Mephistopheles' Tempest

Recent focus by some fellow Cowboys fans on the whole Jerry Jones ownership of the Cowboys "issue" reminded me of an old post and made me reconsider having deleted it.

Then along comes a question "What's a Cowboy?". Then another, "Why now?". Then being cast as a blind Jerry-defender, someone who isn't as "smart" as BTB's Mensa members. Well, I'm not that smart, I accepted that fact in life long ago and just have my take on things.

Griping's never solved a problem challenge. Never answered a question. Alleviates some inner turmoil, at best. Fixes it? Nope. I don't like the word "problem". They're challenges. Challenges awaiting a solution. Questions awaiting answers. Problems are troubles we just gripe about. That's a problem.

It doesn't take a genius to figure it out. And no, that's not a shot at anyone. Even a fool like me can see the solution. Us simpletons like simple, so 3-word answers, solutions, keep the brainwork from hurting too much.

For my fellow realists: Yep, I used a percentage exceeding 100 to make a point. Not everyone gets the magnitude of "an order of magnitude". But feel free to reset the mouse on the wheel. Just take off my dunce cap first so the point's (points're?) not lost.

Given Jerry's fondness for "the guy above" kind of thinking, the misguided sense of direction at times, the inner turmoil devil's storm he must've been going through inside watching last season unfold when he'd such hopes, dreams, aspirations for showcasing an extravaganza P.T. Barnum would've admired and paid to see, the title was a simple solution. Yep, the perfect storm of last season's events, the devil's storm (there's that term again, wonder why, and not just titularly) it put every fan through, from you all the way down (up?) to the buck-stops-here guy, the fan that anted up the most coin of any of us, that put and puts his money where his mouth is and heart is. Yep, sure been one helluva tempest, all the way back to September '95, even March '94. May all be part of the solution too. Lessons learned and all that.

Maybe Jerry's realized an "out" exists to the troubles that've beset him and his responsibility, that which he holds in trust, not his possession. Maybe he's figured it out. His stewardship of something he can't take with him. That there're solutions to everything you point out, question, complain about, whatever you want to call it. Maybe not.

Me, I'm an old dog, not prone to learning new tricks and about as suspiciously cynical and ornery as they come, so I'm waiting on evidence either way with respect to that old dog.

But, I've hope for both of us, that we can change our ways. More for him, truth be told.

Then again, it could simply be the eye of the storm.

So, are the Cowboys further along the road to a solution than going into 2010? Than coming out of 2010? Are "We"?

We'll see. My eyes are on the horizon. Yours?

btw, I'll stand by my answer to "What's a Cowboy?", 'cuz a Cowboys fan's a cowboy. Is the Cowboys, in the most important, the most worthwhile, sense.

[Ed. note: Originally posted Dec 17, 2010. Intended as a seasonal gift, football or Christmas or whatever, to my fellow fans at a time of a loss of Hope. Now, coming into 2011, the "best of the season" wishes take on a whole new meaning. And I apologize for subjecting you to my regurgitated BS.]

There's a storm on the horizon. I feel it in the air. The first shifts in the weather send shivers through me and bring ache to my bones, even my heart. It could be only a minor gale. Then again, it could be a hurricane. But it's out there, waiting to happen, building strength. Perhaps beyond being able to dissipate. The thing about this storm is that the actions of Man, a man in particular, may be able to change the outlook. For better or worse? Well, that remains to be seen.

It's a tempest which would dwarf the pretentious majesty of Cowboys Stadium and all that happens therein. It may even hold power to lay ruin upon the insignificant works of a man. Of men. On the other hand, it could become a welcomed spring rain providing nourishment for a blossoming leading towards a bountiful harvest. Even if it should hold to its initial storm-like pattern, I doubt it has the power to lay utter waste upon the foundations upon which those works are built or the fields of men's play and nourishing bounty. Regardless, I know it won't wash away the indomitable spirit and hope of the fans of what was once the unquestioned most-successful franchise in the NFL.

We must look to to the environment to see what, if any, conditions exist to allow for an anticipatory preparation for either the chaotic violence of a storm or the leisurely pleasures of a sunnier day.

