Last December, as you’ll likely recall, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent was arrested after a DUI-related accident killed his teammate, Jerry Brown (who was also Brent’s college teammate and roommate). There was some uproar when, out on bond, Brent was allowed to attend a home game and momentarily walk the sidelines with his teammates.
Now my friend Thomas Lake, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, has an interesting feature looking at why, given so many other viable options, NFL players continue to drink and drive. The story, which centers on the Brent case, hasn’t been posted online yet, but there is a short teaser here.
Pro athletes, Lake writes, are arrested for drunk driving less frequently than the general population, but “what distinguishes the sports figures is their financial ability to hire drivers. And now, with Safe Ride solutions, they have fewer excuses to drive drunk than they ever had before.”
Here’s how the story recounts December 8, 2012, the night of the accident, when Brent and Brown were at a bar just five miles from the apartment they shared:
“Brent had a choice to make…He can call a confidential safe-ride service administered by the NFL Players Association. He can call one of two limousine services affiliated with the Cowboys. He can call a member of the Cowboys’ staff whose job it is to be available all day and all night to help the players however he can. Josh Brent does none of those things.”
The screen-grab above pretty much sums it up, but the Washington Post grabbed the family for a chat:
…they were also pregnant with their first child, and were struggling to come up with a name. And Vega suggested the winner would get to choose the baby’s name.
“She didn’t really disagree with that at all, but she started saying she would name it Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith, all these old Cowboys,” he recalled. “I would die if my son grew up to be a Cowboys fan. That’d be awful. I don’t even know how I’d feel.”
Still, they agreed on the bet. If the Redskins won, Vega could pick the name. If the Cowboys won, Pena, 31, was in charge. Each of them was granted one veto; Vega nixed “Emmitt Vega,” and Pena said no to “Darrell Green Vega.” They each chose again; Vega went with “Robert Griffin Vega,” and Pena chose “Austin Miles Vega,” after her favorite active player.They had a Thanksgiving gathering with family members. Pena’s whole family was in Cowboys gear. Vega and his mom wore Redskins attire. And he became terrified when reading about Tony Romo’s near-flawless turkey day record.
“I was second-guessing the whole time, like, What am I thinking?” Vega recalled. “If she’s gonna name him after a Cowboys player, there’s no doubt he would be a Cowboys fan. My son, as a Cowboys fan? I might have to disown him.”
If you have any interest in sports at all, you likely heard elsewhere about former-Texas-Rangers/now-Los-Angeles-Angels-of-Anaheim player Josh Hamilton telling CBS 11′s Gina Miller on Sunday that Dallas isn’t ”a true baseball town.”
Hamilton wasn’t saying anything that any reasonable person could disagree with, assuming any reasonable person was considering whether baseball or violence-punctuated-by-committee-meetings is first in the hearts of North Texas fans. But Grant Brisbee of SB Nation makes the point today that sports fandom isn’t a binary choice.
Why can’t a person await breathlessly the latest reports about Tony Romo’s valiant offseason struggles to ward off athlete’s foot, while also calling himself a true-blue (or red, depending on which color the team is wearing that day) Rangers fan?
Brisbee’s got some simple, compelling data that Dallas-Fort Worth supports the Rangers just about as well as any other baseball city in the country. Rangers fans were showing up fairly well even when the team was lousy:
Seems strange now to think that somewhere, at some point, someone designed the Dallas Cowboys logo. It’s likely the world’s most recognizable team logo, second only to maybe the New York Yankees. The man who created that logo, Jack Eskridge, died Monday; he was 89. According to his obituary, he led an incredible life before creating the logo, witnessing the flag-raising at Iwo Jima during World War II and playing basketball at Kansas:
Jack also played two years professional basketball with the Chicago Stags and Indianapolis Jets. After graduation Jack coached the Kansas League Champions at Atchison High. “Phog” Allen recruited Jack to be an Assistant Basketball Coach and equipment manager for KU from 1954-1959, where he recruited Wilt Chamberlain. In 1959 he was hired by Tom Landry to be the Dallas Cowboys equipment manger (1960-1973) where he designed the Star on the helmet.
