The League

Gene Wang
Fantasy Guru

Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

Cowboys: Viva La Vida


Everyone loves an underdog, and during the Super Bowl era, that means just about every team other than the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys have won five Super Bowls, made eight appearances in our country's biggest game and have the most playoff wins of any team in league history.

Dallas haters point to the arrogance stemming from that virtually unmatched level of success as to why so many football fans love seeing the Cowboys lose.

In Philadelphia, New York and Washington, you'd probably find as many fans who relish a Dallas loss just as much if not more than a victory by their team. That's probably the case in most NFL cities other than Dallas-Fort Worth and its surroundings.

Ill will toward America's Team starts with the players. As much as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston and Emmitt Smith exemplified ideals the NFL seeks to promote, many other Dallas greats were known as much for their off-field indiscretions as their fine play on it.

Only in Dallas would a player be known as Hollywood. But Thomas Henderson isn't alone when it comes to player hubris. Michael Irvin was nicknamed The Playmaker, not just for making clutch receptions in the most important games but for letting you know when he did. And of course there was Prime Time. Deion Sanders may be the greatest cover cornerback in NFL history, but he's probably one of the league's most reviled players too.

Then there were the coaches. Many mistook Tom Landry's stoicism for arrogance, and former Redskins coach George Allen fueled the rivalry by using that as motivation. The Redskins embraced the persona of the lunch-pail Over-the-Hill Gang and the Hogs, while the Cowboys were automatons, void of emotion or compassion.

Jimmy Johnson was brash from the moment he took over for Landry. Remember he was the coach who called a Fort Worth radio station in 1994 to guarantee a victory over San Francisco in the the NFC championship game. Dallas won, 38-21, en route to their fourth Super Bowl title.

Then came Barry Switzer, who won three national championships at Oklahoma and gained many critics for what some perceived as an outlaw program. The Cowboys were a traveling rock band under Switzer, and their escapades are well documented. Drugs and women were in heavy supply then, but Dallas still won despite those distractions.

Finally there's Jerry Jones, the owner who turned around the franchise when it had fallen into disrepair in the late 1980s. He's been accused of meddling in football operations, namely hiring and firing coaches with impunity and trading draft picks with little regard for the consequences. Now he's built the largest stadium in the league.

The old saying is: "Everything's bigger in Texas." That's true of the Cowboys on just about every level. That includes the outsized personality of the players, coaches and owner to the size of the stadium to the inflated egos of the Dallas fan base.

The sense of entitlement surrounding the Cowboys makes them easy to hate. Last season with a roster full of Pro Bowl players, they failed to make the playoffs. The Cowboys went into many games as if they expected the opponent to wilt simply because of the star on the side of the Dallas helmets.

The era of opponents fearing the Cowboys, who have not won a playoff game since 1996, is long over. Dallas instead has become the butt of jokes for organizational mismanagement, poor coaching and underachieving players. These days it's just as easy to pity the Cowboys as it is to hate them.

By Gene Wang  |  November 20, 2009; 11:51 AM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , Gene Wang Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: America's Team... of arrogance | Next: Nearly the worst


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Nice writing. But not even much of the cowboy fanbase really cares about the cowboys. These are the vacuous bandwagoners of the fanbase who are comprised of folks who aren't from dallas and contain no sense of where they are from and no sense of the pathetic nature of self-aggrandizement that dallas represents in American culture. Are you from dallas?

Posted by: BIGHITTER | November 20, 2009 5:29 PM

I don't quite understand all this "hate" talk. I enjoy football, but I don't hate anybody or team. As a matter of fact I was bred, born, raised, and aged in Texas, but my favorite team is the New York Giants. Cowboys are a distant second.

Posted by: dondi17 | November 20, 2009 8:00 PM

Interesting that you mention Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, a player with great ability and no self control. He only played in Dallas four years before Tom Landry, not the NFL, not the commish, but the coach, got rid of him for being a disruptive influence (coke). Within a couple of years he was out of the game and after a couple more he was in jail. And yet you say "Only in Dallas would a player be known as Hollywood."

Contrast this with the career of local hero Dexter Manley (banned for life after four failed drug tests, two years in jail) who is considered one of the "70 greatest Redskins", or Bal'mer hero Ray Lewis (charged with murder, ultimately copped to obstruction) who will probably end up in the HOF some day. Times have changed and the bar has been lowered.

Posted by: kguy1 | November 23, 2009 4:37 PM

News Update: Dallas beat the Redskins.... Again.

Posted by: oldno7 | November 23, 2009 9:56 PM


Hollywood Henderson had more ability & no less control than most of the players in the league today. The truth is that he had a coach that had 0 tolerance for showboating, & 0 understanding for drug addiction. The league( union)and Pete Rozelle actually tried to have hin re-instated by the Cowboys, but Thomas had ripped the phone cord out of the wall and no one could reach him for 5 days. He missed the deadline.

He's the only NFL linebacker that has ever returned punts and kick-offs for touchdowns.You probably weren't even born yet, but you're passing judgement.

Thomas was a teammate and is still a friend.Today, he helps people for a living. What do you do ?

Posted by: keithponder21 | December 1, 2009 5:48 PM


BTW, he was out of the league only because of a broken neck that he sustained with the Dolphins in a pre-season game against Kansas City, while tackling the late great Joe Delaney. Shula loved him. He put him in the middle (linebacker) and told him to just "go find the ball".

Posted by: keithponder21 | December 1, 2009 5:53 PM

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