MY PHONE RANG ONE THURSDAY MORNING IN EARLY December about 10 a.m. It was Bob Cooper, general manager at KVIL-FM. the station that had hired me to do color commentary for broadcast of the Dallas Cowboys games.
“Dale, are you sitting down?” Cooper asked.
Actually, I was still in bed. But I knew what was coming. “Go ahead,” I told Bob.
“I’m really sorry about this,” Cooper said, “but they want you off the air now.” He said Jerry Jones was very unhappy with all the controversy that was swarming around my association with the team and the fact that I would be quitting next year. “You’ve become the media moment,” Cooper said. “People in New York agree. You have to go.”
“OK, Bob,” I said, kind of flippantly. I’ve been fired before. This was not virgin territory. Cooper kept saying, “Dale, I ’m really sorry. Hopefully this thing will blow over and maybe in a couple of years, if you don’t bum any bridges here, then you can come back.”
“OK,” I said. “I understand, no problem.”
I felt…what? Disappointment, certainly. I had planned to announce during the final game of the regular season against the Washington Redskins at RFK that I was leaving the broadcast after the playoffs. I had told KVIL managers privately of my decision to quit, and they’d asked me to wait until then to make it public and I had agreed.
But I also felt relieved. The balancing act that I had maintained for more than 12 years-as the sports anchor for WFAA-TV Channel 8, the Cowboys’ radio analyst for KVIL and talk-show host for KLIF-AM-was finally over.
Though I’ve argued with sportswriters Randy Galloway and Skip Bayless for years that I could wear these different hats with out creating a conflict of interest, now I’m beginning to wonder if it’s possible to do so without creating confusion in the minds of both the team and the audience. I had worn these different hats successfully for years, most recently with the KLIF talk show. I could express opinions there I couldn’t-and wouldn’t- express as the team’s commentator or when reporting the news. Doing the talk show on KLIF gives me the freedom to express even more opintons that may have angered Jones and Switzer or whomever even more.
Still, looking back, I absolutely believe that the continuing deterioration of my relationship with Jones was directly attributable to coach Barry Switzer. Jones has always been able to deal with what I say. but I think he found himself in a defensive posture, trying to prop up Switzer. If it’s a choice between Dale Hansen and the head coach, I think that’s an easy choice to make.
My association with the team began in 1984. when the games were broadcast on KRLD. Channel 8 anchor Verne Lundquist, who had been announcing the games, had left Dallas for bigger things, so KRLD was auditioning different analysts to work with Brad Sham, who had been doing it for years. Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm always liked the idea of having the TV anchors identified with the Cowboys broadcast. I knew if I did well, I would get the job.
Marty Haag was news director for Channel 8. Marty said then that one of the things that he liked about me was that I was one of the few sportscasters willing to take a shot at the Cowboys-if and when they deserved it. He didn’t want to lose that edge. So I made it clear to Tex, who is a very strong-willed character, and to the people at KRLD that I really wanted that job but that it wasn’t in any way going to muzzle me on Channel 8.
The first thing Sham said to me-point blank to my face-was, “I don’t like you. I don’t like the way you do sports on television, and I really don’t have much respect for you as a professional.”
I said, “Brad, that’s OK because I respect the hell out of you,”
Despite that initial meeting. Brad and I really clicked. I started doing the team broadcasts full-time for the 1985 season. I absolutely loved working with Sham.
Controversy with the Cowboys front office came up almost immediately. I was very outspoken during the player strikes during that period. I favored the players’ positions on a lot of those issues, and it irritated Tex Schramm.
Schramm probably wanted to fire me a half-dozen times in the ’80s. I refused to blunt my criticism when I was on Channel 8, wearing the hat of the reporter. In 1985-1986, when the team started losing, I would say things like, “We’re showing the Cowboys highlight film. This won’t take long.”
It wasn’t just the Cowboys management that sometimes had a problem with me wearing two hats. In 1987, the NFL decided to use replacement players to try to end the strike. The Dallas fans were among the most supportive fans in the country of those replacement games; there were 50,000 or 60,000 people in the stands at Texas Stadium the night of the first one.
Brad Sham started the broadcast before the game by announcing to the audience that we were going to forget about the strike for the next three hours. We had been hired to do this job, to describe the football action on the field, and we were going to do it.