The Franchise
The Dallas Cowboys. Birthed on January 28, 1960. A child of parents who held hopes for a better life for their offspring and themselves. It was a difficult delivery. Were it not for the tenacity of both the child and some of its family, I've little doubt we would not be Cowboys fans. For there would be no Cowboys. Not this franchise. Not this team nor any of its predecessors. Had one George Preston Marshall held sway, Dallas may well be devoid of the franchise we see before us today and these past many years. Oh, there would almost certainly be an NFL franchise in Dallas, perhaps even called the Cowboys. But would it be this franchise? Most definitely not. The history, for one, would not be there. Would it be better, worse or about the same? Who's to say? One thing's for sure, I'd not give up the history of this franchise even for a more successful one at this specific point in time. Would you? For everything there is a season. Both failure and success. Both heartache and joy. Cynical depression and optimistic exultation. Some of us have been fortunate enough to have witnessed it all over a long enough period of time that the vagaries of a moment or period are but a part of the whole. Annoyingly frustrating at times. Filled with joys and memories I could not see myself ever being willing to trade away. I'll live with the ups and downs of it. Can you? Well, you are, like it or not. Even if you've only witnessed the post-1990's.

Considering recent events, gratitude must be given to a benevolent uncle, for without his intercession and foresight, we may have had neither the league, the franchise nor the first of our favorite sons. Thank you, Papa Bear, for thinking football and not Bears in supporting the birth and for making that pick in late 1959 for your unborn nephew. If there's something beyond this life, here's hoping you two are having a chat about the game.

Major league sports has two sides. A bipolar nature necessary to allow it to exist within its environment, our times and culture. On one side, the sport, pure in its attempt to harness mankind's competitive traits on the field of play. More akin to the values and virtues instilled in youth, to the playing childhood held than to its more grown-up sibling, the business side. When 6-year-olds played the pickup game on a field only loosely bound to regulation but more on agreed fairness purely for the love of the sport. But is that other sibling more grown-up, more matured? Is it truly of more worth than the sport itself? I think not. Perhaps in a material sense, in the temporary artificiality of a monetary system or Man's attempt to quantify value. Is that how worth should be determined? I'll opt out if it is.

If we look at the business side of this franchise, is it successful? Discounting inflation and other such statistics, I'd say yes. From an initial franchise fee of $1 million in 1960 through the associated startup investments and on-going costs to a current estimated gross valuation of $1.65 billion, I'd say that qualifies it as successful business-wise. Can it remain successful? That's yet to be seen, even in the case of an organization barely supplanted by one in the entire global major league sports fraternity. Restricting the scope to the NFL fraternity, I'd be tempted to say there's currently a rival, if you're one that defines worth beyond the monetary. And if you define worth as money, the future may hold a surprise for you if this ship isn't righted. Is material value how we're going to define worth going forward? If it is, be careful about knocking the current ownership unless the winds of change erase an order of magnitude increase in the financial value of this franchise under Jerry's reign. Gets my attention when you start talking orders of magnitude, even one. From $150 million to $1.65 billion in 21 years, that's in the range of a 1000% return. Slightly more than a ten-fold increase. But it's business so let's clear this nasty debt thing out of the way and look at the net. Whoa, still an 865% net increase in valuation. Rivaled in Cowboys history by only Clint's $1.5 million investment (franchise fee plus team purchase price) becoming $80 million over a comparable period. You might not take it, but me, I would. That's generational wealth we're talking. Can I invest more, please? At the cost of my integrity, dignity and reputation, you say? Maybe health too? My soul? Sorry, deal's off. A little something for you to consider there, Mr. Owner.

Can the current ownership compare to the business savvy, even the craftiness, of Murchison's day? Ask George Preston about that one. He'd be likely to tell you a story or two about the dangers of neglecting to notice details that can come back to bite you when doing business. I'm sure one haunted him to his dying day. Payback, Mr. Marshall, it's a bitch, ain't it? It's business. The devil's in the details. There's an interesting lesson there for those that have never heard the tale.

