I went to Texas Stadium for the Cowboys' mauling of the Bucs, and this season has suddenly transformed from sad to surreal. Yep, all because of an undrafted free agent out of tiny Eastern Illinois. Before the game some extremely clever fans hung a "9 Tony Romo" banner along the stadium's Ring of Honor. Joked owner Jerry Jones, "I just want to know who told them they had to take it down?"
In our section of the south end zone fans began chanting, "Ro-mo! Ro-mo!" in the third quarter. Partly because he tied Troy Aikman's franchise record with five touchdown passes (a feat never achieved by Roger Staubach, by the way). Partly because he completed nine of 10 passes in the second half, pushing his incredible accuracy to 29 of 31 in the third and fourth quarters of the last three games. Partly because he's 4-1 as a starter (and only a blocked field goal at Washington from 5-0) and has the 7-4 Cowboys in first place in the NFC East. And, mostly, because he can keep us from bitching about kicker Mike Vanderjagt, who, I swear, came that close to missing an extra point and what seemed like a three-yard field goal.
Romo's even pulled off the impossible: At least temporarily, he's made coach Bill Parcells content, if not happy. For the first time in Dallas, Parcells gave his team Saturday, Sunday and Monday off. Too bad that vacation didn't start today. It's going to be a good Friday. Don't know about you, but I didn't get up early this a.m. to race the manic masses to the best parking spots or 50-percent-off sales on fresh linens or the best deals on T.M.X. Elmo or PS3. Black Friday, meet Good Friday, one of the best and busiest sports days of the year. That is, if you're into football and food and finally sending the relatives packing.
At 11 a.m. we got Texas A&M at Texas, with Aggies coach Dennis Franchione out to prove he can beat a team tougher than Louisiana-Lafayette. For those continually gigged by Fran, he's 0-9 against Big 12 big boys Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. After that, pack a couple of leftover turkey sandwiches and head to Texas Stadium at 1 p.m. for what should be the high school game of the week--or year or, shoot, the whole millennium. Southlake Carroll has won 43 in a row; Euless Trinity, 17 straight. Both are defending state champs. Both, dare I say, could whip the awful Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you're so determined to embrace hustle and bustle on the day after Thanksgiving, a crowd of more than 40,000 is expected. Enjoy.
Then tonight, when you're not untangling Christmas lights from the attic, your Dallas Mavericks put their seven-game winning streak on the line at the San Antonio Spurs at 7 p.m. Somewhere in between, may I suggest squeezing in some time to read my cover story in this week's paper version of Unfair Park. It features two of America's most powerful brands butting heads: Cowboys vs. McDonald's. It's got mystery, intrigue and an extremely high gross-out factor. In fact, all McRat is missing is a visit from C.S.I. and a wrongful death suit filed by PETA. --Richie Whitt