The next day TV columnist David Zurawik of the Dallas Times Herald wrote a scathing article, saying we had prostituted ourselves to the Tex Schramms of the world, that we had abdicated our responsibility to the listeners for the sake of a check. I understood the argument, but it just wasn’t true. We had been hired to broadcast a football game. Brad and I had very strong opinions about the strike, which we both expressed in other forums, but the game wasn’t the right place to do that.
When Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989,I reinforced that role separation with him. The people at Channel 8 who write my checks expect me to fulfill my job description. I felt very comfortable with the fact that I had a completely different job to do on the radio broadcasts on Sundays.
When I’m doing the game, for example, I limit my discussion of the various issues surrounding the team-whether it’s the Nike deal or Leon Lett’s drug suspension-to how it impacts the play. Now, will I say that Leon Lett is not here because of a drug suspension? Absolutely. Will I say that this is a major disappointment, not only for Leon Lett and his family but to the Dallas Cowboys and their fans? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t discuss my opinion of how Jerry Jones handled the drug suspension.
Writers like Galloway and Barry Horn ask, “Well, how could you do that?’” Well, I compare it to Bob Costas, who I think is probably the best in our business at wearing all of these different hats. Costas and the other baseball announcers are hired at the discretion of Major League Baseball. If you listen to Bob Costas broadcast the baseball playoff games on NBC, what he says in the third inning of (hat game about team owners and their labor problems with the union is different than what he says about the situation when he’s doing his talk show out of St. Louis. During the play-by-play, Costas stops short of giving his opinion. He’ll say, “Well, the owners have got some problems with the labor union, and they need to resolve this to the betterment of the game.”
Now you get Costas on the talk shows, “These morons are destroying the very fabric of the game I grew up with…” I’ve heard him call baseball owners some incredible names.
I’ve wrestled with that for the last couple of years. But I honestly believe that one of the main reasons that I’ve had to wrestle with it so much is because of all the conflicts and controversy around the Dallas Cowboys. When the Cowboys were very bad, which they were most of my early years on the radio broadcast, and I said they were bad, it was hard to dispute that. When the Cowboys are very good, and I say they’re very good, it’s very hard to dispute that. Well, the last couple of years, they’ve been both very good and very bad.
BUT I BLAME EVERYTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME recently, in one form or another, on Barry Switzer. While I don’t blame Switzer for Jerry Jones pulling the trigger, I never had these problems until Switzer arrived in “94. I’m not whining about it; it’s just a fact.
Jones and I actually have had a pretty good relationship even though I was incredibly hard on him when he bought the team in 1989.I said he was a jerk, that he was classless, In particular, I had problems with the way Tom Landry was removed. On the air, I said that if this is the way Jones is going to do business, they better take the star off the Cowboys helmet.
My opinion of Jones started to change very quickly. Jerry Jones was always, at least with me, very direct, very upfront. One of the things that I liked best about him was thai he was a stand-up guy. He would take the shot, get knocked down, get back up and say, “Let’s go on.” And I learned that if there was blame to be handed out in (he Landry situation, it should go to Bum Bright. Telling Landry he was out was Bright’s responsibility. He fumbled it.
This is exactly the way it went down with Jerry Jones and Bum Bright. Jones said, “If I buy the Cowboys, I want to bring in my own coach. Is that going to be a problem?” Bum Bright said. “No.” Now, if somebody buys Channel 8 and says that part of the deal is that Dale Hansen has got to go, I believe it’s Channel 8’s responsibility to tell me. I think Bum Bright should have gone to Tom Landry and said, “Tom, I’m selling the Dallas Cowboys and you’re out.”
But Bright didn’t do that. I believe that both Landry and Schramm did not know that Jerry Jones was buying the football team. Bright had a feud going with Landry. I think Bright enjoyed that Landry was left twisting in the wind.
So Jerry Jones was thrust into the middle. Had Jones been allowed to do it his way, there might have been a more graceful exit for Tom Landry. (Though Landry was a tremendous coach, unfortunately, it was time for him to go. There is no doubt in my mind that the Cowboys would not have won Super Bowls in ’92 and ’93 had Landry still been with the Cowboys.)
I really began building a relationship with Jones then. He’s a fascinating character. Most of my favorite people are those who others refer to as egomaniacs or arrogant jerks. But I like confident, larger-than-life people. Plus they make good stones, especially when they do what they say they’re going to do-which Jones did.
