Editor's Note: Dan Turner spent some time at training camp in Oxnard this past summer and has been a guest on "Talkin' Cowboys" to share his stories and opinions from London. Dan will also contribute to DallasCowboys.com when the Cowboys are in London next week to face the Jaguars.
It's 4:30am on Monday 29 September. The Cowboys are ahead 38-17 against the New Orleans Saints, and Tony Romo is kneeling down to secure the victory. There is a minute left on the clock. I'm forced to decide whether it's worth me staying up for that extra minute.
It's a similar story at 5:30am in May, when the sun is already rising on the culmination of draft day. The Cowboys have made their pick, but do I stay up just in case they trade back into the first round? The answer to both these questions is yes. That's the life of a UK Cowboys fan, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
It all started for me in early September 2012. The rain was heavy in Northamptonshire, England, the days were getting shorter, nights getting longer, and darkness was taking over the early autumn sky. My friends were filtering off to their respective universities, and it would be another month until I left for mine. I had just had a minor operation, was bedridden, and bored, evidently. It may not be the most romantic prelude to finding a new passion, but that was mine with your sport.
[embeddedad0]I switched on the television, and came across a peculiar looking sport called American football. It was the first weekend of the NFL regular season. I would watch the Super Bowl every year, but so did everyone. Brits watch it for the spectacle though, without the faintest clue what is happening during the game. To us, 'Football' is soccer. American 'Football' is a mysterious game, played with a rugby ball, and incomprehensible rules. It was too slow and had too many advertisement breaks. Despite this, I carried on watching it. The television went on again the week after, and the week after that, and so on and so forth. My love affair with your wonderful sport had begun.
I chose the Dallas Cowboys as my team for no other reason than that my Dad had brought me back a Deion Sanders Cowboys jersey from Texas when I was young. I found it in the back of my wardrobe, and it still fit me. Never did I consider that such a simple decision as that would bring me such joy, despair, disbelief, and adventure. My love affair with your wonderful team had begun.
I discovered the UK Cowboys Fans group on twitter and started writing for them after the 2012 season. The UK Cowboys group are a great bunch, and as passionate about the Cowboys as our American counterparts. The group is run by Jamie, Nik and Lauren, who put a huge amount of emotional, financial, and mental effort, as well as time, into it. They are responsible for a number of events which will occur when the Cowboys come over to the UK.
As you will already know, the Cowboys are coming to London next week. This is a huge deal for us over here. I've heard all the criticism about British NFL fans. No, we don't cheer punts. No, we don't just think it's rugby with more pads. No, we don't call it handegg (Ok, some might do). All the games sold out quickly, and so around 84,000 people will grace Wembley Stadium to see the Cowboys. The only team in the NFL that has a higher average attendance than that is the Cowboys. I realise that the concept of NFL games played outside the United States is resented by many, but trust me when I say that our fans will do you proud.
One such UK fan loves the team so much that he travelled 5,389 miles, and cleared his bank account, just to go to Oxnard in July for Cowboys training camp. As you can probably guess, that fan was yours truly. In between acting as Mickey Spagnola's young apprentice, watching film with Bryan Broaddus, and interviewing players, I made my debut appearance on Talkin Cowboys. I reported back to the UK with a daily diary which I wrote for UKCowboysFans.com. The hospitality of the American people was astounding, and I can only hope that London provides a similar level of acceptance to those Americans who make the trip over.
Being a UK Cowboys fan is tough, make no mistake about it. Being a Cowboys fan is hard enough though. We go through the 8-8's, as well as the injuries, and the long offseasons, and the disappointments. We also go through sleep deprivation, messed up body clocks, and a lack of national media coverage on the team. I am not asking for sympathy, none of us are. I just feel that you should understand why we UK Cowboys fans feel we deserve this, the opportunity to see your team, which is also ours, on British soil for the first time.
Over the next week or so, I will be doing some more writing in the lead up to the game. Until then, toodle pip Cowboys fans.