Jeff Pearlman wastes no time establishing the tone and situation of the Nineties Dallas Cowboys in his new book Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty (Harper Collins, $25.95). There is no introduction and no preface, because Pearlman has no use for such things. On the first paragraph of the first page, the author paints a picture of star wide receiver Michael Irvin stabbing teammate Everett McIver in the throat with a pair of silver scissors. Irvin had exhibited poor judgment before this, often acts involving cocaine, strippers, as well as attacking a referee during a charity basketball game, but on this occasion Pearlman shows us that McIver was getting a haircut and refused to give up his barber seat to Irvin. Remember, this is only the first page.
Boys Will Be Boys is a straightforward, no-nonsense examination of the reclamation and fall of “America’s Team," nor does it need to be anything else. A franchise that was the beacon of the NFL in the Seventies had crumbled, and was being rebuilt with the kind of characters usually sequestered for Oliver Stone films. The antics of Irvin are just the tip of the iceberg. The ‘Boys replaced the only coach they had ever known, the legendary and Bible-fearing Tom Landry, with the egomaniacal Jimmy Johnson, whose interests included listening to Barbra Streisand, violent movies, white shag carpet, and the consumption of cold Heineken. Owner Jerry Jones eventually dumps Johnson for Johnson’s former college teammate and coaching rival Barry Switzer, who famously brought a handgun to the airport. These are just the coaches.
With headings like Anal Probe, Walking Into a Buzz Saw, and Anarchy on (and off) the Gridiron, Pearlman allows the colorful players to be discovered by the reader with an introductory quote to each chapter. The stabbing from Irvin is dramatic, but this is nothing compared to defensive end Charles Haley, who has an entire chapter devoted to his behavior entitled The Last Naked Warrior. “You’re from California? You must be a fucking faggot," is the starting quote for Haley’s installment. Pearlman then explains Haley has an exceptionally large penis, enjoyed masturbating in the locker room and during film sessions, and didn’t shy away from racially despicable jokes.
Although winning three Super Bowls, sending scores of players to the Pro Bowl – even the Hall of Fame – and dominating the National Football League for a decade, the rebuilt Cowboys finally implode under the weight of their own arrogance and hubris. In the end, the stars of “America’s Team” suffer through divorces, arrests, mental illnesses, drug addiction, and loss. What Pearlman shows is a world of complicated ‘Boys, often outrageous, playing a man’s game. Few novelists could have created a world and characters like these. Pearlman could easily have called his book Stranger Than Fiction.
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