ALTHOUGH I WAS VERY CRITICAL OF JERRY JONES IN ’89 and ’90.I was not nearly as critical in ’92 and ’93. The Cowboys started to win. and winning kills a lot of criticism. In my honest opinion, Jerry and I developed an excellent relationship, maybe even at times one that was too close. I’ve probably been more critical of the Cowboys at certain times just to prove my independence.
One of the first things Jones did was cut ticket prices for fans silling in the upper deck and end zone, who before had to pay what those sitting at the 40-yard line did. And Jones brought beer to the common man. In my opinion. Jones cared about John Q. Fan.
I was really an admirer. But on the corporate side, Jones was getting criticized every lime he turned around. I think the older Cowboys regime at limes had a lot of trouble with the changes. A lot of the criticism was unjustified.
In 1990. Jones decided he wanted to move the team’s training camp to Austin. He had his people consult with me aboul the move; that was a nice ego stroke. During those weeks of training camp, Jones brought up the potential move to KVIL. One night, we sal in a little Mexican restaurant across the street from camp and talked about how the switich to KVIL would be perceived. He asked if I had any problems making the move. I did not, but I reiterated to Jones then that what I do at Channel 8 could not be compromised.
Up to then. I often had been extremely critical of Jones, If Jones really wanted to muzzle me, or fire me if he couldn’t muzzle me. why didn’t he do it in 19907 In 1991? I think the answer is Switzer.
I really liked couch Jimmy Johnson and was not pleased when he was fired. My attitude at that time was-and still is-that both Johnson and Jones were to blame. As I said on the air, I can’t begin to understand how an owner can have a coach with the talents of a Jimmy Johnson and not make it work. And I can’t understand how a coach can have an owner like Jerry Jones, who provides him with the money and the opportunities to win all these championships, and not make it work.
We were the first ones to report that Jimmy was actually leaving. I can’t remember who was first on Switzer. It didn’t shock me like it did almost everybody else. The day of the announcement out at Valley Ranch, Troy Aikman turned to me and said, “’Hansen, you’re going to love this guy, He is crazier than hell. He’s going to make some great TV for you.”
At the press conference that first day, Switzer’s performance was disturbing and goofy, that “We gotta do it, baby!” stuff. I thought, “Oh. man, this guy is really off his rocker.” but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that he was just caught up in all the excitement. I think a lot of us might come off as goofy in the same circumstances. So I held back.
Bui almost from the beginning. Switzer and I were at odds. Switzer, in his small-town way, kept thinking that I had some grudge against him because I had worked in Omaha for three years. (The Nebraska Huskers and the Oklahoma Sooners are huge rivals.) I tried to tell him I made a small fortune in the ’70s betting on the Sooners against the Huskers.
That year in training camp I was doing Norm Hitzges’ radio show one Thursday morning, and I predicted that the Cowboys would win the ’95 Super Bowl. Hitzges asked me if there was anything thai might prevent that. I said, “Well, I do know they’re having some problems with the assistant coaches on mis staff, that there’s a bit of a power struggle going on among the assistants, hidden agendas, turf wars.” A lot of the players wished that Barry would get the staff under control, and he hadn’t yet. But the bottom line was, yeah, I still thought the Cowboys would be able to win the Super Bowl. I didn’t think much more about it.
But that afternoon, I was at the university dorm down in Austin and Brad Sham saw me. “My God, what the hell have you done?” Sham asked. “Switzer’s just livid.” A few minutes later, sports-writer Mickey Spagnola came up to me. “Switzer heard about your interview this morning and he’s coming after you tonight,” he said. I couldn’t believe it. Switzer was mad because I said the team would win the Super Bowl? What happened next became one of the most infamous moments in my history.
By coincidence. I had Switzer scheduled to appear on my show that night in Austin. We’re sitting there doing an interview and the next thing I know, Barry goes nuts. He started punching me in the arm. He called me a liar, saying I make stuff up and that I didn’t know what I was talking about. We got into a shouting match back and forth on the air. It was wild. I found out that Aikman was right; Switzer makes damn good TV.
I didn’t realize it then, but that was the beginning of the end. I honestly was prepared to let it go, but nobody else really was. Barry Switzer certainly wasn’t ready to let it go.
