*narrator sits on tree stump in woods near a roaring campfire, uses grizzled, battle-hardened, and generally epic story narration voice. The flames crackle and send embers fluttering skyward as they intermittently illuminate the listeners (that's you fine folk) gathered in a respectfully hushed semi-circle*
Have you ever heard the epic tragedy known as the twentyten Cowboys season? Despite it's cold, bitter end, it is a compelling tale of perseverance in the face of a lost cause. I assume since you are still seated here among way too many people to hear the sound of a single human voice with no amplification whatsoever, you want to hear it (you know, since no Cowboys fans will waste money on this season's summary DVD...most sales will be to 'Boys haters looking for a quick headrush). However, if that is your wish, I can recount the story as if it just ended yesterday...gather close and give heed:
Since time immemorial, one of the greatest honors bestowed on any denizen of the kingdom of the National Football League was to bear the Star. Bearing the Star was a step towards becoming a legend, spoken of in reverent tones in conversations, chatrooms and NFL Films Presentations until the end of days. Bearing the Star was a true source of pride...the Star itself a geometric representation of the mystical orbs of silvery fire that pierce our night sky as our own bright sun, a star itself, lights our days. Association with this symbol is indicative of greatness, superiority and special note since Brett Favre was in 3rd grade, long before football was even invented...however, only such a symbol is a worthy crest for a member of one of the greatest members of the NFL society: the Dallas Cowboys.
Well, historically, anyway. Despite the storied past of the franchise, it had fallen upon hard times as of late. The legendary leaders of yesteryear had given way to porcine and incompetent generals, such as the current holder of the position, Coach Wadeius. Wadeius was a once very skilled builder of armor behind the front lines. He invented RushWare, an impenetrable defensive armor that left the wearer's speed and agility intact, and RatMail, which was stout, dynamic and protected the midsection from harm. His armors were designed to demoralize the opponent with invincibility as well as smash him with pure brawn..but he was not without weakness. He lacked the true fighter's spirit and often appeared baffled during wartime duress. He would have run an armor forge that any team would be proud to own, but he was not a soul for battle. An excellent blacksmith he was...but he was not a leader of men.
As a result, the once-proud forces he was in charge of were lax, unfocused and in disarray...a complete embarrassment to everything the Star stood for. As a result, at midpoint the season was all but lost. They had lost 7 battles, and the hopes of surviving to defending Playoff Mountain, which was right outside the Palace at Arlington this year, were growing slimmer by the week. Wadeius saw this and was disheartened...he saw his demise near, and as he had no vested interest in the success of his warriors, the quality of his armor slipped. Opponents began to overwhelm the poorly defensed Cowboys, but he and his army slowly became a doormat in the kingdom...a pale shadow of its former self.
However, Wadeius was not the only officer who saw the circumstances the Cowboys now found themselves in...it did not escape the eyes of one of the top lieutenants in the army, the bold warlord Jasonidas. Jasonidas was a master offensive strategist. At his peak, he and his great sword, Romomentous IX, along with elite warriors such as Wi'ten, Fe-Lix, Dezzalonian, and Austintatious led one of the most powerful and deadly offensive assaults in the NFL. However, the power this provided the team was hampered by weak shields, cheaply made from scrap metal drafted in the later rounds. (Such shields caused a warrior to have to block with other items, like a full-back brace...this makeshift protection led to the eventual breaking of Jasonidas' sword at the hilt in a clash with a Giant). Jasonidas, for all his efforts, could do little to improve the army with the bumbling Wadeius in charge of things...and this is where we pick up our story, with Coach Wadeius and Jasonidas discussing strategy inside the Palace at Arlington.
Wadeius: Aw, shucks...we're 1-7 and that darn Giant from Contemporary York is heading this way. You know what happened when last those guys came to town...Romomentous IX was destroyed and we were defeated.
Jasonidas: Yes, I'm well aware. When last we saw him, we had the upper hand until my main sword was halved in battle. I still had my kitnablade, and once we were able to adjust, the attack I coordinated was sufficient for victory...but thanks to the shoddy workmanship in the armor you built, we were handily beaten. My warriors are brave and strong, but if they are not defensed properly they will be defeated each time.
Wadeius: Welp, that's all true...but jeepers, what the heck do we do about it? Dadgummit, I think we're sunk...we don't stand a chance. Maybe we should just give up...
Jasonidas: Give up? It is forbidden through Cowboy law. No retreat, no surrender! What cowardices do you speak of?