It's business. Put aside the sports aspects. Ok, what's the debt load on the pretentious palace? Impressive place? Sure is. A jewel in the sports world's entertainment crown? Yup. The jewel? Sure has a valid claim to be. I can only think of one to rival it. But it's still a display of irrelevant excess that has nothing to do with the product's worth. Designed to appeal to gullible innocents and the vanities of ego as much as to generate financial value. What do you have to average out in terms of paying, filled seats to keep that revenue stream flowing enough to keep the creditors at bay? In terms of ancillary brooks, the concessions (a river there, perhaps, they usually are), parking, memorabilia sold? Even at $5 million a pop for one of them fancy luxury suites there aren't enough of them to pay the tab, now are there? I'll tell you this, Mr. Owner, my buddies and me are going to be putting one helluva dent in the profit margin on ours since the booze is included. Seeing what you're fielding in terms of product, we're going to be going through some high-priced stuff in quantities that'd put an alcoholic to shame. How long are you going to be able to sustain that debt load? Even though you don't split the take on that one-quarter of total licensed NFL merchandise with your partners in crime anymore, does that detract from the fact you could make more if only the product were more appealing to a broader audience? How are your fraternity brothers going to react if the TV revenues should take a dip? Forget about your reputation with them. You ever think about how that affects the bottom line, theirs and yours? That $200 million stadium debt on your mind? How's the marketing going? The promotional deals? Ever get concerned about what their future might be? Once, the franchise was in a position to be able to consider naming the palace without regard for corporate sponsorship. Sure, it's likely not the most financially advantageous thing to do, but the franchise ownership had the ability to withstand the want at the time. It was not a need. I like it being Cowboys Stadium, without the corporate branding. The Cowboys are their own brand, now aren't they? Irrelevant, since it's not my decision. So how's that going? Still able to withstand the want? Or is it slipping towards need? All-in-all, revenues are up, the cash's coming in. Yep, value-wise, pretty successful. Worth? Well, I have issues there.

Is there any real danger of your financial viability being significantly impacted, Mr. Owner? What's the business model? Are you and yours at risk? Or is it merely business in the mold of an Enron, a Lehman Brothers or an AIG? Does it remind you of the shows in the grocery, but on a grander scale? Is it the smoke-and-mirrors of a magician's stage show? An extravaganza that's all-show, no-go? Or something more suited to the new frontier of globalization yet hearkening back to the Wild Wild West. Is that the creak of the snake-oil salesman's wagon I hear rolling through town? Shall we remember this ownership as a Bernie Madoff or a Warren Buffett? Which side of that comparison would you prefer being associated with for all eternity, Mr. Owner? Perhaps business model doesn't define the proper context. Should we be talking Fuhrerprinzip sans the hierarchy?

Organizational structure and operational model? See any problems there, Mr. Owner? Ever separate yourself from the emotional aspect and examine it critically? A good long hard look, devoid of personal feelings, ego and the flawed, sometimes contradictory, reasoning. Sure there's been some success sprinkled in along the way, but enough to justify maintaining the status quo? All deference to the supreme leader? Blind faith in the rightness of one man? All authority vested in one individual? Notice a lack of checks and balances that, while sometimes less efficient, strengthens the state of the organization and steers the ship through rough waters? Seems to me I've seen similar qualities before. Didn't work out all that well that time, now did it?

Now remember, the landscape's changed since you first stepped on the stage. You can't operate the same way now as then and expect SuperBowl titles or even Conference Championships. Success doesn't come that easy anymore. It's a more complicated league, what with free agency, regulations and the myriad other considerations to achieving success within the context of the times. But we're back to how the owner, the supreme franchise decision-maker, defines success, now aren't we?

The Owner
Jerral Wayne Jones. Nope, you can't talk Cowboys nowadays without talking Jerry Jones. The owner. The buck-stops-here man. Well, Mr. Owner, you got your wish. You got the Cowboys. You got the power to be all-things-Cowboys. All, that is, except the absolute power over other people's hearts and wills. That's never part of the deal. Nope, you can influence them, sway their wills, but their hearts and passions are theirs to give to whom or what they choose. You got the celebrity recognition. You got the material wealth. You got the success you bargained for. Sure you had to work for it. That's part of the deal. Makes you cherish it all the more. To the point of a destructive obsession mistaken for love.

Though, I'll hand it to you, you staked your worth in anteing up to own the franchise, the team. Put it all on the line. And more. You staked your future. Look at it now.

So when you sit perched in your owner's box, your Eagle's Nest, surveying your world, ever wonder if it's worth it? At what cost have you purchased your heart's desire? Alienation of past friends and perhaps to some extent family? Don't you see the celebrity tarnished by it's attendant mockery and inevitable fall from grace? Hold on, those nuisance lawsuits come with the territory. Sure, the fools territory. Right alongside the drunken rantings displayed to the world. They go hand-in-hand. Maybe lack of foolishness should have been one of the conditions of that deal, but it appears to have been overlooked. It's ok, you and George Preston can have a chat down the road a ways. Peer out there, into the future as best you're able. Those empty seats may just forebode a more significant drying up of the revenue streams, mightn't they? Enough to hurt? Well, we'll just have to see. That's what the future's all about, isn't it? Had much success lately? Not the teasing, tempting kind, but the kind you envisioned. Maybe so, it depends how you define success, now doesn't it?

