I confess. I thought I had them figured out: all those Cowboy fans. I lived there for decades. I married one of them. I thought I knew what made them tick. Which is that they want to back a winner and like having a winning team because it matches the image that they have of themselves and their city, but they have enough other sports and activities to turn to that if one fails them, they just move on to the next season. Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? Well, maybe I had it all wrong, because I had to go down there last week for a meeting and, failing to find a decent music station in my little rental car, I settled on local sports talk. The chatter sounded amazingly like being back home (Pittsburgh-home). For three days I listened to the pundits and callers complain about only two things in a 90/10 split. And those two things were the recently signed contract paying Tony Romo $106 million over six years and the payroll the Rangers incur. I was a little surprised at the rancor toward the Rangers, but then again, I’m a Pirates fan – in comparison, they are super stars. I’m not sure what the deal is there, but that was only touched upon anyway. The majority of the chatter was that big payday for their QB. There was never even a hint that there is a professional hockey team in town. As it happens, I work with a lovely, warm-hearted woman who happens to be Tony Romo’s cousin and a big Cowboy fan. She’s right there with the seeming majority of the fan base: she’s not happy with him or the contract. I asked her if she didn’t feel that her family fealty trumped her football loyalty. I got a definite no. I left Texas feeling that the consensus seemed to be frustration bordering on anger. In short, he’s got his money so he better win and do it now. The expectations are squarely on Romo’s shoulders now. With that kind of contract, it’s win baby. Or else.
Once home, I asked Cowboy Fan Hubby what his thoughts were. He shrugged and said basically he’s happy for him that he got the money. Now, no matter what happens, he’s set and he can sit his days out on a beach somewhere if he wants, but he doesn’t hold out much hope that this single staggering contract will vault the team to the Big Dance. A team has to consist of not just a happy quarterback, but also good coaching, a decent defense, capable receivers and the all-important offensive line. It is a team sport after all.
So, I thought about that. What drives a professional athlete? Pride and the thrill of competition, or is it the big money? Does making more money make you a better athlete, or does it perhaps make you complacent and you, if you will, take your eye off the ball because you know you’ll be fine financially even if you never win again? Or maybe does it motivate you to perform even better? I am not sure I, for one, know what the answer to that is, but I can tell you, Tony Romo, come September all eyes are on you. But, if I had your money I might lay a wager that Big D will still stand for Big Disappointment.