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Category Archives: Sports
I remember Tony Romo’s first real outing as the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback. It was October 23, 2006, in a game against the New York Giants, with Drew Bledsoe as the starter and Bill Parcells calling the shots. I was living in New York City, so I watched it surrounded by Giants fans in a friend’s dorm room. I was needled and ribbed with each of Dallas’s missteps, and there were more than a few.
It seems funny now, but there was a sentiment among the fandom that Bledsoe was a choke artist, someone whose late game screw-ups would inevitably doom the team. After a particularly rough interception from the veteran quarterback, one where Bledsoe himself seemed mystified and lonely in the aftermath, Parcells made the call. Out came Tony Romo in the second half — the unheralded, undrafted free agent sent in to save the day. Except he didn’t. Romo made a solid showing, but his own miscues and lack of polish quickly surfaced. Despite the switch, the Cowboys couldn’t pull out the victory.
Still, it marked a change, albeit one not quite so evident to Cowboys fans at the time. We didn’t realize that Romo would go on to quarterback the team for the next decade. Nevertheless, unbeknownst to most, it was the end of something and the beginning of another. The Cowboys had gone through signal callers like toilet paper in the bleak interregnum after Troy Aikman’s retirement, a period which saw a seemingly endless parade of also-rans and raw newcomers faltering in quick succession. But now there was hope, hope that maybe this new QB, who’d shown flashes of talent and good instincts, could be the guy to turn it all around.
In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys had one of their best seasons in recent memory. Despite some ups and downs in the regular season, they not only managed to beat the Eagles to win their division, but they picked up Dallas’s first playoff victory since the last gasps of the 90s Cowboys dynasty. Their season would end with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the second round of the playoffs, but hopes were high going into the next season. The Cowboys, it seemed, had found their winning formula, and they looked poised to capitalize on their newfound success.
Instead, in 2010, the Cowboys found themselves with a 1-7 record after the first eight games of the season. Due to a combination of some tough breaks in close matchups early in the season, and other fits of missed opportunities and bad luck (including starting quarterback Tony Romo suffering a broken clavicle) the team looked absolutely miserable at the halfway mark. Head Coach Wade Phillips was fired in the middle of the season, and the team would finish well out of playoff contention. The fans lamented that a promising year had gone down the drain.
It’s hard not to feel the echoes of the same one-two punch when looking at the Dallas Cowboys over the last two seasons. In 2014, despite times when it seemed like all was lost, the Cowboys stormed back to outpace the Eagles in the division, win the NFC East, and pull off the team’s first playoff victory since the one in 2009. After years of false starts (both literal and figurative), Jason Garrett seemed to have finally found a winning formula on both sides of the ball. Though the team’s post-season ended in a controversial loss to another NFC North opponent, hopes were once again high for the following season, where Dallas was penciled in as a playoff, and maybe even Super Bowl, contender.
Instead, in 2015, Tony Romo suffered another clavicle injury; the team again found itself on the losing end of a number of bad breaks in close games, and the Cowboys struggled, stumbling to a paltry 2-6 record at the halfway point of the season, hopelessly out of playoff contention. Once more, a season where Dallas looked so primed for success had gone down in flames. And it felt all too familiar.
His name is a curse word in the WWE. His image has been expunged from its history by the company’s ministry of truth. And yet, his specter haunted professional wrestling’s grandest stage this time last year, and he’s lurked in the back of my mind ever since.
Though I have long since lapsed as a professional wrestling fan, I still pay yearly homage to the sporting spectacle of Wrestlemania, the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. Each annual supercard features clashes between the WWE’s biggest stars and the climax of its most significant storylines. Last year, the 30th edition of the once-ragtag-but-now-storied event featured Daniel Bryan, a lean, if scrappy wrestler, known for his technical prowess and enthusiastic affirmations, but who stands as far more diminutive than many of his larger-than-life colleagues, much as Benoit did. Bryan’s path to the main event embraced two of the most time-honored archetypes in professional wrestling: the underdog and the rebel.
A professor of mine once gave a firm warning on the importance of triage. He explained, “Every year, I tell my class that each exam question is worth the same amount. And yet every year, I read the exams of students who wrote near-perfect and exhaustive answers to the first question, but who clearly did not leave enough time to answer the other two. It’s the product of an inherently flawed thought process: ‘If I just make the one answer perfect enough, it will make up for the others, despite the fact that they’re worth an equal number of points.’ Well, it won’t; it can’t, and at the end of the day, you’ll do poorly.”
This warning was stuck in my head as I watched the Dallas Cowboys’ 2013 draft, a draft that seemed as focused on perfecting the areas where the team already excels, rather than improving on the team’s glaring weaknesses.
Today is the first official day of the new league year in the NFL. And it will be Garrett’s last one in the Cowboys organization. I realize that’s a fairly bold prediction to make before a single snap in the 2013 NFL season. But I implore my fellow Cowboys fans to be honest with themselves as we all look forward to next season. We know this story. We’ve seen it before. And we know how it ends.
I admit that I was not terribly hopeful when Garrett took over. I was not enamored with the offense under his tutelage. I was not encouraged by his run as interim head coach. I was not enthused at the prospect of continuing the culture in the clubhouse that had existed under Wade Phillips. But I was still hopeful that the Cowboys’ new head coach would prove doubters like me wrong and lead Dallas to glory.
Suffice it to say, Jason Garrett has not obliged. Instead, his regime has carried on the mediocrity of his predecessor: Two full seasons as head coach. Two 8-8 finishes. Two games over .500 in his overall record as HC. Two third place finishes in the division. Two more years of missed opportunities and disappointing endings. Two more losses in end-of-season elimination games with a playoff berth and the division on the line.
