Faithful fan finally sees team in action

Joe Martinez Sr. holds a signed Dallas Cowboys training camp flag in his “Cowboys” room Friday at his home in Clovis. Martinez, who is fighting cancer, saw his first Cowboys’ game in person. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Joe Martinez Sr. spends numerous hours a month at Plains Regional Medical Center having potent cancer drugs pumped into his weakened system through a surgically implanted port in his chest.

Martinez is fighting to prolong his life via chemotherapy after being told by doctors four months ago he has only six to eight months to live.

“This is actually his second bout of cancer,” Joe Martinez Jr. said. “It (the cancer) has spread to his lungs and is considered terminal.”

And so Martinez Sr., 69, set his family in motion to help him realize a dream.

A faithful Dallas Cowboys fan since the team’s inception in 1960, Martinez Sr. had never seen them play in person.

He said his fear of flying always kept him from attending a game.

“I figured I was gonna die anyway,” Martinez Sr. said, “so I decided I would fly to get to a game.”

With the help of family members, the Dallas organization and Southwest Airlines, Martinez Sr.’s dream came true New Year’s night when he watched the Cowboys’ season-ending 20-10 loss to St. Louis in Irving, Texas.

Martinez said he had the time of his life watching his favorite team from “real sweet” seats located on the 41-yard line.

“It was exciting,” Martinez said. “It was just really, really great.”

He said his favorite part was the noises associated with the game. “I liked hearing the helmets cracking when they hit each other,” Martinez said as he punched his palm with a fist.

His serious brown eyes widened when he mentioned the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

“You don’t get to see them (cheerleaders) much on TV,” Martinez said, “but I loved seeing them perform.”

Martinez Sr. said he and family members tried to purchase tickets to a home game, but were saddened to discover every game this season was sold out.

“I had my son go online to buy us tickets,” Martinez said, “but there were none available.”

Shrugging his thin shoulders, Martinez added, “I thought I had waited too long and would never see them.”

However, family members refused to give up and began contacting charitable organizations within the Dallas area. According to Martinez Sr., Dallas family members were able to procure game tickets from the Dallas Cowboys organization and round-trip tickets from Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines employee Michele Kyle said the Civic and Charitable Contributions department of the airline was happy to send the Martinez family four tickets from Lubbock to Dallas.

“The family broke down in tears when they heard they were receiving the game and flight tickets,” Kyle said.

Although he enjoyed the game immensely, the football fanatic said shopping for “Cowboy stuff” was his favorite part of the three-day trip.

He said he bought magnets, key chains, T-shirts and a jacket and cap he’s wearing a lot these days.

Martinez’ deeply lined face broke into a smile when he recalled a particular purchase.

“Oh, I don’t want to leave out the calendar of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders I got,” Martinez said, “and it’s the swimsuit edition.”

The Cowboys fan pointed a finger skyward and concluded, “If he (God) gives me a break,” Martinez said. “I am definitely going to another game.”