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Some Encouraging Words for Choke City

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As I wrote in this week’s paper version of Unfair Park, something’s going on here. And it ain’t good. Just like that, “Happy New Year” has dissolved into “Same Old Shit.” Our sports rut is deeper and dryer than ever.

South Oak Cliff High School has forfeited its 2006 state hoops championship because it knowingly used an ineligible player. One of our former Cowboy running backs remains in a coma (allegedly due to a local hospital screw-up), while another recently announced he suffers from multiple personality disorder. As for the current Cowboys, something’s amiss here too.

We all know Bill Parcells is a giant asshole and a pain to work for. But how, then, do I explain the mass exodus from the 13-3 Cowboys to the 1-15 Dolphins this off-season? Making the decision to leave a team that sniffed the Super Bowl to join the worst squad in the NFL are Dallas’ director of scouting (Jeff Ireland), assistant director of scouting (Brian Gaine), assistant head coach (Tony Sparano), defensive line coach (Kacy Rodgers), linebackers coach (Paul Pasqualoni) and secondary coach (Todd Bowles). And now comes news ... er, rumor that after the shit she stirred up, Jessica Simpson is on the verge of dumping Tony Romo. Or is it vice-versa? Whatever. Karma, man, karma.

How else do you connect the dots between the top-seeded collapses of the Mavs and Cowboys? According to Avery Johnson, you don’t. “To compare what we went through with what the Cowboys went through isn’t fair to anybody,” the Mavs coach said this week.

It isn’t? Seems to me both ruined record-setting regular seasons with epic playoff upset losses. ‘Splain, please.

“The Cowboys are a historic franchise that has won Super Bowls,” Johnson continued. “We’re still searching. It’s just not fair to Jerry [Jones] or Mark [Cuban]. The bottom line is, either you win a championship or you don’t. If you don’t, it doesn’t really matter if you were the first seed, the eighth seed or when you lost. It’s just a disappointment that you didn’t reach your goal.”

I totally disagree, of course, in that there are degrees of failure and levels of disappointment. Neither won a championship, but don’t try to tell me we should feel the same about the seasons ending for the Cowboys and the Rangers. One is “almost.” One is “never.” Different. Right, professional mental trainer Glenn Pfenninger?

“Well, the idea of choking, you don’t really see it throughout professional teams,” says Pfenninger, Director of Performance Enhancement at renowned Dr. Robert Neff’s Dallas-based center for sports psychology. “More than choking, I think what we saw with both the Mavericks and Cowboys was, rather, momentum. In our studies we’ve seen that momentum is one of the biggest factors in winning. We try to get our clients to focus on practicing as they’ll play. Both the Warriors and Giants came in with momentum from late-season or playoff success, while our teams had some down time.”

Pfenninger, however, does have some encouraging words for us downtrodden patrons of Choke City.

“Nobody likes to hear this,” he says, “but failures like these are often the building blocks to success.”

You’re right, we don’t like to hear that. --Richie Whitt

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