If there’s one point I’ve harped on time and time again with the Dallas Cowboys, it’s penalties. Too often, these discipline-related mistakes have stalled comebacks, extended opponents’ drives, and had a big impact on the Cowboys’ chances for success.
Yet, despite this past Sunday’s miserable showing against the Seahawks, getting flagged was not a big issue for Dallas. Yes, Seattle’s vaunted 12th man caused a false start here or there, and an unfortunate facemask call took away a much needed sack, but by-and-large penalties did not change this game. That is, except for one.
In the fourth quarter, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scrambled down the left sideline to move the team out of Seattle territory, with Sean Lee in hot pursuit. As Wilson was being chased down, an unseen Golden Tate came out of nowhere to deliver a crushing block to Lee, sending him hard to the turf. Meanwhile, fellow Dallas inside linebacker Bruce Carter pushed Wilson out of bounds to end the play. There was an audible gasp in the stadium at the punishing blow from Tate, who preened and gesticulated after the play. Lee, meanwhile, required medical attention on the field from the Cowboys’ training staff.
You can see the play here:
On November 24, 2011, Thanksgiving Day, the University of Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies met on the gridiron for the final time. Amid the flurry of conference reshuffling in college football, the Aggies were opting to leave for the SEC, while the Longhorns had reaffirmed their allegiance to the Big 12, thereby putting an end to this annual grudge match for the foreseeable future.
Finger-pointing and recriminations abounded. The University of Texas was a Big 12 bully, hogging conference revenue and arrogantly ignoring the concerns of its peer institutions. Texas A&M was a turncoat and a traitor, destabilizing the conference in a jealous cash grab. But wherever you fell in the debate, this series, which stretched back to 1894 and had spurred on countless bonfires, hexes, brandings, fight songs, as well as 117 games and more than a century’s worth of football rivalry, was coming to an end.
The game was a sloppy one, full of mistakes, miscues, and turnovers on both sides. But those early stumbles gave way to a hard-fought, back and forth finish. In the fourth quarter, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a touchdown pass that put the Aggies ahead of Texas 25-24. With less than two minutes left in the game, that late score seemed to seal an Aggie victory as the sputtering UT offense took the field. Then, with the clock steadily winding down Texas quarterback Case McCoy capped off a few solid plays by scrambling for twenty-five yards to put the Longhorns in field goal range. As the final seconds ticked away, senior Justin Tucker kicked a forty-yard field goal as time expired to give Texas the victory. It was a fittingly thrilling finish for the last battle between the two venerable rivals.
As a Longhorn-supporter, I was enthused by the outcome of the game, and still feeling aggrieved that the Aggies were fleeing the conference. I took to Facebook, as one does to boast about accomplishments they had nothing to do with, and said, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, A&M.” Ryan, a friend of mine from high school who had opted for the sunny plains of College Station after graduation, replied, “Plenty of sports to compete in yet! Pleasantly, you are one of few t-shirt fans I know to chime in about tonight’s game.”
T-Shirt fans? Ryan obliged me with an explanation. T-Shirt fans are “people without a legitimate rooting interest in the game — people who never attended the institution.” I had never set foot in the student section. I had never come in as a freshman and learned the school’s time-honored traditions from the upperclassmen. I had never been part of the campus rabble cheering on their classmates. I had no official affiliation with the University of Texas to speak of, and therefore, I was not to speak.
Ryan had made his point clear. I wasn’t a real fan of the Texas Longhorns. I was just some guy in a burnt orange t-shirt.
Pity the plight of the T-Shirt Fan.
It’s March 20th, 1999. I’m twelve years old, and I’m at an arena in Austin, Texas to see the World Wrestling Federation put on a show. My dad marvels at how Kane, a wrestler who’s billed at seven feet tall, towers above his competitors. He’s graciously tolerating this event on my behalf. I don’t realize it at the time, but this show is largely a dress rehearsal for Wrestlemania 15, which is only a week away. Still, I’m dressed for the occasion.
I have a foam championship belt slung over my shoulder. I’m wearing a pair of cheap sunglasses I picked out at the corner drug store. I’ve taken a magic marker and drawn a pair of long sideburns on my prepubescent face. I do my best impression of his demeanor, his strident presence, his swagger. I’ve spent hours looking in the mirror, trying to keep one eyebrow raised over the other. I have every one of his catchphrases memorized and ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. It’s all I can do to imitate my favorite wrestler — The Rock.
I was struck by a BloggingTheBoys article asking Who Were The Luckiest NFL Teams In 2011? I encourage you all to read the article if you haven’t already. The short answer is that comparing predictions based on a teams points scored and points allowed versus actual wins and losses indicates that teams like the , , and were fortunate in that they amassed more wins than their on-field performance would predict. It also suggests that, conversely, teams like the , , and were not in Lady Luck’s good graces this season. Our Fair Cowboys were in the middle of the pack, as the 11th unluckiest team with a -0.6 variance. But beyond 2011, one of the other statistics mentioned by BTB writer One.Cool.Customer really caught my eye.
For most teams, these numbers tend to change from year to year. But not for all. The Cowboys have had a negative variance for the last three years in a row. No team has had more successive years of ‘bad luck’, with theand the only other teams to also have had three consecutive years with a negative variance.
On a personal level, I have long felt that the Giants are the luckiest teams in sports and 2011 was certainly no exception. The Giants finished with a positive variance for the seventh year in a row. The next closest teams are thewith four consecutive years and the with three consecutive years. Only once in the last ten years (2004) did the Giants have a negative variance. The Giants are lucky on a metaphysical level that transcends rational numbers.
These statistics raise an interesting question. Is there anything more to these trends in “luck” than just random chance? Is there a reason why the Cowboys have been so consistently unlucky according to this formula when the Little Boys Blue have been so fortunate?
Here are five possible answers to that question.