The Ghost of Football Present
Jerry woke jerking his bedcovers over his head in a juvenile act of visual protection. The darkness under the covers gave way to light as the glow from the room penetrated Jerry’s cocoon of blankets. Frightened but curious Jerry slowly lowered the sheets from his face peaking toward the light. He rose from the bed noticing the light is sourced from across the hall. He followed the light cautiously entering his study. The glow from the fire shining brightly offered a bold warmth amplified by the cold temperature of his empty home. His large leather chair was faced away but a man was clearly seated in it. Jerry could make out a well-groomed plot of red hair emerging from the top. As the chair slowly turned to face him, Jerry preemptively asked, “Is that you Jason?”
“It sure is Jerry. I’m your head coach Jason Garrett”. I’m here to show you what’s happening right now.”
“Listen here Jason.” Jerry sternly spoke. “I run things. I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on around here.”
“Then you know about the dead money from Newman, Barber, and Davis. You know of the bad contracts of Free, Ratliff, and Austin.” Jason quizzically asked.
“Of course I do.” said Jones
Jason quickly shot back. “Then you also know the complete misevaluation of the offensive line. The neglected depth of the defensive line. The utter failure at the safety position season after season. The free agent misses, the draft follies, the …”
“I know what you’re getting at and I don’t appreciate it!” Jerry defensively interrupted. This isn’t as easy as it looks. I’m almost building this team on my own here!”
Jason smiled bringing light to the words Jerry just said. “But you don’t need to do this on your own. You have a staff that is qualified but too scared to speak up. A scouting department that follows to support your evaluation rather than leads the evaluation. The minds you have differ in opinions. What was a synergistic team of player evaluation in the early 90’s slowly gave way to this current dictatorship of opinion.”
Still defensive and now upset Jerry turned away and peered out the window. Instead of seeing the darkness of his estate at 2 AM, Jerry sees into a living room on what appears to be Christmas day. Jerry sees a young family around the Christmas tree. As they open presents the television is overheard in the background. It discusses another lost year for the Cowboys. It repeats the tired line of Romo’s inabilities and the Cowboy’s general ineptitude in the front office. The human figures that were previously difficult to identify slowly now gain focus for Jerry. He sees he is in the Romo living room.
Holding up the remote, Tony turns the television off. He’s visibly annoyed with what he just heard. Tony turned to his wife and said, “Jason is turning this around. Jerry is going to get some guys in here and we’ll be fine.” His tone was meant to sound reassuring to his wife but Jerry noticed the tone sounded as though Tony was reassuring himself more so.
Jerry turned to Jason and said, “I want it to. Nobody wants it more than me!”
Jason replied, “Then let your people do their jobs. Step back. Add another football mind to the process. The more open minds we have evaluating the better the result. Don’t overrule decisions made by those you placed in decision-making positions. We can all do this if you let us.”
With that the fire faded and Jerry was back in his cold empty bed. Jerry was very much awake too frightened to look at a clock.
The Ghost of Football Future
Jerry could now see his breath in the cold bedroom air. It became so distracting to Jerry he barely noticed the clock chiming or the shadow standing in his doorway. Jerry slowly turned his head toward the figure. He tried to make out the figure but the room was dark and the silhouette was occupying conveniently placed shadows. Jerry jumped up exclaiming, “Spirit! I get it. I need to change. I’ll consider others opinions! I can save this team, please just leave me be!” The figure slowly turned, extending its arm into the moonlight. With a move of an index finger, the spirit motioned for Jerry to follow. Jerry obediently rose, dreading what was to be shown but terrified of what may happen if he failed to obey.
Following the spirit, Jerry found himself standing in a crowd in what appeared to be a Hall of Fame induction in Canton, OH. He looked up to see Tony Romo in a golden jacket midway through his acceptance speech. Jerry sighed an exaggerated sigh as he deducted Romo could have only done this through Super Bowl victories. The relief quickly turned to horror as he listened on…
“I wish my friend Jason Witten would have listened to me when I tried to convince him to join me in Philly. The only thing that could have made winning two Super Bowls in Philadelphia better would have been doing it with him.” Tony spoke.
Jerry fell back blacking out in shock. As he awoke he noticed he was in the much more familiar environment of Valley Ranch. Still in a panic from what he just witnessed he ran through the hallways to his office. He needed to check the roster to make sure the Romo situation was just a bad dream. But when he arrived at his office he saw the furniture was all different. Looking at the desk he saw the name of Stephen Jones owning the title of Owner and GM. Jerry reached down to pick up the name plate from the desk as if looking at it closer will change it. Behind him walked in his son Stephen with Jason Garrett and an unknown but familiar looking man. Stephen was angrier than Jerry had ever seen him.
“Jason. This is unacceptable! How can I get anything done with you constantly contradicting me?” Stephen rhetorically asked. “The ‘right kind of guy’ is who I say it is! If there’s one thing Jerry taught me it’s to stick to your guns and do not compromise when you know you’re right. I know I’m right so if you can’t support that, this job isn’t for you!”
With that, Jason laid his resignation on Stephen’s desk. Turning to the familiar but unknown man Stephen said, “Well, Lane, I guess the job is yours.
In that heart-stopping moment Jerry recognized the unknown man was Lane Kiffin. Jerry was filled with a feeling so overwhelming it seemed as though he swallowed a baseball. Sitting down in the corner of the office, with his hands to his face, he dropped his head between his knees weeping.
“How could this be?” he asked himself. “How did it get this far? We had something so good. What happened?” Jerry uncovered his face to see no one was there to answer his question or offer support. Jerry was all alone. He jumped up running down the hall in search of someone –anyone – but office after office was empty. Bursting into the film room Jerry saw the projector that hasn’t been used in decades was running with various clips of local and national media. Standing between Jerry and the screen was the silhouette of the spirit once again. Afraid to approach the Spirit Jerry stayed back watching the film snippets from the back of the room.
“The Raiders found hope for their team after Al Davis passed on, but the Cowboys have to now endure the next generation of the Joneses.” analysts spoke. “I feel bad for Cowboys fans. They really have no reason to be hopeful” said another.
“I can change! I see now! I see what I’ve become! I see what I’m doing! I’ll let Jason do his job…I’ll empower scouting…I’ll stop interfering! I’ll be a good example to Stephen. I’ll bring in more football minds! We can do this! It can’t be too late!” Jerry sobbed to the Spirit.
Jerry reached out to the figure in a way of both humility and submission. The figure dipped his head removing a Fedora and calmly handed the hat to Jerry. At that moment of realization Jerry again dropped to his knees losing consciousness.
“Jerry. Jerry, why are you still in bed?” asked what seemed like the sweetest voice ever heard. Jerry opened his eyes seeing his lovely wife Gene looking down upon him. Tears filled his eyes as instantly as the smile grew across his face.
“Gene! What day is it?“ He excitedly asked.
“It’s Christmas Day, honey. Are you feeling ok?” She replied
Jerry flew out of bed babbling about his plans for the day as he searched for his clothes. “I need to see coach Garrett first thing. No, I need to call Romo’s agent. He needs an extension first. I need to let him know things will be different and he’s going to get a Super Bowl here in Dallas!”
Smiling but obviously worried for her husband’s mental health Gene stood back quietly listening to her almost unrecognizable husband.
“Everyone will have equal input. I will give mine but let everyone else have theirs! A consensus will govern the Cowboys once again.” Jerry said as he added a hat to his outfit. Realizing he didn’t own a hat like this he looked in the mirror as if already knowing. For this was the hat of that final spirit. With a smile and nod Jerry reached up firmly moving it into perfect position. That Landry Hat fit him perfectly.