Wadeius: Well, we tried to do better last week against those wild Jaguars after we stunk it up the week before against that army from Wisconsin. We did some good things, but honestly, it wasn't enough. I don't even know what to do now.
Jasonidas: I tell you what you do...we will do what we were born to do. We will fight! We will be great today! We will stack good days on top of each other, and we will show the entire league that the Cowboys are no homecoming opponent!
Wadeius: Oh, be serious. We've lost 7 battles of the 8 this year. It's over Jasonidas...let's just go get a beer or something. I think "Real Housewives" comes on at 8. Let's choose our next plans wisely...they could be our last as coaches.
Jasonidas: Have you no spine? You fold in the face of an enemy while wearing the Star? Unfathomable! You are a traitor to us all!
Wadeius: Heck, you call me a traitor, I say I'm playing the odds. Don't you know the dog-king Vixses sets his sights on our palace as we speak? Vixses is the elite of the elites. He cannot be defeated. He and his army are the class of the NFC, and he takes into his control all that he sees. He is universally loved and feared, and this is why many armies have chosen to align with him. He and his personal guard, the Phillymortals, will climb Playoff Mountain and claim the Lombardi Grail. It is hopeless...we are completely outmatched against him.
Jasonidas: Vixses is no more an authority over me than you are, you sniveling, soft-bellied pantywaist. Everyone, from messenger to king, is responsible for the words of their own voice. How dare you speak such blasphemies?!
Wadeius: Sheesh, I really just don't know what else to do.
Jasonidas seethed with rage at his general's lost demeanor in the face of crisis. Wadeius saw this, put on a confused look and wandered aimlessly over near a previously unseen and conveniently placed bottomless pit for no real reason.
Wadeius: Don't be like that. It's not so bad. We have no shot at keeping Playoff Mountain from being scaled by the forces of Vixses by season's end...why bother? I mean...it's madness.
Jasonidas: *scoffs* Madness?
Wadeius: I know what you're feeling...it's natural. You'll get over it once you shake off that dumb little pride thing. I'm the general for now, this is my team and I say it's just not a good idea. Let's just quietly lay down until the end of the season...that early late afternoon pre-dinner meal is making me sleepy anyway.
Jasonidas: You're the coach for now...hmm... Perhaps you are on to something. Indeed, it is you who should have chosen your plans more wisely! THIS...IS...MY JOB!
Jasonidas then drew his leg back and spartan-kicked Wadeius forcefully down the bottomless pit. Wadeius' fleshy frame initially got stuck in the pit, but then he began to sweat a little and eventually lubed himself up enough to fall smoothly. Jasonidas, after making a mental note to have a fat peoples' bottomless pit of death installed, reflected on his situation. Having killed Wadeius, and in so doing, becoming interim coach of the Cowboys, he saw a chance to cement his place as their leader: to fight valiantly to the death, not for playoff seeding, or for draft picks...but for glory. He would assemble his army and set off in search of the dog-king Vixses to defend Playoff Mountain and the Palace at Arlington from his control.
He and his small band of warriors would stand against the combined forces of the remaining schedule...as well as Vixses. This was the only way Jasonidas knew...to fight until the end. He called a meeting for his Cowboys to discuss the new direction they would take under his management. There was a new Garrett in town. Jasonidas stood in an open field, his Cowboys, some with bows and arrows, all with sword and shield, standing in rank before him, ready to be addressed.
Jasonidas: Cowboys! Many of you have grown accustomed to the leadership of Wadeius...
Assorted background Cowboys mumbled their agreement.
Jasonidas: ...and every last one of you sad bunch can rot in Hades. This is my team now. I'm changing the culture around here. From now on, we look like winners, practice like contenders, and fight like champions. Cowboys have a reputation to uphold. San Francisco does battle training in full pads, and if that bunch of scholars and...boy lovers...can manage that, then Cowboys ought to be able to do at least that much. Anybody lacking confidence in their ability to do just that, I suggest you kill yourself now and save me the trouble.
At this point, Cowboys Brooking the Loud, Olshanskus, Alan Balzac and Alexander of Barron committed ritualistic suicide.
Jasonidas: Fine, anyone else?
The remaining Cowboys stood nervously at attention.
