Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why I Love the Sport, the Franchise and the City But Ultimately Hate This Team

I love the Cowboys. No, wait scratch that. I am in a relationship with the Cowboys. I committed to them, for better or worse. It was a long time ago and there’s no way that I can switch allegiances. I used to feel sorry for people who grew up without an NFL franchise in their town. They never got to meet that perfect team. They never got to go through the courtship that is a Super Bowl season. I did. I do. I have the Dallas Cowboys and they’re my team and like a good Catholic, I’m stuck with them. Shackled to them for eternity, left only to offer excuses for them when they fail and explain away their shortcomings.

But I’ve come to realize that I secretly hate the Cowboys. Of course, I want them to win. Mostly for my own selfish, debauched reasons. I don’t even want them to win for themselves since I learned long ago that in the pantheon of things important to the Cowboys, winning comes in five spots behind ticket sales, sandwiched somewhere between cheerleader calendars and paper towel and charcoal product licensing. The greed doesn’t surprise me. You don’t become the NFL’s most valuable franchise without caring first and foremost about butts in seats and pro-shop merchandise. But at some point, you told me that you, quite frankly, didn’t care about me any longer.

You built a new stadium that has all the soul of a Roomba gliding along a taupe linoleum floor while Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music plays in the background. And when you announced the price point for tickets, you patted me on the shoulder and told me that you were sorry that I wouldn’t be able to attend any regular season Cowboys games while firmly guiding me to the exits. I didn’t take that too well. I’ve had to deal with the sideways glances and ridicule that comes with being a Cowboys fan for two decades now. And the whole time I stood my ground because you did care that I gave my time and attention and support and meager paycheck to you each Sunday.

Now, you’ve done it. I don’t know how I can look at my friends and say that I support you or your behavior. You apparently thought you would ingratiate yourself to the public by telling them a story about how Dez Bryant took the team out to a steakhouse and spent $55,000 on dinner for them. All of this to make up for some perceived rookie slight towards Roy Williams that everyone had already agreed was not actually a big deal. The whole thing was over and done with. Sure, Dez could have still taken the team out to dinner and the rookies could have paid for the team to dine lavishly. But wouldn’t you try to keep the story quiet, something just between your players and your front office.

Instead, this story has hit the media complete with quotes from team sources and Tweets from players, mid-gorging. So you’re proud of it. While you didn’t encourage it, you aren’t discouraging it either. Before you start giving me reasons why this is not that big of a deal, let me tell you that I think those reasons are, at best, weak and at worst, absolute bullshit of the highest order. You say that plenty of NFL players have had to pay up on bets or promises of steak dinners. You say that it is his money which he is free to spend as he chooses.

But unless your PR department is run by the same brain trust helming the BP PR department over the summer, you should know that you must immediately include a comparable donation to a food bank or charity of some kind to offset the gluttony and wastefulness of this gesture. Perhaps if the rookies were the ones who picked up the tab, the veterans can match that amount with a donation to Austin Street Center, the North Texas Food Bank or the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance?

But that’s not my real problem with this story. My real problem is that someone somewhere in the chain of command or amongst the players should have known that $55,000 is a lot of money. Money that the people who watch you on TV, buy your t-shirts and save up to attend your games would love to have lying around. There’s a pretty good chance that they don’t have it lying around though and because of that, they have had to give up certain luxuries once the economy took a nosedive. Luxuries like Cowboys games. So what you’re saying to Dallas Cowboy fans who fantasize about what a difference in their life $55,000 would make is essentially, “Sucks to be poor. Let us hear from you when you’ve got money again.” It’s a slap in the face and don’t think for a second that I won’t savor every morsel of news I hear about the team being broke.

Speaking of the team, I don’t blame Dez entirely for this situation. I blame the team’s mentality as a whole. You took a chance on drafting Bryant, a kid whose upbringing you would be generous to describe as “rough” and you told everyone to watch what a disciplined, good guy you believed him to be. And what lessons on character and values do you have to impart on him? A source says that, “Players ordered basically everything on the menu and even took home bottles of wine.” What kind of Latrell Sprewell-ian lesson is this to teach a kid who is young and impressionable? Grandiose displays of gluttony are apparently more important than discipline and humility. How utterly unoriginal that the team that plays in the most tacky and over the top stadium in the NFL encourages such displays.

Let me put it to you this way: you’re a 1-2 team going into the bye who hasn’t managed to get your mange-y, excuses-filled collective asses into a NFC Championship since Justin Bieber was learning to walk. Your second-in-command/coach-in-waiting is Jason Garrett, an offensive co-coordinator who squandered his choice of head coaching opportunities before his talent was discovered to be not much more than a momentary fluke.

Maybe it will take a losing season and empty seats and mounting debts for you to learn that $55,000 steak dinners eaten off the backs of the ever-dwindling number of lower and middle class fans who have the means or enthusiasm to support you don’t taste nearly as good as wearing a Super Bowl ring feels.