The Strange but Wildly Entertaining Relationship of Dallas and the Cowboys

For me, the relationship between the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas has always been a little bit outside, a few inches over the edge, more like an obsessive love affair than a marriage, so it’s probably a mistake to try to make too much sense of it. And I won’t. But I do love the public scenes.

This week’s scene garnering a lot of drive-by attention is a wonderfully unhinged, over-the-top rant by Norm Hitzges, dean of the Dallas radio sports commentariat, on The Ticket, the city’s highest rated sports talk channel for men 25-54 during weekday drive-times.

In this aria, Hitzges spends almost six minutes speaking alone and uninterrupted, a virtuoso performance during which his unique voice travels from tenor to contralto. Between angry shouting there are moments when I could swear he is sobbing.

I am not a professional sports fan, and I’m sure that more sophisticated listeners picked up on other layers of message in what Hitzges said. As best I could discern given my meager understanding, Hitzges was mad at Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones because the football team had lost seven games.

I know how football works. I watch it. Even if I’m not an expert, I enjoy it. I understand that Hitzges was unhinged on the radio because the people on Jones’ team had not carried or kicked or thrown the ball across the other team’s goal line enough times.

From there the message grew muddy. Hitzges railed at Jones for emasculating his coach, Jason Garrett — that is, bossing him around and “micromanaging” him, a term I have heard before in discussions of Jones. But then Hitzges said that Jones should go himself and walk locker to locker in his own locker room and bawl out and discipline the players for tweeting and other lapses.

Failure to follow this advice, Hitzges vowed, would subject Jones to ridicule. Hitzges said (well, screamed):

“If you enjoy being laughed at, Jerry, then revel in it. Climb right into the spotlight and revel in it.

“Your team is now the most ridiculous team in the national football league. The pregame shows, the postgame shows, all over network TV, all the commentators, they are laughing at you. They are watching you unravel in public.

“It’s like a circus. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and watch the Dallas cowboys unravel right before your eyes. This is an embarrassment. The whole league looks at you, and they are laughing at you.

“This isn’t a seven-game losing streak. This is a surrender of your freaking soul.”

The mention of the soul especially caught my attention in a discussion of carrying, kicking and throwing balls, so as soon as I heard it I flew out onto the Internet to see if there might be other hints or indications of Jones’ recent eternal damnation. The tea leaves were hard to read. One of the first things I came across was a story in Forbes a couple months ago saying that, at $4 billion, the Dallas Cowboys is the most valuable sports franchise in the world.

At the very least I would think that means that if Jones’ soul is missing, it’s not because he “surrendered” it. It sounds like he negotiated a pretty good price.

I’ve always been interested in another charge that Hitzges brings up, that Jones is always hovering over the team, sticking his nose in. It’s that micromanaging thing. I came across a great interview NFL analyst Mark Kriegel did with Jones’ son and business partner, Stephen, on NFL Today.

Kriegel recounts and Stephen Jones confirms that when Stephen was a high school quarterback, his coaches became alarmed that someone might be spying on their practices from an office building with a view of the practice field. Further investigation revealed there was indeed a spy. It was the quarterback’s father, who had rented office space in the building across the way so he could watch his son’s practices.

Stephen Jones, who chokes up later in the interview speaking of his devotion to his father, tells the high school spying story with a smile on his face.

So in the first place, I guess the Joneses have worked out the micromanaging thing between them. In the second place — and this is a recurring problem I have when I listen to people who are much smarter than me about the Cowboys — the micromanaging thing about Jerry Jones isn’t exactly breaking news, is it?

This, in fact, is where I get back to my metaphor about the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas having more of an affair than a marriage. Jones has owned the Cowboys for 26 years. If you were still married to your spouse and still going out to dinner and still laughing about things after 26 years, and if your spouse was a micromanager, then that would have to mean that you and your spouse must have worked out the micromanaging thing a long time ago.

If you and this person are still going out, but you’re still going off on rants about the micromanaging, then not only does it mean you must not be married, the micro-managing thing must be part of your weird deal. You scream at your partner for being a micromanager, and then your partner puts on a sexy-naughty police officer costume and starts revving up an imaginary motorcycle. Hey. Get a room.

My wife is a truly blue Dallas Cowboys fan, second generation. Her mother had to put her father’s nitroglycerin tablets on the end table next to his bedroom TV in case Tony Dorsett fumbled. (Really.) This week after I got done searching online, I said to her, “Didn’t one of the best Cowboys players get hurt recently and that’s why they’re losing?”

First she repeated her frequent admonition that I must promise never to discuss anything about the Cowboys with the neighbors. I promised. Then she said yes. Tony Rama.

Is that not the reason? Is there a reason? No, let me ask it this way: Is there reason? OK, I’ll shut up now.
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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze