"Blame it on Cain,
Don't blame it on me,
oh, oh, it's nobody's fault,
but we need somebody to burn."
-- Elvis Costello, Blame it on Cain
Every July 7th, the residents of Pamplona, Spain hold the Running of the Bulls, where brave -- and crazy? -- residents and tourists don red bandannas and march the animals through the city streets to the bull ring, where the bulls are later killed.
Every year, roughly one month later, the Cowboys Nation engages in its annual "Running of the Goats," where the old, the infirm, and the disappointing on the roster are rounded up and run down the streets of the blogs, forums and call-in shows. Take a quick look at the right hand column of this site, or in the game-day threads, and you'll see what I mean.
There are always a group of Cowboys the fans love to hate. Think of the doomed players from just the last five years, guys who couldn't take a proper step: Jacob Rogers, Drew Bledsoe, Julius Jones, Akin Ayodele.
Last year, I handicapped the field, which had several perennials, led by the safety Roy Williams.
The Cowboys figuratively took the sword to several of last year's goats. Adam Jones, Tank Johnson, Keith Davis, Greg Ellis, Roy Willie? All reduced to cabrito. T.O.? While some fans pleaded for him to receive an indulto, the front office showed no mercy.
This year? Get serious. There will be no shortage of goats to roast. Bobby Carpenter, Isaiah Stanback, Pat Watkins, Marcus Spears. Band together, gents. The rippers are putting on their blue bandannas and are ready to run you out of town. Flozell Adams went from goat to stud and now is back on the goat list, at least with some of the more bloodthirsty. Were Doug Free not ahead of him on the goat list, the toreadors would be preparing for his old bones. Tony Romo? Your first pick and the swords will come out. Wade and Jason? Don't think for a second you won't hit the streets if the losses come too quickly.
I understand. It's part of fandom. I've chased Roy Williams down those streets more than once myself. I've had Pat Watkins measured for a while now. I'm just as guilty as the next guy. All Cowboys fans are, to some degree. All football fans are.
Yet, I'm amazed by the speed with which some guys are tagged. What has Mike Jenkins done to deserve his roasting? He's a second year player who looked very, very good to my eyes. He's going to have a very good season, health permitting, yet some people are ready to doom him to permanent second class status behind Orlando Scandrick, sight unseen.
Some players get no patience, even if they've produced. Marion Barber was the people's choice in '07. Take any week and you could find numerous posts insisting he should start and that Julius Jones needed to be run down immediately, never mind in the summer. Less than a year later, after a toe injury, some goat runners were already shoving number 24 into the street, ready to trade him for the first available receiver, or to demote him behind Tashard Choice, who no doubt will see his day on the streets the minute a fresher back hits town.
My point? Be deliberate in choosing your goats. Don't mistake an injury for incompetence. Football hurts, and even the best ones get pummeled. Be sure a guy isn't playing hurt, instead of losing his edge, before you run him into the ring. Have patience with the kids. Not all of them develop at the same rate. Don't assume that what you saw from a rookie determines how he'll play this year, or next year.
Some guys deserve their horns. Some have disappointed and will continue to disappoint. Some of these guys may be a week or just a month from breaking out. Let's try and do a better job of distinguishing between them.
It's August 17th. Put those blue scarves back in your pocket, at least until next week.
"Blame it on Cain,
Please don't blame it on me.
It's nobody's fault,
but it just seems to be his turn."