Iwo Jima, Wilt Chamberlain, Dallas Cowboys logo, all before he turned 37. When professional football teams began including players’ names on their jerseys, he quipped to Sports Illustrated, “We’re double-stitching the veterans’ jerseys and single-stitching the rookies’.” In the book Tales From The Dallas Cowboys Sideline, All-Pro and Cowboys Ring of Honor member Cliff Harris reminisced about how he received the number 43:
People have asked me how I decided to wear number 43. The truth is, I did not decide on that number…I really had no choice. Jack Eskridge assigned me that number. Period. As a rookie I had very little control over what happened to me. The vets got all the good perks…
…when I went up to the opening in the cage where Jack practically lived and asked for a game jersey, he threw me number 43. I thought it was a good number, but I knew it had been worn years before by one of the original great Cowboys, Don Perkins. He was an excellent running back who is in the “Ring of Honor” in Texas Stadium.
I told Jack, “This is Perkins’ number. I want another number.”
He just laughed and said, “Hell, boy, it doesn’t really matter…you ain’t makin’ the team anyway!”
That story goes on to explain that Eskridge didn’t particularly care for the “cool Adidas or Puma shoes,” and preferred Riddells and Wilsons. I have an email in to the Cowboys for comment; if I hear back I’ll update.
Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones said Tuesday that he’d like to lock up Tony Romo for a long-term deal, and that the quarterback is “a great partner.” From ESPN:
“Tony is a key piece of what we’re about going forward,” Jones said Tuesday. “We’re certainly going to be looking at his situation (in) time. We’ve historically (extended contracts) with quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys ahead of time. We did it with Troy (Aikman) and we certainly want to look at that with Tony so we can all move forward in terms of how we want to play around our salary cap with our team. Tony is the key piece in terms of how your cap is represented.”
Romo is in the last year of his deal, and is owed $11.5 million in 2013. Troy Aikman also stuck up for the embattled QB Wednesday, saying he believes Romo can lead the team to a Super Bowl. “He’s a special player,” he told The Fan. “Unfortunately, not enough people recognize that.”
Like I’ve said before, average at best.
So says NPR’s Frank Deford, on Morning Edition today:
But now, I have to tell you, they’re all gone. Sorry, sports fans: No more dynasties. Through the years, the Celtics have just sort of petered out. The Cowboys became to sports like the Kardashians are to entertainment: just being around is enough. And now the Lakers have simply, suddenly cratered, slogging along well below .500.
Listen to it here, via KUHF.
Despite Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett’s confidence in Tony Romo, Troy Aikman believes it’s time for the team to draft a quarterback. In a chat with NFL.com yesterday, Aikman said:
“I don’t think they need another quarterback, to make that clear,” Aikman said during the chat. “But because of Tony’s age, they certainly have to start addressing who the guy is going to be that comes in after him. If there’s a guy that they can pick up and maybe develop in the third, fourth round, I think that’s a real positive thing for them.”
Since Aikman retired in 2000, the team has only drafted three quarterbacks; they’ve started 11 different QBs. The plan, he said, should be like the Green Bay Packers’:
“I like the way the Packers did it all those years…To bring a guy in essentially every season, whether you draft him in the fourth round or fifth round or third round, whatever it might be. I think there’s something to be said for that.”
Twenty years ago, Jerry Jones might have been the most popular owner in sports. His Cowboys had just won the first of three Super Bowls, and public opinion was sky-high. Now, not so much. In a report released today by Public Policy Polling, researchers found that only 13 percent of Texans have a positive opinion on Jones, while 50 percent have a negative one. Fifty-two percent of Cowboys fans think the team would be better off with another owner, compared to only 14 percent who think the franchise would be worse off.
Jones isn’t the most unpopular athletic figure in Texas though. That ‘honor’ would go to Lance Armstrong who in spite of his native son status in the state is seen positively by only 16% of voters compared to 59% with a negative opinion, numbers that aren’t a whole lot better than what we found for him on recent Minnesota and Maine polls.