Tell me, that night you first owned the Cowboys, laying on that mid-field star staring up, what thoughts flitted through your mind? Were they of awed responsibility and opportunity? Or egotistical, bordering on megalomania? What feelings? Gratitude or vanity? When you'd sit in the parking lot at night gazing at the lit empty stadium thinking you couldn't believe you'd "gotten the chance to call the shots", what feeling filled you? Was a thought of responsibility to the history and fans there? If so, what was your response to it?

There, in the solitary silence of your grand hall, don't you hear it? Maybe it's just the whisper of a wee draft. Is it strains of harp or flute? That melody, is it more of a "Ride of the Valkyries" or a "Götterdämmerung"? Sounds more to me like a blend of Simon and Sondheim. A little "You're so Vain" woven with "Send In The Clowns", no? Foolish vanity mean anything to you? Might be getting breezy in there, despite the design.

Success. Yeah, there comes a time when a man might look at it differently. It depends on your definition, doesn't it? You've all the material success you bargained for. Materially. Ever consider it beyond yourself, beyond your brief time here? What will be remembered when your time is Past? Not Present. Past. You've still the opportunity to possibly be remembered with the Halas's, the Hunt's, Brown's, even Schramm's of the game. But will you be? Will you seize the chance? Only Time will tell.

Maybe it's time to have a chat with that friend of yours up New England way, no? Seems he's running a fairly successful, comparable operation, doesn't it? Perhaps during the SuperBowl you're hosting. No, not during the game, he may be preoccupied. You won't be, not the way you'd envisioned, now will you? During the week sometime or afterwards. Sit down, have a few drinks together, share some owner-talk. Maybe a drink for you. One. We wouldn't want another of those drunken rantings, now would we? And it would defeat the whole purpose if you weren't paying attention.

Yep, if I were a child nowadays my budding passions would sure be swayed by what's going on up there. Kind of comparable to the 60's-70's Cowboys with a touch of the 90's thrown in. And those little hearts grow up to be paying fans, right?

Yep, there's always next year, you're right. But aren't you tired of saying it? Of waiting for it to come true the way you envision? Maybe it's time to prepare to make it come true for a change, yes?

Nope. No renegotiating. Deal's a deal. And a man never knows when that final payment's due, now does he? Are you sure you've got your sense of direction straight? That when you implied up in your cutting a deal comment it wasn't, in reality, a deal down? You don't see the almost Pan-like mischievousness going on in your affairs? Perhaps a Loki-like diabolism?

Being as it's the season, perhaps you'd like a book in front of the fire to relax. I'd suggest Faust, though that's not light, relaxing reading (though you may want to look it over sometime soon). Ahhh, here we go, "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant". Perfect. And if you're not a reading man, perhaps Angel Heart. Lesson's essentially similar.

It's business. Just business. One thing I've noticed is there's an out to every contract, signed in blood or implied. Never on the handshake or word-given, but all others, sure as hell it's there. And you never shook hands or gave your word, now did you? Thus, you've an out. The trick is finding it.

The Out
So, where are the problems organization-wise and operationally, yourself excepted? Not problems, rather challenges or opportunities for improvement. Business-wise, in terms of marketing and revenue, we can leave that as a low-priority, yes? Front office, GM through scouting? Though maybe the scouting provides competent assessments and it's the GM choices that make it often seem otherwise. Regardless, we'd still want to look at that and ensure the the structure and operation there percolated valid information up the line, wouldn't we? Might still want to revise some of the personnel decisions, but that's always doable. Coaching, the same story. Competence absolutely required. Information flow up the line essential to giving the GM what he needs come free agency and draft day decision-times. And laterally, to give the player personnel side the input required to focus on the appropriate human resources aspects. It's all inter-related. A real neural-net is what you might want to consider. For reference, see Schramm/Brandt/Landry. We'll leave the owner aside, for now, other than to say none of the three were the owner. Maybe bring it up in your chat with Bob. Just a suggestion or two.

Seems like we might want an organizational structure that embodies an operational methodology based on effective utilization of resources coupled with a valid information flow downwards, laterally and upwards. One thing that does require is a delegation of responsibility and authority across a group of individuals, not vested in one. Isn't that part of what instills a winning culture within an organization, top to bottom? And supports an off-shoot emotional and psychological culture founded in believing you can succeed, believing you can win? Brings us back to the whole sum-of-all-parts and checks-and-balances ideas, doesn't it? Sounds like a collaborative effort to me. You know what they call that, don't you? A team.

