Sham: Cowboys, Texans Come Together With A Sense Of Priority

Not really that into it this week, are you?

It's okay. Hurricane Harvey would be gruesome and awful if it were anywhere. But it's here. It's our state. Almost everyone in the Texas branch of Cowboys nation has friends, family, loved ones in Houston. And around Houston. But especially right there where the storm decided to stick around. Doesn't feel much like football.

If we're real, the final preseason game would have been just a placeholder for most fans anyway. It's normally something you have to endure because you can't get to the regular season without it.

Of course, that's not the case for the players who play that game. They're either fighting for their football lives, whether it's with their current team or one of the 31 others, or they're playing football for maybe the last time ever.

Put a real face on it. Ross Burbank has been the Cowboys' third-team center most of the summer. He's been pretty decent, maybe good enough to be on the practice squad, which is a six-figure job. But this is not Burbank's first rodeo. As a rookie out of Virginia, he signed last year with the Raiders, was with them right up until the final cut, and was then released. He just stayed ready until Seattle signed him to the practice squad three days after Christmas. The Seahawks released him in May. He signed with the Cowboys the first week of June, and he's had a good summer.

But good enough? To keep his dream alive, Burbank needed that game. He went through it last year, and he knows what's up. So he was looking forward to it. Because of injuries and resting veterans, the six or seven linemen who would have played Thursday night, would have had a chance to get a lot of reps and showcase what they could do.

"As a unit, as a group, this is a big game for the younger guys in my position," Burbank said prior to the game being canceled. "We're definitely excited about it."

Burbank is exactly the kind of player to whom some point in saying preseason games don't count, but they matter. There are probably a dozen of them just like that, with chances to make the roster or the practice squad, for each team. These are people's dreams.

But as Cowboys' head coach Jason Garrett acknowledged Monday, life frequently supersedes football. For those of us with "only" friends or acquaintances in Houston, it is literally impossible to imagine what the people of the city are going through. Going, as in still happening. That's driving the Texans crazy.

The Texans as an organization didn't want to play this game. Who can blame them? They played in New Orleans Saturday night, and they couldn't get home. Players, coaches, athletic trainers, equipment managers, public relations staff … since Saturday they had been unable to check on whether they have any belongings left. They have been unable to do more than hope cell signals and power held. They have been powerless to do anything but sit and wait and have someone eventually tell them what remains of their life. One Texans staffer found out only Tuesday his parents had been evacuated to safety. This is a bad movie. There are human faces on this part of it, too.

No wonder the Texans preferred not to play. They wanted to go home and check on their homes and their families. Not until Wednesday morning could they get there. Just think of that. They were in Dallas and their families are in Houston and they Couldn't. Get. There.

The Cowboys aren't unaffected, either. This executive found out Tuesday his mother and brother had been able to get out of town. That player's parents had recently moved to Houston. They've all been checking their phones every five minutes for news.

So yeah, the Texans really didn't want to play, and the Cowboys were fine with that. Out of concern, respect, a sense of priority.

However, in an extraordinary, yet completely logical spirit of cooperation and, yes, family, the Cowboys and the Texans were doing what they could to help an abominable situation. The Cowboys opened their home. The players on both teams opened their hearts. Houston's J.J. Watt took to Twitter to launch a fundraising drive for relief. As of Wednesday morning, they had surpassed $6 million in pledges. Ezekiel Elliott, even with, ahem, other things on his mind, tweeted a $21,000 pledge to disaster relief. Challenged Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott to match. Dez went to $50k. Jerry Jones donated $100,000 right of the chute on a Tuesday morning radio show.

Frankly, the game would have been fun to broadcast. It's always rewarding chronicling the efforts of young folks putting everything they have into saving a dream. But it would have been so much more. It would have been about telling the story of how people are helping people. About the very best of what we are as Americans, a commercial for human decency and resiliency.

And frankly it would have been about the very best of what sports is in our culture. Garrett, who was playing for the Giants on 9-11, learned firsthand and indelibly what a football team can mean to a community. He's a big believer in what a game can do to help people regain their bearings.

The Texans and the Cowboys did not play a football game, and rightfully so, but they still came together. Either way, there was not going to be a "meaningless" preseason game.

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