One may think that a reportorial assignment here in the Land of Barbecue is something akin to paradise, but it is not without its moral dilemmas. I refer, of course, to today's NFC championship game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys.
Editors of major newspapers are sometimes reluctant to dispatch correspondents for long tours of duty in faraway places, fearing that those reporters, in the vernacular, will "go native." They have good reason to worry.
Over the past two years, more of my life than I care to admit has been spent in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, where I have been beset with pictures, posters, pennants, coffee mugs, playing cards, shirts and other souvenirs, all bearing the silver-and-blue Lone Star symbol of the Cowboys.
On Sundays, when I turn on the television, I see Tony Dorsett cutting upfield or Randy White barreling down on some hapless quarterback or Everson Walls making another fabulous interception. At other times, I watch Tom Landry, sans fedora, reviewing last week's game films and chatting amiably about this week's picks.
All of this has made the Cowboys a little like family, and it is easy to forget where my real loyalty lies.
There are offsetting conditions, however. Even in the best of times, this is not an easy place to live in if you are remotely connected to Washington. Hating Washington is as natural here as the wildflowers that pop up every spring, and it has nothing to do with football.
This week the Dallas papers have been whipping everyone into a frenzy over the game, which has made things even worse. One Dallas columnist bravely declared the other day that he--yes!--"hated" the Redskins.
On the front page of Friday's Dallas Morning News, another reporter, apparently looking for the ultimate put-down, tried to tarnish the Redskins by reminding everyone that Richard Nixon used to root for them.
I say all this to indicate that, even after two years of being away from the womb of Washington, certain tenuous loyalties still exist. I think. And so, when the Redskins take the field today, I will rise to cheer.
But I cannot say the same for my son.
Born a Washingtonian, he was whisked away to Texas long before Redskins football had been burned into his consciousness.
Now he sleeps in pajamas that bear the number "34." For the uneducated, 34 is the number that Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell wears, although, to be fair about it, the pajamas have nothing to do with the Oilers.
During the past two autumns, my son has become enchanted with the University of Texas Longhorns, and has become familiar with the Aggies of Texas A&M University, the Baylor Bears, the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Southern Methodist University Mustangs. He once got to sit on the Mustangs' mascot, a frisky black pony.
But, alas, he is most familiar with the Cowboys. He is, of course, a cowboy--with a small "c"--of the first order, as are all boys in Texas. Each morning he troops off to school wearing a battered straw cowboy hat that once belonged to his mother, and his room has more horses in it than you would find on most ranches.
We have been trying to instill in him an understanding of the meaning of the word "loyalty," and I have gently nurtured in him an appreciation of the Redskins. I fear that in his young life, however, the Cowboys remain No. 1.
But there is still hope. Not all the finer points of being a football fan have taken hold in him. As we sit in front of the television set watching one game or another, I ask him, "Who are you rooting for? "
"Who are ahead? " he replies.
The Redskins can take matters into their own hands today and earn the loyalty of one small boy in Texas, at least for this week.