Jasonidas: Very well, you've made your choice. Let's go. Onward! *points into distance with kitnablade, starts off*
Before long, Jasonidas spotted an immense humanoid silhouette in the distance. It almost resembled a man...but no man stood 60 feet tall or had four helmeted heads that sort of looked like Peyton Manning's, but all 'tarded. As it slowly approached with thunderous footfalls that shook the earth with each step, it came into focus...it was the very beast that had shattered Jasonidas' first sword, the Giant of Contemporary York!
Thick, acrid smoke fumed from it's 8 nostrils as it bellowed fire from it's hellish bowels and roared. It continued to stumble toward the Cowboys, alternately beating its chest and its back with both of its left arms. This was especially odd since it only had 2 arms that were on opposite sides of its body. As it came forth, the band of soldiers that accompanied it marched into view. Adorned with garb tinted the color of the purest sea trimmed with blood red, many of them had around their wrists a chain that was handcuffed to the Giant (It was the only way to keep the team together past December).
Jasonidas: Cowboys! Be at your ready!
He drew his kitnablade, and muttered under his breath.
Jasonidas: Let's hope this goes better than last time...I lost Romomentus IX to these godless fiends...we were unprepared to adjust at the time, but I believe we can defeat it...
He then turned off his inside voice and talked to his team.
Jasonidas: Give them NOTHING...but take from them...EVERYTHING!
They all assumed a fighting stance.
Jasonidas: We can do this, boys! We can take him down! Let's be great today!
The Giant continued to approach clumsily, belching flames and embers. The other men stayed close by his side, the attached brandishing spiked clubs in their free hands. Clearly, this was a smash-mouth, grinding, hard nosed, ground game, blah blah blah group that would give Jasonidas and his army an utter pounding should they prove insufficient to the task.
Jasonidas: All right, Cowboys! Here it comes!
The Giant and his escorts were now less than 50 feet from the Cowboys. The Cowboys stood strong, ready for almost anything the Giant might have in store. Although Jasonidas and his Cowboys may have taken a grave loss last time they met, they had come close to besting the Giant until the mighty weapon Romomentous IX was lost mid-battle, demoralizing the entire team and dooming them to failure.
Jasonidas then took a second to examine the kitnablade he now held in his hand. It was an older model sword, rusty...shorter range than his main sword...slightly cumbersome and unbalanced...but still a capable sword in the right system. Just as Jasonidas fleetingly wondered if the idea that he could conquer the Giant and its warriors with a slightly inferior sword was madness indeed, the Giant suddenly stopped in his tracks and looked wildly about, bewildered. The Giant's escort stopped marching and regarded it with concerned gazes. Many Cowboys were confused by this, but Austintatious was the first to ask.
Austintatious: What's happening, Interim Coach Jasonidas? What should we do?
Jasonidas: Steady, boy...let's just watch.
The Giant raised one of its massive left fists in the air with a roar, shook it...and punched itself in the face.
Jasonidas: What the fail?
The Giant staggered backwards, stunned from its own blow. It then looked at its hand angrily and bellowed a roaring jet of flames directly at it, causing the offending hand to catch ablaze. It then hopped around in agony, stomping many of its own men in the process.
Random Giant escort: Oh, no...it's going Eli!
The Giant now was in a cyclical frenzy of self-inflicted pain that only got worse as time went on. Jasonidas heard the resulting lamentations of the Giant's escort, and suddenly he knew...
Jasonidas: Cowboys! Take heart! Victory is ours, our opponent is finished!
His Cowboys regarded him with disbelief. Surely he couldn't be talking about the same Giant who had handed them defeat just 5 weeks prior and destroyed their current coach's prize weapon? Victory was possible...but not before the battle had begun...right? Perhaps not...
Jasonidas: You see, the Giant is near unstoppable most of the time, but for some reason, the Giant's composure wanes drastically. Sometimes, for no reason, the Giant will do something people from his land call "going Eli". It enters a wild, unstable state and generally wrecks things up, mostly its own. It's unpredictable...but that is the nature of such a brute beast.
The raving-mad Giant continued to seize and convulse wildly as it belched embers and flames haphazardly from each of its four mouths. The members of its escort who were fortunate enough not to be chained to it fled for their lives as their comrades still attached to the Giant were trampled underfoot like grapes in Rome. So quick were the men to flee the unruly Giant that they inadvertently sped toward a cliff, where they fell off and died...you know, like every year. The four-headed Giant put a really dumb look on his faces, let loose one final crazed howl and pursued its own guardsmen to the jagged rocks hundreds of feet below, leaving a trail of black smog. The Giant had been done in by its own hand, but the Cowboys would apologize for no victory. Today, victory was theirs.
