It’s enough to make a grown man cry. And that’s why we asked illustrator Jeff Mangiat to create a cover image that would express the civic dismay over the Dallas Cowboys.
Understand, we’re talking more than football here. Even with a paper-thin defense and Michael Irvin banished for five games, the Cowboys will make the playoffs-and don’t be surprised if next January finds them in New Orleans, mopping up on an AFC patsy for their fourth Super Bowl victory in five seasons.
The game-winning machine known as the Cowboys will keep chugging a few more years before Troy Aikman and Emrnitt Smith slide down the dark side of 30. The victories will come. But that’s not what so many Cowboys fans are worried about. This team has hit bad patches before-the 1-15 mausoleum of 1989; the ugly NFL strike of 1987, when Tony Dorsett called Randy White “Captain Scab”-but there’s something different in the airwaves now.
For the first time in this native’s memory, large numbers of Cowboys fans are ashamed of their team. And even winning-which in sports normally cures everything but cancer- may not be enough to heal this breach between the fans and their former idols, any more than winning, by itself, will stop the internal bleeding on the team.
Much of the disgust over the Cowboys came to a head during the Michael Irvin fiasco. At first, many vented their spleen at Channel 5, whose hidden -camera expose of Irvin was not journalism’s finest hour. But far worse than the messenger was the message, especially during the painful, pathetic moment when the football hero beckoned a young admirer over to the car and regally accepted his words of devotion-before turning back to his boasts about beating the NFL’s drug tests.
So it was Irvin, yes, and his vicious triangle with Rachelle Smith and Johnnie Hernande2…but not just them. Others felt something snap when lineman Nate Newton appeared to want a merit badge for “running some whores” in and out of the Cowboys’ White House in Valley Ranch. (Hey, Big Nate explained, at least we’re not out driving drunk.) Still others lost it when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paraded with a Nike big shot on the sidelines last season, telling the NFL what they could do with their exclusive marketing plans. Some fans got off the train when Jones threw his name and wallet into a wrongheaded attempt to pull the city of Irving out of DART. On and on it goes, back to the cocktail-driven split with Jimmy Johnson and the primordial sin- which many refuse to forgive-of firing Tom Landry.
For the most startling portrait yet of this divided team, we turned to contributing editor Skip Bayless, whose third book on the Cowboys (after God’s Coach and The Boys) is called, for good reason, Hell Bent: The Crazy Truth About the “Win or Else” Dallas Cowboys. Bayless enjoyed so much access to the principals-Troy Ai km an, Barry Switzer, Jerry Jones and others-that he found himself failing into a bizarre echo chamber of rumors and accusations. After reading Bayless, you may wonder how long a team split into hostile camps can keep winning Super Bowls. The story behind the book starts on page 102.
We also examine another Dallas institution this month-one that, alas, has not enjoyed the Cowboys’ success of late. Christine Biederman, who frequently writes about culture and politics for The New York Times and The Village Voice, takes a probing look at the Dallas Museum of Art at what is both a hopeful and a perilous juncture in its history. She raises provocative questions about the museum’s leadership, its commitment to excellence, its financial stability, and its chances of snaring the art-world prize of the decade-Ray Nasher’s stunning sculpture collection. You’ll be seeing Christine’s byline often in the coming months. Her story starts on page 108.