This time of year is so depressing here at the Dallas Observer sports desk, mainly because I keep waiting for the bosses to sell the desk out from under me and jumpstart my next career--king hobo outside City Hall. (I've prepared myself for this by throwing rotten fruit at a cardboard cutout of Mayor Laura Miller that I keep in my garage. Sad, but I'm getting good at it.) It used to be about potential for me, about how I was an up-and-coming young writer who was going to win this city over with unparalleled prose and witticisms. So much for that. I got an e-mail from someone a few weeks ago asking me if I'm really a prick or if I just pretend to be one in my column. I'll have to paraphrase because I'm experiencing e-mail difficulties (or is it the first sign that the brass is moving me out?), but it read, in part:
I can't figure out what your deal is. Do you really hate sports? And if you're trying to be funny, brother, you just aren't. Maybe you should watch more episodes of the Simpsons.
Ouch. Forget the first part, because it was largely true--I love my gig, and I work hard to be a real journo who goes to games and practices, unlike most of The Dallas Morning News columnists and the radio hosts at The Ticket, all of whom long ago abandoned the pretense of actually doing their jobs. But try as I might, it's hard for me to mask my hatred for pampered, self-centered athletes, and that distaste has a way of coming through in my writing. So the e-mailer had me there. But the dig about my sense of humor really hurt, especially because I might be the foremost Simpsons authority in the area. All of which reminded me of an episode where Bart tries to do something or other before failing spectacularly. To which Homer offers this advice: "The lesson is, never try."
Yes, now that I think of it, that seems to be a fitting theme, not just for my columns and my career, but specifically for this past year, too. It was an ugly 12 months, and not just on the sports landscape. Martha Stewart went to jail, Bush revamped his cabinet and said goodbye to Colin Powell (but, for some reason, left Rummy in place), and American Idol was inexplicably brought back for another season. Ugly stuff all around. It would have been better if we'd all thrown our hands up, attached a hose to the back of the car and sucked in for a while.
On that note, the following is my annual year-end review. Never try? Indeed.
Big Bust: Trust in Big Bill Parcells. That's what I told people, and that's what I believed, which makes me either a dupe or a dope. Or both. Parcells and his boys followed their unexpected playoff appearance from a year ago with an uninspired regular season in 2004. From Vinny Testaverde to Eddie George to Terence Newman to Roy Williams, no one on the Cowboys had a good season. Only rookie running back Julius Jones, who was injured for most of the year, provided hope. So the Boys went into the tank. Worse yet, Big Bill kept telling everyone that they were taking it one game at a time and that they might even make the playoffs, which provided him with the excuse he needed to keep Vinny in the lineup. To review: the Pokes not only had an awful year, but they also managed not to learn anything about Drew Henson or Tony Romo. That's the kind of ineptitude that even Dave Campo would have been hard-pressed to produce. Well done, Bill Big, well done.
You are so smrt. S-m-r-t: When I first read the unsigned letter that the Dallas Cowboys players wrote disparaging DMN writer Jean-Jacques Taylor, I thought, perhaps, that they'd gotten a child to write it because it was full of misspellings and grammatical errors. (They posted the nearly unintelligible note in the locker room as retaliation for a story that Taylor had written that they perceived to be negative.) Then, when I learned that it really was penned by the players, I thought maybe they'd taken one too many blows to their helmeted heads. But that wasn't it, either, because anyone who has seen the Cowboys play this year knows they haven't done much of anything, let alone take or receive punishing hits. So I was left with the logical conclusion: The players, who criticized Taylor by attacking his weight and calling him gay, are not only infantile and gutless, but they're also surprisingly stupid, which means they deserve our pity. Because when those guys are done being bad at football, they have to do something, and it's not going to be pretty.
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Turning him off: Mark Cuban's television show, The Benefactor, was quickly canceled by ABC when the ratings came back dreadfully low. And who saw that coming? At one point, Cuban had a local Mavericks-related show where he did bad standup and bad interviews, but a bad reality show? That's taking it to another level. With all the crap they keep on TV these days, you have to work really hard to get canceled. It's just difficult to understand why watching a bunch of morons play Jenga didn't make the viewing public want to tune in every week. Strange.
Now you see him, now you don't: First the Rangers, at the behest of owner Tom Hicks, made Alex Rodriguez a team captain. Then they immediately traded him to the New York Yankees. That's good marketing and impressive sleight of hand. Sure, it's a trade that worked out for everyone baseball-wise, but I would have been pissed if I were a season ticket holder who got fooled into believing that A-Rod was going to be in Rangers red. But kudos to Hicks for having the stones to pull it off and then, shortly thereafter, give area fans the finger with the "you're not getting any refunds, suckers" news conference. Being rich and evil must be so much fun.
Campaign comedy and errors: Far be it for me to rip on all these people without knocking myself down a notch, too. For those who didn't know, I ran for U.S. Congress in Texas, District 5, and got smoked by an evil little gnome named Jeb Hensarling, which made me look even more pathetic than I already did--a hard thing to pull off. After a year of busting my ass, spending my own money and stumping, I got 3 percent of the vote. (It was also an effort that produced campaign business cards with the Chilean flag instead of the Texas state flag, and a TV appearance in which I made a joke by insulting the homeless.) It was more than almost every third-party candidate in the state received, which sounds a whole lot more impressive than it really was; in truth, it was more like competing against a bunch of mutes to see who could hit the clearest note.
So there you have it, a year to forget on so many fronts. Here's hoping 2005 is better for all of us--or, failing that, better for me.