of unique, heartbreaking ways to sidestep a trophy, but never before has a Dallas team lost because it scored against itself.
This stinging setback wasn't just a defeat for FC Dallas, but yet another loss for Dallas soccer at its highest levels.
The Cotton Bowl hosted World Cup games in '94. In '71 the Dallas Tornado won an outdoor soccer championship. In '87 the Dallas Sidekicks won an indoor title to sellout crowds at Reunion Arena. The annual Dallas Cup around Easter weekend is one of the world's largest and most prestigious youth tournaments. And on any given Saturday, fields across North Texas are littered with soccer moms and doting dads and dribbling, seemingly joyous children.
Why then, doesn't soccer stick? Because somewhere around the transition from junior high through puberty to high school, the majority of area boys choose football over fútbol.
"I'm not sure that will ever change because Texas has such a rich heritage of football," former FC Dallas player and current TV analyst Bobby Rhine said last week before the MLS Cup. "We've got some of the best youth programs in the world right here. It's just going to take a defining moment or moments to turn the tide. Winning provides a lot of answers. It sure wouldn't hurt if FC Dallas could bring a trophy and some pride back home."
Aside from almost winning, FC Dallas is taking another stab at this thing. After its transformation from the Cotton Bowl and the Dallas Burn to Frisco's Pizza Hut Park and FC Dallas in 2005, the franchise is slowly dumping style for, well, soccer.
Gone are sorta stars like Eddie Johnson and Jason Kreis and Kenny Cooper, replaced by Colombian-born MLS Most Valuable Player David Ferreira. And gone is the catering—bordering on pandering—to families. Instead of a Kids Zone (accessorized with inflatable toys and balloon artists) on the stage behind the team's north goal, there is now an outdoor pub/beer garden. It seemed to work, as attendance was up 21 percent. Or was it merely the team's complete makeover, rather than crafty marketing?
Arriving midway through the '08 season after leading SMU to the NCAA Tournament in 24 of his 25 years, head coach Schellas Hyndman reshaped FC Dallas into a team of unyielding fundamentals, stout defensive principles and constant ball movement. In the regular season, they lost only four games and produced a 19-game unbeaten streak. Hyndman is the MLS Coach of the Year and Ferreira the Player of the Year and FC Dallas was on the brink of a championship...and it all came crashing down on a cold, wet field in Canada before an announced sellout of 21,700 and thousands of metroplex TV viewers desperate to hop on any bandwagon displaying the least amount of wobble.
After John's self-inflicted goal, FC Dallas came this close to equalizing in overtime on shots by Ferreira (who scored their lone goal), Dax McCarty, Jeff Cunningham and even John himself, whose left-footed rocket was punched away at the last second by Colorado goalie Matt Pickens. Pure. Anguish.
Not sure if snooty sports fans would've authenticated an FC Dallas triumph as a streak-busting triumph for the metroplex's major sports, but it sure would've been a fun debate to engage in while the parade route winded through downtown Frisco's Main Street. Instead, Dallas remains stuck with the stigma: heavy on moral victories, light on tangible trophies.
To whom it may concern: Of course Drew Pearson pushed off, Hull was indeed in the crease, Clyde was prematurely, almost criminally rushed to the Majors and we regret each and every enabling of Tarpley.
Oh yeah, and Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
Thanks for nothing.