Jasonidas: Men, we did it...kinda...well, we showed up. Sometimes, that's all a warrior need do against an opponent as inconsistent yet predictably self-destructive as the Giant. Celebrate...but get some rest, men. Vixses forces are close at hand, and we must put every ounce of spare energy into defeating him and his forces.
Jasonidas' Cowboys ate and drank heartily that night. Songs were sung, and cacophonous revelry echoed through nearby hills. Some, like marginal Cowboy Roytu, even got so drunk as to speculate that the one win was their ticket to a run at Playoff Mountain, despite the still near-insurmountable odds they faced. Indeed, many Cowboys were giddy about the new hope that lay ahead. Only one among them kept his leader's composure...only one...Interim Coach Jasonidas. By the morning, it seemed a new day had dawned for the Cowboys. Jasonidas opened his eyes to the piercing sunlight, and immediately heard trumpets in the distance. War trumpets. He dispatched young Dezzalonian for a quick scouting mission, who quickly returned with a full report.
Dezzalonian: Interim Coach Jasonidas, I saw the source of the trumpets in the distance from the top of that hill over there...it appeared to be a small mounted cavalry, maybe 5 strong...only they weren't on horseback. Whatever they were riding looked...weird.
Jasonidas: Weird? Perhaps you'd better go back for another look...remember, boy, success is in the details. Have a great scouting mission.
Dezzalonian sped back to his scouting perch. He wasn't long before he rushed back full speed, concern plastered across his face.
Dezzalonian: Sir...sir! The approaching party were not riding horses, but oddly colored lions....and it seems they're not cavalry at all...they're bandits!
Jasonidas: Bandits, eh? We'll see if we have something for them.
The 5 bandits rode into view on their strange, Avatar-blue jungle cats. They were mercenaries and soldiers of misfortune currently under Vixses employ. Bandits are not and never were known for their fighting skill, but an unsuspecting team could easily get a win stolen from them should they cross a bandit's path unaware. Jasonidas and his Cowboys could ill-afford to suffer another loss...these lion-riding bandits must not be taken lightly. The leader of the pack of bandits rode his steed to just outside striking range of the Cowboys.
Bandit Chief: Cowboys! I do not come to take your wins...I come to deliver a message from the dog-king Vixses himself. He has seen your battle with the Giant on YouTube, and he is not impressed. His top warriors, Mac-lon, D'Shon and Shadium, form an offense so fast, it can run across water. This offense is so fine-tuned and delicate, it can't even be used in the snow.
Jasonidas: How is that last part intimidating? Seems a bit wussy to me.
Bandit Chief: You're right...scrap that part. Forget I said that. Anyway, you think you stand a chance in the face of Vixses and his armies? His is an explosive, big play offense...number 1 in the kingdom! With all the deep passes, the outlines of flying pigskins in the sky will blot out the sun!
Jasonidas cocked an eyebrow and prepared to explain a complicated counter strategy, until one of his men, Marionon, put it far more succinctly.
Marionon: Then we will play in the shade, fool!
Many fellow Cowboys laughed. Bandit Chief took exception to his cool dismissal of his tough-guy line, which he had clearly stayed up all night thinking of.
Bandit Chief: You...insolent fool! You will pay for your...Barber-isms! Do you think your plans will do anything but crumble like a heap of dry leaves in the face of the unstoppable armies of Vixses? You and your Cowboys are dead--urgkkhh!--
The Bandit Chief's unnecessarily long monologue was cut off by an well-aimed halfback option arrow fired from Marionon's bow. It struck his face with driving force, turning most of the front of his head into a chunky red mist. The other bandits froze in shock at seeing their leader felled so easily.
Marionon: Couldn't stand listening to that dude any more...that pun made my dreads hurt.
Jasonidas: A fine shot, Marionon...I wish I could get my hands on the guy who wrote that joke for him.
Jasonidas, apparently unaware that he could be written out of this story at any time, then turned to the remaining bandits and addressed them.
Jasonidas: Now, bandits...anyone who threatens our mission will suffer the same fate as your leader! Go and tell your Vixses our message, before we decide to make it just a little bit longer.
The bandits looked at each other, confused. They then decided that they were not equipped to tangle with the Cowboys' forces unbacked by Vixses. They turned lion tail and fled back to his protection.
*please turn tape to side B*