On Friday, another reporter told me that he had talked to Switzer, who said, “You’re either for me or against me.” That was one of the most obnoxious, ridiculous comments that I had ever heard from a head coach, so stupid that I couldn’t believe he had said it. So at a press conference after that day’s practice, I asked Switzer if he had made the comment and added, “Do you really believe that?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Switzer said. “I’m telling you guys right now; you’re either forme or you’re against me. There’s no in between.” The sportswriters were all looking around, rolling our eyes like, “Where’s this guy from? Oklahoma?”
After that press conference, I walked up to Switzer and said, “Barry, what the hell’s going on here? What’s your problem?” We climbed into his golf cart and tooled out to the center of the field.
“Dale, I know I’ve got problems with my staff, but that happens everywhere,” Switzer said.
“Barry, I didn’t say it didn’t,” I said. “I think you’re going to win the Super Bowl.”
But Switzer was off and running: “Well, Butch Davis thinks he should have gotten the head coaching job. And Hudson Houck hates Butch Davis and Joe Avezzano thinks he ought to be the assistant head coach and Joe Brodsky thinks he ought to be offensive coordinator. ..” He’s just going through the whole list. “These guys are loyal to Jimmy, and they don’t know me. I’m dealing with it.”
“Barry, I didn’t say you weren’t,” I said.
“Dale, you’re a Big Eight guy, you’re a Nebraska guy, we got to stick together,” Switzer said.
I didn’t give a damn about the Big Eight and I told Switzer so, At the end of the conversation, Switzer had calmed down. “We’re going to get along fine,” he told me. I left thinking everything was smoothed over.
On Saturday morning, a column about the incident by Dallas Morning News sportswriter Barry Horn infuriated Brad Sham. On the broadcast before the beginning of that night’s preseason game, Brad gave an editorial in support of me. He criticized Switzer for saying that I had made up information and pointed out that if fans wanted the complete truth, they shouldn’t just listen to Jerry Jones and Barry Switzer. They were going to have to check with us and other reporters. And he’s right about that. If you want the complete truth about the Clinton administration, you don’t just ask George Stephanopoulos.
BUT I REALLY DIDN’T ANTICIPATE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT. The Cowboys fired Brad from the Jerry Jones TV show. I felt terrible.
Sham and I usually emceed the annual Cowboys Kick-off Luncheon, which was scheduled for the next week, with him playing straight man while I cracked jokes. But I refused to participate, which left Brad up there on his own. “Welcome to the Cowboys’ version of ’Family Feud,’ ” Sham said to open the luncheon at the Grand Kempinski.
It went from bad to worse. In the middle of the event, Jones asked me to go on the dais and tell a few jokes to lighten the mood. I wouldn’t do it.
Switzer called that afternoon. “We’re going to get along,” he said. “It’s all going to work out.” We talked for a while and when I hung up, I thought again that everything was settled between us.
But it didn’t last. One night a week or two later, Switzer called Randy Galloway’s talk show and just ripped me up. He started in again about how Dale Hansen just loves to make up stuff. Soon, reporters were calling me for comments. And on and on….
The 1994 season staggered along. In November, we were in San Francisco to broadcast the game with the 49ers. Jerry Jones walked up to Sham that weekend. “Barry is really unhappy because you guys never mention his name on the broadcast,” Jones told him. Brad told me what he’d said, and 15 minutes later, when I ran into Jerry, I asked, “What do you want us to say?”
“I don’t know,” Jerry said, “but you always used to talk about Jimmy.” This was a classic example of the differences between Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer. Before the games, Jimmy would come out and talk to me. He’d give me a few quotes like, “Here’s why we’re going to win today” and some idea of what to expect in the game. He might say that they were going to do an onside kick. Or, “get ready in the third quarter, we might have a reverse.”
If and when it came true, which it most often did, I would say, “Well, Jimmy Johnson said before the game that they thought they could pass on so-and-so” or “Jimmy Johnson said to watch for an onside kick.”
But I never talked to or even saw Switzer before the games. I told Jerry, “He doesn’t talk to me. He doesn’t come out of the locker room to feed me any information. Now he’s mad because we don’t mention his name. What does he want me to say?”
Then the Cowboys lost the San Francisco game. Well, we mentioned Barry’s name that night. We were more than happy to.
