In the heady pre-Super Bowl days of January, I was with friends headed for the Philly game. As our minivan crept south on Highway 114, we noticed a Dallas motorcycle officer stopped behind a yellow Cadillac on the median. The hapless driver was none other than a Philly fan; he was wearing one of those satiny team jackets and the color was green.
What came next only happens in movies: The officer walked across the grassy median toward the west-bound traffic and hailed a cab. The Iggles fan jumped in and no doubt made it to the stadium in time to see his team lose.
I refuse to draw any moral significance from this story and I make no apology for relishing the zaniest of these moments, probably because I know we have so few of them and soon enough we’ll all be back to reality. Does the fact that we have a championship team resolve the nagging ills of the city? Hardly. Does it camouflage those problems for a while? Certainly. Does it give residents a psychological boost? Absolutely.
You could argue the real value of a football championship-but not with me. I’ve spent too many good times watching football with my father and friends not to appreciate the game. And I think the silliness and excess that dominates the Super Bowl is good for the heart and soul.
But the week before the SB XXVII, as I counted the hours until I, too, would be in the Rose Bowl, I talked to former Cowboys tight end Peter Gent, who made the team infamous with his highly acclaimed novel North Dallas Forty . Gent’s fictional alter ego, was played by Nick Nolle in the movie of the same name.
For those who may have forgotten. Gent painted the Cowboys and professional football as both degrading and calculating. The names might have been changed, but everyone knew whom and what he was talking about.
Now I was calling his Michigan home because I was curious to learn how Gent sees it all today. If anyone would have a fresh perspective still untapped by the media, it might be him.
What I found was a warm, intelligent man with a pain-wracked body, a solid laugh and emotions that still run deep. Gent’s views have been mellowed by time and fatherhood, but there’s no doubting how he feels about football. He watched this year’s Super Bowl with his 16-year-old son, and their story begins on page 60.
In the post-SB frenzy, as I watched Troy Aikman sip Champagne on the Tonight Show, I wondered where the next generation of Cowboys will take us. How long will they be Da Boys and when will the JJs no longer be the perfect partners? What favored player will eventually lose a bitter fight over money? When will the romance begin to show signs of fading?
We all know it will happen eventually, but let’s hope not too soon. In the days before SB XXVII. writer Blackie Sherrod talked about how unrestrained and ebullient the city was about this Super Bowl appearance; about how different it was from games past. The difference, I think, is a loss of arrogance that once enveloped the Cowboys and the city. Once upon a time, this was the place where everything worked and, hey, of course we were in the Super Bowl. You expected anything less?
Sometime in the ’80s, Dallas got a dose of humility. Some of us lost power and didn’t like it. Others lost money and reputation, too. Our seats moved from the 50-yard line to the end zone, and it didn’t feel very good.
Now we are champions again and most of the faces are new ones. The Cowboys made the changes that were necessary and moved on. Once the city does the same, we may have hope of winning here, too.