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Cowboys shake their past reputation

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Which of these is true?

  • Britney Spears and Paris Hilton chosen by a church to tutor young female parishioners on living a moral life.
  • Ryan Seacrest tapped by Vince McMahon to give professional wrestling a more macho image.
  • Keeanu Reeves opens new acting school in hopes of developing classically trained Shakespearean actors.
  • Anna Nicole Smith leaves money in her will for a prize to be given to nuclear physicists in a competition to be named the Anna Nicole Smith Genius Award.
  • The Dallas Cowboys upheld as the new model franchise in the NFL for ethical and moral behavior.

OK, I go too far. But I had to shake my head and give a wry smile of bemusement with the recent praise for the Cowboys in terms of being a model franchise in the drive to clean up the image of professional football players. Not because it isn’t true, the Cowboys have been very serious about getting players with character. But the juxtaposition of the Dallas Cowboys being upheld as the model of the new NFL move toward eliminating ethically-challenged behavior is too rich to pass up. Before you think I’m somehow giving the Cowboys a back-handed compliment for their improved image, let me say I’m not. I’m thrilled that the organization has made a very serious effort to clean up their act and allow us fans to root for them without constantly having to defend bad-boy behavior. But the fact that the one-time poster child of the modern athlete run amok is now being cited as the very model of a franchise to be admired is somewhat jarring.  

Charean Williams talks about the issue.

In 1998, two years after [Michael] Irvin pleaded no contest to cocaine-possession charges, the Cowboys hired Calvin Hill as a consultant. Since then, the team's player-development department has become an NFL model.

More than 50 NFL players have been arrested in the past 15 months, including six since March 25. The Cowboys have had only one in 15 months, and they quickly cut defensive back Marcus Coleman after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in November.

So it isn’t exactly news that the Cowboys have cleaned up their act. They’ve been on this path for close to a decade, and no example was more glaring than when they passed on Randy Moss in the draft to pick Greg Ellis. Interestingly, the move to running a clean franchise has corresponded with the Cowboys drop from the elite in NFL success to a decade of also-rans. I’m not suggesting a cause-and-effect here, because the various factors involved in that decline are numerous. None more so than the natural cycle in today’s NFL which seems to be stacked against a team holding onto its dominance for more than a short cycle. Free agency and revenue sharing make it difficult for a franchise to stay on top. The New England Patriots are the latest to fight against the trend, and the next few years will tell us if they can beat the inevitable decline or are they on that path but we just don’t realize it yet. In another interesting coincidence, the current NFL champs, the Indianapolis Colts, who were once thought of as the model of moral behavior and on-field success have taken a wallop to that reputation with a string of offseason arrests to their players.

I’m not making case that any of these things are related, but in the dearth of offseason news the mind wonders in many directions.

But the piece of the article in the DFW S-T that was the most interesting to me was Michael Irvin’s notion that in this new age of the Internet and intense interest in NFL players off-the-field as well as on – you can no longer hide. The infamous White House that the Cowboys partied at in the early 90’s might not have remained a secret for as long as it did in today’s age of media speculation. Irvin compresses this idea into a nice object lesson about the inability of famous parents to hide their transgressions from their children.

"When you hit Google, it's the first stuff that comes up," Irvin said, "and your kids are going to hit Google. The days of moms and dads doing things and their kids never finding out, those days are gone. The Internet won't allow parents to lie any more.

"That's what I would tell those guys: If you don't think about yourself, think about your kids. Because, I'm telling you, when they're old enough they're going to ask: Daddy, why? Daddy, what does this mean?"

Indeed.