(There’s also some unimportant mumbo-jumbo in the report about Hillary Clinton possibly winning the state in the 2016 presidential election, and some words about how much Texans don’t want Rick Perry to run for president again. You know, unimportant stuff. The full report’s here.)
If the pains of the past three seasons are still too much, don’t continue reading. Just skip ahead to watching Michael Jackson’s Halftime Spectacuganza. I’m watching it with fresh eyes – I was eight when it first aired – and it’s glorious. Multiple Michaels, a lightshow during daylight, James Earl Jones, everything.
As for the game, a few reminders:
- Troy Aikman was 22 of 30, for 273 yards and four touchdowns
- Emmitt Smith ran for 108 yards and a touchdown
- Michael Irvin caught six passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns
Dry your eyes, mates.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett will no longer call the team’s offensive plays, owner Jerry Jones told reporters today.
“It is not a step back for the Cowboys or a step back for (Garrett) individually to change the way that we are basically putting our game plan together or calling the plays on the offensive side of the ball,” Jones said, according to USA Today. “I’m assessing the fact that two and a half seasons with Jason as the head coach, we need to do some things different.”
It’s safe to assume various beat writers and columnists will rip this apart over the next few days, but one of the first reactions out the gate is from NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal:
It makes no sense on a number of levels. Essentially, Jones is neutering his head coach. [Offensive line coach, possibleÂ saboteurÂ Bill] Callahan doesn’t have a long history as a play-caller and is more familiar with the running game. It’s almost like he’s trying to make Garrett quit.
Jones went into the offseason wanting change for the sake of change. Monte Kiffin was aÂ curious hire as defensive coordinator. If Jones wanted to go this far, he should have just fired Garrett at the end of the season.
Layered underneath all of the Catfish references, questions about his knowledge of Skype/FaceTime/basic photography, and loose ends, one topic keeps coming up with the Manti Te’o story: Is heÂ actuallyÂ just gay? I don’t know, you don’t know. And it doesn’t matter (other than the fact that if he is gay, and used this whole story to cover up the fact that he’s gay, and then used the publicity garnered from this story to drum up support for his Heisman campaign). Still, this story’s bringing to the surface another story. From OutSports.com:
We’ve seen rumors and heard stories about countless athletes in the past. But not since Troy Aikman have I been bombarded on email, text, Twitter and phone calls about the sexual orientation of any athlete the way I was today about Notre Dame linebackerÂ Manti Te’o.
Most of the Aikman speculation – and that’s all it is – was due to one jackass’ book. Let’s not let ambiguity allow us to make unsubstantiated leaps again, especially when it’s a topic as personal as a man’s sexual orientation.
That’s what I’ve gleaned from their DallasNews.com front page carousel announcing the Eagles’ hire of Chip Kelly. Sort-of a Choose Your Own Adventure response.
Door A: “Chip Kelly? Phhhesssshhhhh who cares.”
Door B: “HEAD FOR THE HILLS, CHIP KELLY’S IN TOWN.”
Door C: “You tell us what door you’d like to pick.”
— Jim Bob Breazeale (@broncohighway) January 11, 2013
Monte Kiffin is old enough to remember when the Cowboys used to win playoff games.
— John Kincade (@JohnKincade) January 11, 2013
The #Cowboys have hired 72-year-old defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and also announced they’re going back to leather helmets.
— Grant Boone (@grantboone) January 11, 2013
Larry Allen, Charles Haley and Bill Parcells are among the finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013, the league announced this morning.
Allen is the most likely to get in, probably on his first try this year. Parcells may eventually get the nod, but this year’s stack of nominees – first-timers Allen,Â Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, and Michael Strahan, plus returners Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, and Cris Carter – likely means he’ll need at least one more try. Haley, while a five-time Super Bowl champ, isn’t statistically as impressive: only 100 1/2 sacks, five Pro Bowls.