The whole thing was just a mess. I really believe Jerry Jones was trying as hard as he could to make it work. He was caught in the middle; he didn’t want me unhappy and he certainly didn’t want his head coach unhappy. He was trying to play peacemaker all the lime. After the end of the ’94 season, I thought about quitting the game broadcasts. Brad had gotten a job announcing for the Texas Rangers. “There’s no reason for you to go,” Brad told me. “I’m doing baseball; I’m happy.”
In July 1995, at training camp in Austin, I told Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that I missed Brad Sham. One hundred years from today, I will still miss Brad Sham. If I do a game with Pat Summerall. ai the end of that game I’d probably say, “You know, Pat’s really good, but I really like working with Brad.”
It seemed innocent enough, but the story with my comment about missing Sham created an uproar. Jones sent Rich Dalrymple around to tell me that I would never, ever again say I missed Brad Sham. “Then you go back upstairs and tell Jerry to fire me,” I said. Again, Jones held back.
A few days after that, Jones came to me on the sideline during a practice and said, “I want you to go out and shake hands with Barry Switzer and see if we can’t make up.”
The team was right in the middle of practice. “You want me to do it now?” I said. ’Til do it after practice.”
“No.” Jones said, “I want you to do it right now. I want you to do this for me.”
It just killed me, but I walked out in the middle of the field. All the reporters are standing around. “What the hell is Hansen doing out here?” Aikman asked some players in the huddle.
I walked up to Switzer. “Barry, can we just bury this hatchet someplace other than in my back or in your back and just do our jobs?” I said.
“Dale, this thing has gotten out of control,” Switzer said. “This thing is ridiculous. Hey. we’re going to get along fine.” When we flew home from Austin, we were all sitting up in first class on the plane. Barry was sitting a few rows behind me. We were all joking and laughing. “Hey. Hansen, how you doing?” Switzer asked me. “Did you party last night? You ready for the season?”
I’m thinking. This is OK. We’ll make this thing work.
At training camp, I had had a face-to-face meeting with Dave Garrett, who had been brought in to do the radio broadcast. I told Garrett (perhaps echoing what Sham first had told me). “I don’t know you. I don’t like you that much. But you will not fail because of me.” Since then. Garrett has said repeatedly that I gave him every chance to succeed, and he’s done so.
Garrett was put into an incredibly awkward position because he was perceived as “Barry’s boy,” not just by me, but by almost everybody. He had to make Switzer happy because the coach was responsible for getting him the job. Yet Dave was smart enough to realize that he and I had to have some kind of relationship. We couldn’t just ignore each other.
Awkward is about the best way to describe it. I was unhappy that Brad was not there, that Switzer disliked me. Dave and I stuttered and stammered our way through the first few broadcasts of the *95 season. When the Philadelphia game came around, I decided Dave and I needed to get a little friendship going. I love to play blackjack and Dave likes to gamble, too, so I rented a limo and took Dave and a couple of buddies to Atlantic City. That night was one of the biggest I’ve ever had in a casino; I won $8,500. Garrett was losing; he’s a good guy but a lousy blackjack player. I loaned him money, and we had a great time.
Although the situation in the broadcast booth slowly improved, my relationship with Jerry Jones deteriorated. Jerry was under the gun. The team had lost the NFC championship game the year before. The pressure had cranked up because most people, including me, thought that the team should have won the Super Bowl.
THE CONTENTION BETWEEN ME AND THE COWBOYS SOON became a running battle, a weekly potshot contest. A lot of people enjoyed it. It was Jerry’s opinion that people with different agendas ran messages back and forth between the various parties. There’s no question that columnists like Barry Horn like to stir things up. They have stories to write.
But it got ridiculous. Switzer went on the air to say, “Without the Dallas Cowboys, Dale Hansen is nothing but a fat, bald old anchor guy who doesn’t know anything.”
All the different radio stations called to play those tapes for me. “Well,” I said, “I just don’t think 48 is that old.” One reporter in Oklahoma said, “Barry said you are fat and raid.” Well, he had me there.
That kind of nonsense was going on all the time. The season dissolved into one hassle after another. But there was never a smoking gun, nothing that would lead me to just hang it all up. Plus, there was the money: $60,000 a year. I could buy a lot of stuff with those checks.
