I am mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!
The love fest at the conclusion of what was almost the perfect Sunday Night Football game ruined the whole night for me.The way the vanquished Dallas Cowboys embraced the victorious Philadelphia Eagles, you would think they had just completed a closed-door corporate merger and were set to announce they were all now on the same team and headed for the Super Bowl together.
You know, like LeBron James and his new crew. One big, happy, rich family.
Remember when you learned the truth about Santa Claus?
Did you feel a little like you had been played? Like you were buying into this colossal, universal lie that everyone was in on but you? Did you begin to have suspicions about the other stuff your mom and dad told you about life in general and Christmas in particular?
So, Santa and his flying reindeer are fantasy, but the virgin-born baby Jesus, that’s real?
It all gets very confusing when people are selling you things that are a mixture of fantasy and reality.
Like NFL football, for instance.
As far back as I can remember, I have been a football freak. I bought player cards, magazines, electric football sets. Heck, I even organized paper football leagues at school, the kind where you fold a piece of notebook paper into a triangle, your friend makes goal posts with his fingers, and you attempt to thump a field goal and put his eye out at the same time.
I was a true believer.
I believed in the magic, the wonder of the NFL and its greatest, most glorious team: My Dallas Cowboys.
I believed they cared as much as I did, even more, how the game turned out on Sunday. I believed they were warriors, willing to sacrifice life and limb for the team they loved every bit as much as I did.
Then, I saw the 2010 Dallas Cowboys suffer their ninth gut-wrenching loss in 13 tries.
They lost 30–27 to the hated Philadelphia Eagles, led by Michael Vick—former inmate number 33765-183 and current number seven in your program—and their jolly, round bellied, rose-cheeked coach, Andy Reid.
While I am trying to figure out how a defense that took the field with more than four minutes on the clock, all of their timeouts in hand, and needing just to get one lousy defensive stop, got sliced and diced like a ripe tomato, right up the middle, by a team that doesn’t even like to run the football, the Cowboys are running onto the field all grins and giggles like preteen girls at a Jonas Brothers concert.
There is no Santa.
Worse still, there is no NFL. There is only the WWF masquerading as the NFL.
It is all just a show. It may as well be on Broadway and feature Barbra Streisand belting out some soul-shaking sonnet, face aglow, enraptured, big beak of a nose pointed to heaven (or at least the balcony), making us believe, making us cry, strumming out hearts with her lie, while her mind wanders to a double cheeseburger and milk shake.
While you took it like a punch to the gut—the loss that officially means your Cowboys will have a losing season for the first time since 2004—your heroes were all smiles and back slaps.
Could someone please explain to Jason Garrett, the man I have unashamedly backed for the head coach position for the past two years, that losing a heart-breaker of a game on national television is probably not the best forum for a possum-eating-peat seed grin and a Christmas morning-like bounce in your step?
You would have thought Jerry Jones—who was down there on the sidelines, performing that ridiculous sideshow clown act we have come to know so well—had just whispered, “You got the job, Red,” into his ear.
Garrett needs to understand that, here in Dallas, when we grab the measuring stick of coaching greatness, it bears the likeness of Tom Landry on one side and Jimmy Johnson on the other.
Jimmy Johnson didn’t have a good old time of yucks and giggles after losing the game known as “Bounty Bowl II” to coach Buddy Ryan’s Eagles. In fact, Johnson, red-faced and more than a little torqued, claimed he wanted to have a word with Ryan about it, but the Philly coach “ran his fat butt” to the locker room before he could do so.
Can you imagine Tom Landry grinning like Garrett at, say, George Allen after his archenemy had just punched the Cowboys’ ticket to a losing season?
Can you imagine Landry smiling, embracing and encouraging Ron Jaworski?
Heck, Tom barely cracked a smile when he won the Super Bowl! He dang sure wasn’t grinning like he just scored a prom date with the head cheerleader after a tough loss to a bitter rival.
Isn’t that the problem? For too many of today’s NFL players—more specifically, for way too many of today’s Cowboys players—there are no tough losses or bitter rivals.
We all remember Tony Romo two years ago, after his team was thoroughly humiliated 44–6 by these same Eagles, saying, “If that is the worst thing that ever happens to me, I have lived a good life.”
It’s only a game. Right, Tony?
Besides, if you miss the postseason, you can get in that many more rounds of golf.
And the bitter rival thing? They used to be able to say, “These teams do not like each other,” and it meant something.
They are no longer teams; they are a team. They are just one big fraternity, one troupe, paid insanely huge salaries to put on a show, to act out a part.
These thespians (another word for “players”) don’t even have the decency to wait until the curtain closes to hug each other and laugh at the audience for buying into their sham. They do it at midfield, beneath the bright lights, the TV cameras, and the disillusioned fans, who watch, mouths agape and misty-eyed, as the truth about Santa and all the other silly things they used to believe in is hammered home once again.
Then there is Tashard Choice.
What can you say about a guy who deals with a tough loss by asking the opposing quarterback for an autograph?
But that sort of thing happens every day, right? Don’t you remember Tony Dorsett running over to get Bradshaw’s autograph right after the Cowboys lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl?
You don’t remember that?
What about the time when Emmitt Smith hit Steve Young up for his autograph after Young beat them in the 1994 NFC championship game. Remember that?
When the NFL is full of players who care less about the outcome of games than the fans do, players whose sole concern is when does the check hit the bank and how much is it…
When the team I follow is made up of players for whom losing doesn’t hurt…
When perhaps the best running back on the Dallas Cowboys runs like a school girl to Michael Vick for an autograph…
When a defense that was supposed to be the strength of the team allows the opponent to run through them like Sherman through Georgia, running four minutes off the game clock and sealing the win…
When the head coach watches with a grin while his team quietly folds its hand…
It is almost enough for me to cheer for a lock-out. It is almost enough for me to hope their own greed and excesses finally brings them to their collective knees, until they remember it is more than a game.
And it is their privilege, not their birthright, to play it.
And when they do play it, they get paid to do so for one reason, and one reason only.
Because we care.