Chris Christie’s Cowboys love in national spotlight

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(CNN) — While the New Jersey governor’s unusual adoration of the Dallas Cowboys has been well documented, Chris Christie’s loyalty for America’s team was on full display Sunday night when he was seen giving Cowboys owner Jerry Jones a bear hug after the team made a huge comeback to defeat the Detroit Lions.

His embrace quickly spread via social media, drawing detractors and defenders alike for the governor’s NFL preference.

As for the ribbing he got online, Christie said Monday morning that nobody was giving him a hard time until the Cowboys started doing wel l.

“I would take all the abuse that I’m taking from some of these folks in return for Cowboys playoff wins,” Christie said on WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” radio show, where he does regular call-in interviews.

The Republican described the celebratory mood in Jones’ box as “pandemonium” after the game. The locker room, he added, was also ecstatic, and he recalled being hugged by wide receiver Dez Bryant.

Asked about the orange sweater he wore to the game, Christie said it was a good luck charm, one that he’s sported to every game he’s been to this year. “And They’ve won all five,” he said.

Christie defended his longtime, out-of-state loyalty, saying “you are who you are as a fan,” adding that he’s also remained a New York Rangers fan in the NHL rather than a New Jersey Devils fan.”

He said he hopes to go to the Cowboys playoff game next weekend against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin. Asked if he’ll pay a visit to Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 rival for the GOP presidential nomination, while he’s there, Christie said:”Of course. Scott and I are friends, and I’ll see Scott.”

The New Jersey native has long been clear about his professional football allegiance, saying it dates back to when he was fascinated by quarterback Roger Staubach as a kid.

Christie said in 2013 that his father was a Giants fan — “Every Sunday, he’d watch the Giants and yell at the TV set” — and part of his own motivation for favoring the Cowboys stemmed from watching his dad get so upset on game days.

“I used to think to myself, why do I want to root for a team that makes you angry? So I decided not to.”

More recently in a late December interview, Christie was grilled by New Jersey reporter Steve Adubato about appearances with Jones in the Dallas Cowboys owners’ box. “What is the deal?” Adubato demanded during his hour-long interview with Christie shortly before Christmas.

Christie defended his loyalty to the Cowboys as a badge of honor: “You don’t change your sports teams. You know? So that’s who I am.”

While Christie acknowledges it’s politically incorrect to be a Cowboys fan in New Jersey, it could be a smart move in the Garden State, which technically doesn’t have an NFL team. Choosing one of the New York teams might not win him many friends in the southern part of the state, close to the Philadelphia Eagles — and vice versa.

Regardless of his sports affiliations, Christie’s friendship with Jones — which he said developed over the past five years — could be a valuable asset to the New Jersey governor if he runs for president in 2016.

More importantly, Christie’s friendship with Jones could help widen his donor network in a state where both Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — two potential competitors — have deep ties to many wealthy contributors across the state.

Jones has been a generous contributor to Texas Gov. Rick Perry over the years, and also contributed to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign early in the cycle.

Asked if he thinks he can carry Texas now if he runs for president, Christie joked on the radio show Monday: “I think our chances have improved.”

Still, Christie has caught flack for his NFL choice. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said last month that Christie’s unapologetic love for the Cowboys is “pathetic” and rooted in a “basic inferiority complex.”

“If you are a Jerseyite or a Pennsylvanian and you’re rooting for the Cowboys, it means you’re not secure in yourself and you wanted to root for a team that was a team in your youth that was a constant winner,” the Philadelphia Eagles fan said Thursday on a radio show.

He was booed by some of the children in the crowd at a central New Jersey elementary school during his 2013 gubernatorial campaign when he admitted the Cowboys were his favorite team. Before revealing that choice, he warned the audience that his answer often “gets all my political advisers nervous.”

Christie’s favorite basketball team, the New York Knicks, drew a more favorable response from the elementary school audience. When he named his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, he got some heat from the young Yankees fans in the crowd.

But some came to his defense Sunday night, including former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who tweeted that it “takes guts” for someone to stand by their team.