Old News

The second verse sounds the same as the first for Parcells' Cowboys

If Testaverde doesn't make it through the year, things could fall apart awfully quickly. The two backup options have never appeared in an NFL regular-season game. Tony Romo spent last year as the team's third-stringer, and while Romo was busy holding a clipboard and looking dashing in a baseball cap, Drew Henson was finishing up a baseball career with the Yankees. It didn't go so well, which has something to do with why he decided to return to football. Before the game against the Texans, he hadn't thrown a pass in competition since his college days at Michigan.

The Cowboys are high on both backups--they've said over and over that they think Romo is a smart kid and that Henson has potential. But being bright or having a future wouldn't necessarily help Dallas if Testaverde went down. Even Parcells concedes that Romo makes too many impulse decisions (against the Raiders, he'll end up leading the game-winning drive, but he'll also make you cringe with some of his throws) and Henson has a long way to go. "Shagging grounders is a little different," the coach says, "than what he's doing now."

It's possible that Testaverde will excel and last the whole year, but it's equally possible that his walker will break and he'll spend at least part of the season in the geriatric ward. (Either way, lots of easy jokes for me.) And what then? Does anyone feel comfortable entrusting the Pokes' playoff hopes to Romo or Henson?

Fans in Oxnard line up to watch their 'Boys. But will the Cowboys deliver a winning season or disappoint the faithful by taking a step back?
Ken Howard
Fans in Oxnard line up to watch their 'Boys. But will the Cowboys deliver a winning season or disappoint the faithful by taking a step back?

"You know what I like about the media?" Parcells asks. "I really do. And this is funny: They think you could dial 1-800-get-a-quarterback. You know, there's been teams who have been trying to dial that for 10 years. They think you can just dial it up. You think we don't look around? Well, you gotta get a quarterback. Well, no shit. You think we're not trying to?

"That's where we are. I can't be worrying about that in terms of what my alternatives are immediately. I have to deal with what I've got and know full well that some circumstances could change here as training camp goes on; some people could become available, some people could get cut, anything could happen. But there's nobody out there right now that I'm interested in."

Last night wasn't so good for me. I went to dinner with two writers who work for major metropolitan dailies. Their names and the names of their papers aren't as important as what we talked about: More people distrust me, and my ethics, than I previously believed.

We talked about how I think journos can be hypocrites--content to lampoon and pick at their subjects, but never themselves or their co-workers. And we talked about what happened at last year's camp in San Antonio. A friend of mine, also a media member, got arrested for doing nothing more than being black. I know because I was there, and the cops let me go. I wanted to write about it, but I didn't because my pal said it would cause him problems at work.

The people I went to dinner with didn't see the value in telling that story. They said that's not how things are done among journalists--we don't write about each other or what happens to us. What if next time, they asked, I wasn't writing about a run-in with cops? What if, instead, I was writing about a journo who's a drunk or an adulterer? What business is that of mine? That's not the way things should work, they contended. But I wasn't so sure.

To this day, the fact that I didn't write about the San Antonio incident marks one of the greatest disappointments in my life. It had nothing to do with getting a good story and everything to do with righteous indignation and my hunger to attack two racist cops. I tried to explain that to my dinner companions; I tried to explain that writers and words have influence and, when properly exercised, those words can effect change. If we can cover and criticize players and owners and abstract policies, then we should hold ourselves to the same standard. Everything should be in bounds.

I tried to explain all that to them, but our viewpoints were diametrically opposed. When among other journos, they told me, they shouldn't have to worry about what they say or do. That's the way it works--the way it's always worked, apparently. But I thought that was a cop-out. (At that point, things got uncomfortable, and if we hadn't come in the same car, I think someone might have left early.)

Perhaps it had to do with the fact that they work at daily newspapers, and the fallout at those shops can be heavy for even minor infractions. But there was something else to it: They've been conditioned. Our profession lends itself to drinking and hanging out with peers. When you're on the road, there isn't much else to do. It's a fraternity culture governed by the Fight Club understanding that you don't talk about Fight Club. You can gossip about it in secret--a favorite pastime--but you're not supposed to make it public.

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