Earlier in the preseason, Jason Garrett took the Star off the rookie helmets, making what I thought was a very positive statement about the new culture of the Dallas Cowboys. Now it has been announced that hazing is banned for the team.
I have been on the Garrett bandwagon for some time. I see these steps as highly positive. Some may think this is all just minor stuff. If you are one of them, allow me to explain why you are wrong.
If you haven't read some of my opinions, you might not be aware that I think that leadership is perhaps the most important thing Jason Garrett brings to the job of head coach. My ideas are heavily influenced by my own military background. Using analogies to combat when talking about sports seems a little overdone to me, but using examples of leadership from the military just comes naturally to me, and I think it makes the point fairly clearly.
Garrett is trying to turn around a team that clearly lost faith last year. They lost faith in their coaches and to at least some extent in themselves. From the perspective of a fan, one of the greatest issues for the team was the lack of accountability. Standards were not clearly set and did not seem to be enforced. As the grinding trainwreck of the 1-7 start unfolded, it became increasingly difficult to hear Wade Phillips making excuses. Towards the end of his tenure, he sounded so lost in his press conferences that you almost felt sorry for the man. Almost.
That has changed. Jason Garrett is establishing a culture based on principles that I have been hearing my entire life. Set clear goals. Offer unambiguous feedback. Be fair. Build esprit de corps.
Taking away the Star was a very clever move. It was a tested idea, going back to the Bill Parcells era. It was obvious and visible to everyone. And it gives the rookies a clear goal. Make the team, wear the Star.
This is something old military types like me understand very well. All the services have badges, patches, and insignia that mean something. They represent something that is earned, not given. A Ranger tab, pilot's wings, stripes on the sleeve, a submariner's dolphins, the globe and anchor, all tell you that the person wearing them had to meet certain standards to attain these things (some certainly more demanding than others). Frankly, I love the idea of the Star being earned. I think it should be awarded to the rookies who make team on the day they announce the final 53, not before. (I am not sure what to do for the practice squad, although I lean to awarding them the right to wear it as well.)
When I saw the headline, I immediately understood what the coach was trying to do. I was a little surprised when I read this article by someone named Andrew Sharp about Garrett's announcement to ban hazing in an article over at the SBNation main site:
It's a lot less fun than say, Rob Ryan publicly calling out the Philadelphia Eagles, but he's got a point. Outlawing ritualized harrassment is probably for the best. But this sorta seems like just another way for the squeakiest squeaky clean coach to preen.
It's one thing to privately tell players, "Don't force a rookie to spend 60 grand at dinner this year." Or maybe, "Don't stab any offensive lineman in the neck like Michael Irvin once did." But then he has to make a point of telling everyone that, "We just don't believe in that."
How enlightened of him! It's almost as pretentious as two weeks ago, when he us to call his team the "Dallas Football Cowboys" and then made a point of telling the media that rookies wouldn't be allowed to wear stars on their helmets until they "earn" them.
"Wait, Isn't that kinda like hazing", you ask? A condescending mind-game from the guy who said "there's not going to be anything demeaning"? Well, yeah, pretty much. And I guess what I'm saying is, the new sheriff down in Texas seems like kind of a douchebag.
I am a little disappointed that the site standards inhibit me from fully expressing my disdain for the effete Cowboys hating pencil necked geek who wrote that. It is clearly obvious that this guys attitude towards hazing could only be based on the paddling scene from Animal House, and he probably wishes he was the guy asking for another.
Let me explain briefly the difference between hazing and taking the Stars off the rookies' helmets. Hazing is random in nature and directed solely towards humiliating and demeaning the persons being hazed. It says "I am better than you, and I can make your life miserable just because I feel like it." It is a way for jerks to bully people, and is often most flagrantly applied by people who have doubts in themselves to try lord it over others they secretly fear might be better. (I'm not referring to Roy Williams telling Dez Bryant to carry his pads. Not at all. Not me.) Because it is not tied to performance, and serves almost solely to amuse the jerks handing it out, it does nothing to build a team.
Earning the Star is entirely different. There is nothing random about it. It is based on one thing: Are you good enough to be on this team?
There is pride in symbols, when those symbols represent something good and admirable. That Star has a long, proud history. Oh, it has had its bad times, but it has come back before.
It is coming back again. Jason Garrett is going to lead it there.
Mr. Sharp obviously doesn't understand. Must be an Eagles fan. He certainly talks like one.