Playing Through

Fans continue to go gaga over the Dallas Cowboys

Playing Through
Illustration by Doug Potter

Longtime Dallas fans aren't finding a whole lot of fault with the Cowboys this year, except that their names are not Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, and Jimmy Johnson. Terrell Owens still seems like everyone's bug-eyed crazy cousin, but this year, it's not the exasperating, exhausting kind of crazy. It's the fun kind. Popcorn-in-the-face fun.

In a jam-packed Tavern sports bar last week – jam-packed because Time Warner and the NFL are in a game of chicken, keeping the game out of Time Warner homes – Dallas made it perfectly clear they were the team to beat in the NFC, dispatching Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers 37–27. It seemed the one holdout was Tavern patron Jesse Ochiltree, who still hasn't gotten over the abrupt and entirely unnecessary departure of coach Jimmy Johnson. Fourteen years ago. But he was coming around. "Wade Phillips – he's a little bit like Jimmy," he said of the head coach. "A little, not much. That's as far as I'll go. But I'll tell you one thing: He's better than Parcells."

With the Cowboys now 11–1, it was hard to find anyone gaping up at any of the Tavern's 55 flat-screen TVs who wouldn't agree with that assessment. Bill Parcells may have built this team, but despite his two Super Bowl rings, he wasn't taking the Cowboys to the promised land. Matter of fact, the dude barely had a winning record in four seasons at Dallas and never won a playoff game.

So what's the difference?

"Tony Romo," Juan Campos declares.

"They're having fun," his friend Lupe Zamarripa adds.

"They're having fun because of Tony Romo," Campos says. "Without Romo, they wouldn't be here. They're looser this year. They're playing. That's because of Romo. Plus" – and at this point, you get the feeling that Campos is about to say what's really on his mind – "the guy is Mexican! His dad is Mexican. Nobody knows that. Everyone thinks he's Italian. He's not. He's fucking Mexican, even though he grew up in Wisconsin, idolizing Brett Favre. His name is Antonio Ramiro Romo! That's literature, man!"

It won't be much of a story if the season ends with a whimper – on, let's just say, a botched snap for an easy field goal. Yet there are auguries of greater glories this year. Dallas has yet to win a playoff game in nearly a decade. But you know the boys are back on their game when the rest of the country is back to hating the Cowboys.

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