Has it been 25 years already? I have been avoiding the various sports news channels at all costs the past two weeks so as not to ruin my Winter Olympic watching experience by letting my eyes wonder to the ever-scrolling list of results from Russia. Imagine my surprise, then, when I tuned back in to my normal viewing habits to find that the Cowboys are making headlines in February. Nobody has been arrested, released from their contract or tweeted embarrassing remarks. On the contrary, the occasion is a rather important anniversary. February 25 marks the day 25 years ago when an oilman from Arkansas took the reins of America’s Team and started a tenure that, for better or worse, has rarely lacked in entertainment.
Like many other moments in when time that seem to skip a few ticks of the clock, I can remember where I was when that infamous news broke. I was watching the news in my parent’s home in rural Arkansas and my jaw dropped to the floor. In those days there wasn’t the constant overflow of news, be it from the sporting world or otherwise. Living in Jerry’s home state, though, I had firsthand knowledge of the deal and I am not ashamed to say that I wasn’t happy about it. The blasphemy began with Jones brash behavior. We all remember the infamous flight to Austin that resulted in the unceremonious firing of the man in the fedora who was the only coach the Cowboys had ever known, the great Tom Landry. Jones has subsequently been quoted numerous times as regretting the decision to let Landry go in so such a swift and uncaring manner. It certainly didn’t win him any brownie points with the Cowboys faithful, yours truly included.
Adding insult to injury for this Cowboys fan was the fact that my Arkansas address meant that I was subjected to any and all manner of combining of the Dallas and Arkansas Razorbacks brand. For those of you not familiar with the traditions of the Natural State, since there are no professional sports teams within its borders, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks are the polarizing sports franchise. The jubilation of Jones somewhat hostile takeover of the Metroplex reached a fever pitch in Arkansas when a former Razorback teammate of Jones…one Jimmy Johnson…was hired as the Cowboys new head coach. Pictures emblazoned with Dallas Cowboys helmets that had Razorbacks jumping through them became common place and it wasn’t long before rumors of Jones bringing the Cowboys to Arkansas for a preseason game surfaced. That, of course, never materialized and soon the crazy mixture of Cowboy and Hog died down as well…thank goodness.
Those early days were a bit rough, with a 1-15 season that left many to wonder if Jones could turn things around in Big D. Dallas was practically giving away tickets to home games in Texas Stadium. In fact, those lean years provided me with my first visit to that hallowed ground and for that, I will be forever grateful. Higher ticket prices would soon come in the form of three Super Bowl wins and 1990s dynasty.
The roller-coaster ride that has been Jones’ tenure has given us many memorable moments. Some, like the aforementioned return to Super Bowl glory and the continued reign of the Cowboys as one of the top franchises in all of sports in terms of marketability have cast a favorable light on Jerry and company. He is also largely credited with bringing the corporate world and the NFL closer together…Pepsi and Nike anyone? The lack of a serious post season run since the early 1990s has brought back the ire of many fans. Jones refusal to hire a general manager to handle football operations has also cast him in a somewhat negative light.
The final chapters of Jones Dallas adventure have yet to be written and even though I haven’t always agreed with his decisions, this Cowboys fan hopes that Jerry can find a way to bring Dallas back to prominence in the NFL before he rides off into the sunset.