Maybe it was a missed opportunity to not convince Bill to let you hand over the GM title, responsibility and authority to him a few years back. Retain Payton perhaps as part of the deal. How might that have worked out? Sure, I know, Bill rubbed you the wrong way and maybe you had feelings of being threatened. Comes from two abrasive, stubborn personalities head-butting. So we need to find a way to keep it all-in-the-family (since this is a family outfit, right?) coupled with a non-threatening, collaborative set of individuals in key positions, don't we? You'd still remain, as Owner, the supreme authority and arbiter of all things Cowboys. All, that is, but the hearts of the fans, remember. Though they too might yet be turned around once again.

That boy of yours shows some promise, yes? He's matured some since you first bought the franchise, even shown some inkling of competence, yes? Sure he's a busy man with all those titles and responsibilities, Cowboys- and league-related. He might fit in as part of the solution. Might not be, but we'll never really know unless we try, right?

Another young lad immediately at hand and that might be considered part of the family has displayed some talent too, yes? Seems to have stepped up to opportunities, to have prepared for them throughout his professional life so far, yes? Looking at his resume, I'd at least sit the boy down for a talk about his and the team's future and where he might fit in. But, that's just me.

Player personnel and the rest I'd only suggest ensuring they're competent at their positions, with authority to fulfill their responsibilities. It's in your hands.

Hmmm, if things turned a corner and proved themselves beyond the wildest expectations, you may just find yourself looking back, seeing your first-born son step up on the long road to assuming the ownership beyond your time here, perhaps even handing over the reins of one of his many positions to that young fella you've kept hanging around these many years. There's longevity there, even a brief glimpse of Halas-like immortality. Wouldn't that qualify as success? Fans might even not lynch you if you wanted to listen to a little William Tell Overture when accepting another Lombardi or two or...

Sure, it's a dream. But that's what inspires us to achieve the Future, isn't it?

It's not "the" solution. Just an alternative for your consideration. To get you thinking about what might be possible.

It'd also let you say "See, I was right. I made mistakes, sure. But I learned from them. Surprised you, didn't I?". Wouldn't it, Mr. Owner? Wouldn't it satisfy the ego? Would it let you do what you've proven proficient at, marketing, and free up some time to focus on owner-level responsibilities? Wouldn't it make you part of the team, our beloved Cowboys, and let you contribute more meaningfully and constructively to the team? Achieve the success you may have re-evaluated the definition of? Perhaps even helped out on the Value versus Worth conundrum?

Your out? Why, it's simple. Void the "me" clause. That verbal "if he gave me that third one I'd never ask again", whether it was a deal with "the guy above" or your sense of direction all this time's been wrong and it was a deal down, in both senses. Make it about the Team, not you. Don't ask for more success, simply put changes in place that work towards it. It's not renegotiating the deal, it's voiding it. Allows you to retain the material value and maybe, just maybe, you've learned something of Worth along the way.

Make "me" "We".

Me, I'd pay to see all that. Cold hard cash. And plenty of it.

The Fan
We Cowboys fans cover a broad spectrum, don't we? For every one of us that might hold out, use our dollars to send a message, there are more who will contribute to the revenue stream. We'll shell out the cash to display our support for our team. Not the product you offer up, but the team. The history behind it and down the road, when you're long gone. We've held true beyond your tenure and that's not likely to change. You know it. You bank on it. I know, because I'm one. I've paid my cash and will likely again. Maybe not soon, maybe not in your time, but it'll happen. It's hard to resist when passion has a hold on you, as it does me. And I'm not going anywhere. Health willing, I'll be here after you've had your day. For better or worse, till death do we part. Are you fulfilling your side of our implied contract, our handshake deal? Have you behaved responsibly towards us? Fulfilled the contractual obligations we entrusted you with and provided the dividends our loyalty deserves? Sure they're only implied, but what's the right thing to do? The decent, honorable thing?

The thing that may be your trump card when the accounting's done at heaven's door. Or hell's gate.

What, who me? Nope, nothing like that. I'm just a Cowboys fan. We tend to help a fella out when we see him in a jam. It's our way is all.

Yep, best of the season to you, Jerral. More importantly, Best of the Season to all those fans of dem Cowboys.

Yup, that's it. There's the tune I hear whispered in the wind. It's not a lonesome Cowboy warbling "Turn Out The Lights". More like strains of Dylan's "The Times They are A-Changin' ".

Breeze seems to be picking up a mite. Best watch the horizon. And prepare.

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