Late in 1995, I heard and confirmed-at least to my satisfaction-that Switzer had told some people he guaranteed that I would not be broadcasting the games for the Cowboys ’96 season, that he was going to get rid of me. “If Hansen is in the broadcast booth in ’96,” Switzer told several people, “I will not be coaching this football team in ’96.”
I thought, “Gee, we’re getting a new coach.”
It’s almost embarrassing for me to admit this, but Switzer’s comment convinced me to stay. There were two things at work. I was not happy coming out of the ’95 season, but I wasn’t so unhappy that I really wanted to leave. I didn’t have that smoking gun that prompted me to say, “That’s it, I can’t do it anymore.”
When the 1996 season started, I again considered resigningfrom the KVIL broadcast after the annual Cowboys kick-off luncheon for the NFL alumni, which I emceed. It was a very awkward event. You could cut through the tension with the proverbial knife.
When I introduced the roster for the year, I had to slide right over Michael Irvin; absent because of his escapade with drugs and topless dancers. Then I began announcing the annual awards.
’This year.” I said, “the Ed Block Courage Award goes to Erik Williams.” That award goes to the player who has fought back from injuries or problems to achieve a playing position again. In effect, Williams was receiving the award for overcoming the knee injury that he suffered after slamming his Mercedes into a wall at a 100 mph and making it through charges that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old topless dancer.
The Dallas Cowboys were presenting Williams with what is, in my opinion, one of the most prestigious awards they’ve got-and it just disgusted me. From the dais, I could see former player Charlie Waters sitting about five rows back. Waters played on the team in the glory years. “This just isn’t the way it used to be,” I thought. It wasn’t fun anymore.
At the end of this luncheon, I turned to Switzer to shake his hand, but he walked by, leaving me standing with my hand out, feeling like an idiot. I turned to shake hands with Jerry Jones, but he also turned away.
That afternoon, I asked management at Channel 8, “Is it OK if I just quit?” They surprised me with their response: ’lWe would prefer it if you quit.” In fact, they were considering asking me to resign from the KVIL broadcast.
But Bob Cooper at KVIL asked me to stay. He convinced me that it would be childish on my part to quit, not to mention unfair to the sponsors and to Dave Garrett. Then Jerry Jones called me. emphatically saying he hadn’t meant to snub me. “Dale, I swear I didn’t see you. I was in a hurry.” The Cowboys had to tell a player he had been cut before he heard about it on the radio. I believed him then, and I still do.
I had to go back to Channel 8 the next day and say I was going to do the broadcast one more year. Management seemed disappointed, but told me it was my decision.
AT THE START OF THE 1996 SEASON, KVIL ADDED FORmer Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg to the broadcast. That improved my whole outlook dramatically. Babe returned the edge, the back-and-forth arguments, to the booth that I had once had with Brad. Dave was pretty much straight down the road: “First down, they pass…” I ended up arguing with myself. Like that fourth-and-one situation in Philadelphia in 1995, which was an incredibly dumb thing for Switzer to do. Garrett wasn’t comfortable enough to chastise Switzer; at the same time, he wasn’t willing to criticize me. Babe didn’t hesitate about criticizing either of us-and he knows the game inside out. Once we got into September, Laufenberg and I started to click. It started to be fun again.
As the ’96 season played out, I still enjoyed game day. But I hated everything surrounding it. While I was still able to keep my various roles separate, it became apparent that neither the fans nor Jerry Jones understood those different jobs. When I was talking to various players and assistant coaches, I felt like they were looking over their shoulders to see if anybody was watching. Like Switzer had said in 1994: They had to choose up sides.
It had once been, “Hey, Hansen get over here.” I was one of the family. Now, for whatever reason, I was on the outside looking in. One example: I wasn’t invited to the Super Bowl party last year. I don’t want to sound like Newt Gingrich, but I’m one of the family and I’m not invited to the Super Bowl party? I had to steal a pass from a guy, a banker buddy who was walking oui and handed it to me. I talked my way in and had a great time at the party, but that kind of conflict was disturbing. To me, it was a case of everybody wanting both sides of the argument. Maybe, in all seriousness, I was trying to win both sides of the argument as well. I wanted to be family when it was appropriate for me. (You know, I do sound like Newt Gingrich.)
It all came to a head after the Giants game at the Meadowlands in late November. Rumors were circulating that Leon Lett had violated a provision of the NFL drug program. Jerry Jones said he knew nothing about it. Only a few days later, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Lett was suspended.
