Tough Love: T.O., The Cowboys, and The Post Season 

Sometimes it’s hard to love the Cowboys. I learned this lesson as a youngster in the ’80s, when my grandfather decided he would treat his family to a game in Dallas in the dead of winter — back when Texas still had a winter. The Cowboys won the game, but what I remember most is the cold snow, the warm blankets, and plenty of hot chocolate. Somewhere along the way to or from Texas Stadium, grandpa took a comical spill down a frosty hill, the memory of which still puts a smile on my Mom’s face.

Despite that early polarizing experience, for me, the Cowboys will always be the fearsome team of the ‘90s that was coached by Jimmy Johnson, won consecutive Super Bowls, and featured Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman, playmaker Michael Irving, and Emmitt Smith, perhaps the greatest running back of all time. If these Cowboys were behind in a contest and you somehow dozed off for a Sunday catnap, they would probably be up by at least a couple of touchdowns by the time you awoke. Then they added Deion Sanders, and the Cowboys tacked on another title before things started falling apart under Barry Switzer’s lax watch.

Simply stated, Jerry Jones, Terrell Owens, and, yes, even Bill Parcells are why it’s tough to cheer for America’s team these days. Jones is still the owner who fired Tom Landry. After already obliterating two NFL teams, T.O. has dropped far too many crucial passes this season. And Parcells has been giving off a weird carpetbagger vibe ever since he arrived in Dallas. When you factor in the Big Tuna, Bobby Knight, and even Greg Popovich, it appears that crotchety old coaches are all the rage in Texas, especially if they can produce results.

“I am very happy about the win,” said Parcells uncharacteristically on Atlantafalcons.com after the Cowboys impressive 38-28 victory in Atlanta. “I think the team showed a lot of guts. Atlanta fought hard. They had us scrambling in the third quarter. It looked like we were going to have trouble settling down the rest of the way. Our defense settled down and our offense drove the ball two or three consecutive procession for scores. I was really proud of them. They fought hard.”

The Terrell Owens show in Big D this season has been anything but predictable, from the accidental overdose, drama over sleeping in meetings, dropped balls, and reportedly spitting in the face of Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall. “I got frustrated and I apologize for that,” Owens told the NFL Network after the contest. “It was a situation where he kept bugging me and getting in my face. He just kept aggravating me. Other than that I just came out and tried to play like I know how to play.”

“He’s a great player,” responded Hall on Atlantafalcons.com. “Right before the first punt, though, we kind of got into each other’s face, talking back and forth, and I lost all respect for him when he spit in my face. He’s not too much in this league to be going around spitting in guys’ faces.”

Under the direction of quarterback Tony Romo, who at times resembles a budding Steve Young, the Cowboys look poised to return to the playoffs and challenge for a win, something that hasn’t happened in ten years. Despite an embarrassing loss to the Saints, who have assumed the mantle of “America’s Team” outside of Texas, Owens and company have many fans thinking Super Bowl. If Romo continues to improve, running back Marion Barber keeps running through people, and Owens plays through a hand injury and doesn’t become too much of a distraction, they just may have a shot to make it to the big game in Miami. If the Cowboys reach Florida, they may look back to the contest with Atlanta, which many fans missed due to cable-television restrictions, as a crucial turning point in their
season.

“It was as big of a game as we had this year,” said a poised Tony Romo on Atlanta-falcons.com. “We knew the importance of this one coming in. At the same point, you can’t let that make you play scared … The championship teams, the teams that really have a chance come January bounce right back and win.”


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