On Wednesday afternoon. Jones held a press conference and again said that he knew nothing at all about Lett’s drug suspension, when in fact, he is the one guy who would know. When he bought the team in 1989, Jones said he would know everything- “from socks to jocks.”
So I said that on the air: “This is the guy who says he would know everything from socks to jocks. Jones is either lying about this or he’s failed to do what he said he would do. To me, he sounds like Sgt. Schultz on ’Hogan’s Heroes.’ ” And we ran the sound bites of Jones from the press conference: “I know nothing.”
I could understand Jones lying the first time around, trying to protect his player, thinking they were going to win the appeal. But he and Leon Lett supposedly didn’t know anything about the appeal until they heard about it Tuesday night, when he got suspended. How did they appeal something if nobody knew he had failed the test? Even the O.J. Simpson jury would convict Jones of perjury on this deal.
All hell broke loose. Rumors were flying. But I was still waiting for that smoking gun.
For weeks, Barry Horn had been calling me every day to ask if Jones had fired me from the broadcast. It had become a running gag. I’d say, “Not today. Check with me tomorrow.” And he’d call the next day.
Then, on Monday. Dec. 9,1 ran into columnist Mike Fisher of the Star-Telegram at KLIF. He’d heard that I had been telling friends that 1996 was going to be my last year, and he wanted to write a story about it. I wasn’t thrilled to hear that, but that’s Fisher’s job.
Barry Horn got wind that Fisher was planning to write the story. “I know you’re quitting,” he said. “You’ve told enough people. I’ve got to write this story before somebody else does.” Horn wanted me to confirm that I was resigning at the end of the year. I would not lie and I’m simply unable to say “no comment,” so I told him to just keep checking with me.
I didn’t want Bob Cooper at KVIL to read in the newspaper that I was leaving the broadcast, I telephoned and told him that I would be resigning at the end of the year. After saying he wanted me to stay. Cooper asked if I would stay at least through the playoff games. “Yes, absolutely,” I told him.
I asked Cooper how KVIL wanted me to handle the situation. He asked if I would wait and make the official announcement during the final game of the 19% season at RFK Stadium. ’”What do I say to Barry Horn when he calls?” I asked.
“Just tell him no comment and that you’ll talk about it on the final broadcast,1’ Cooper said.
Well, I thought, that comment just about says everything. When Horn called, I told him I would have a statement at the end of the last broadcast. Horn laughed. “Well, I think I can get this confirmed somewhere else.” he said and hung up.
The next morning, Bob Cooper called and asked if I had talked to Barry Horn. “Yes,” I said. “I told him I had no comment and that I would talk about it after that last game.”
“Well, he put the story in the paper,” Cooper said. That wasn’t my fault, I pointed out. I didn’t ask Barry to write a story.
“Well, he knew a lot about your unhappiness,” Cooper said.
“Bob, everybody knows that.” I told him. It was the worst kept secret in Dallas.
The call came from Cooper the next day: I was being fired before I could quit.
JONES LATER DENIED THAT HE FIRED ME. KVIL’S RON CHAPman said that I jumped to the conclusion that Jerry Jones wanted me out. That made me madder than hell. There is no possible way that KVIL fired me without Jones’ explicit authorization. It just didn’t happen. It’s absurd that it even became an issue for the Cowboys or Jones. I wanted to resign and was going to resign at the end of the year. There was hardly any response from viewers to the Barry Horn story that I was going to be quitting. But the response to the Cowboys firing me set off another newspaper story. another day of talk radio about it.
If I had to lose my job at KVIL because I was doing my job on Channel 8, I can easily accept that. Jerry Jones probably didn’t have a choice to make, and I know I didn’t have a choice to make. I have never cared what Jerry Jones thought about my work. I don’t care what KVIL thinks about my work. I care a great deal about what the listeners and the viewers think about my work.
I now believe people really can’t distinguish between the job descriptions like I thought they could. The lines have blurred, and I think I’ve got to help make it easier not only for them but for me. While I still hold out a little bit of hope that I can return to announcing, those jobs can’t co-exist, at least for me.
Maybe if I wasn’t such an opinionated sportscaster. You know, “just give us the ball score.”
Naw, the hell with that. I get paid a lot of money to be a smart aleck. If you just want the scores, change the channel.