So Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and Rolando McClain walk into a bar...
No, wait. Let's make this a fishin' hole.
So Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and Rolando McClain sit down by the ol' fishin' hole in Decatur, Alabama. Judge Judy lifts up her robe so she can sit cross-legged on the riverbank, and Dr. Phil -- accustomed to sitting uncomfortably on his theatrically-high stage chairs -- does the same. While Ro's precious children frolic in a nearby field, Texas-tied Dr. Phil asks the Dallas middle linebacker about his 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
“So,'' Dr. Phil drawls,"how's that workin' for ya?''
The psychiatrist's famous catchphrase almost always works within the framework of a 60-minute TV episode, at which point Dr. Phil McGraw, former college football player at Tulsa, marches off the stage, grabs the hand of his supportive wife Robin, and grins his way backstage, where he will change his tie and then tape another triumphant episode.
But while "How's that workin' for ya?'' almost always shocks miscreants and cheating husbands and drug addicts into lightbulb-above-head realizations, McClain slowly looks over the top of his fashionable cat-eye glasses, finishes rolling his join and replies, "Phil, man, it's workin' great for me.''
Indeed, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' devotion to McClain's talent, along with Jerry's storied reputation as the man in charge of “Second-Chance Valley Ranch'' (a monicker I'll have to dump now that the Cowboys are now changing headquarters), are very much in play here. Jerry has no plans to send Ro home here to Decatur permanently and no plans to alter the organizational philosophy as it regards McClain.
Like her syndicated colleague, Judge Judy also deals on TV with miscreants and cheating husbands and drug addicts. But where Dr. Phil offers reform, Judge Judy offers only scorn -- and legal judgments.
McClain has endured legal judgments. Lots of them. And social judgments. Lots of them. And football judgments. Lots of them. Judge July brings up the fact that a year ago, when he was suspended for drug use, Ro issued a statement that read, "
And she says, "If it doesn't make sense, it's probably not true.''
This Judge Judy catchphrase is a sound way to govern a courtroom but a purposeless effort to govern McClain. He makes around $5 million a year to conduct himself this way, and if his knowledge of the lack of support he has inside the Cowboys organization doesn't shake him, why would admonitions from a couple of afternoon TV squares?
McClain is a powerhouse on Sundays and a pain in the ass the other six days of the week. Coaches know this and have therefore never supported Jerry’s view as the owner has twice in two offseasons brought McClain back to the team.
The coaches are right. The owner is wrong.
Dr. Phil and Judge Judy are right. Rolando McClain is wrong.
But as he sits on the river bank, he reclines into the sunshine on his back and admits to his guests he has found no real motivation to get clean. And he knows this distances him from other drug-and-behavioral issues under Jerry's supervision because those largely involve players who either a) care and are trying or b) are still on that famous “second chance.’'
This is not Rolando McClain’s "second chance.'' Judge Judy and Dr. Phil have been TV stars for a combined 35 years. Ro's been given more chances than they have years in show biz. He explains to them that he plans on getting it right this time, probably, maybe ...
"You know how I can tell you're lying?'' Judge Judy asks. "When your mouth moves.''
Dr. Phil climbs to his feet and throws a series of big-picture questions at Ro as if he's standing in front of a computerized dry-erase boards. He says, "The Cowboys must ask themselves, 'What does keeping you here accomplish? Will you aid in the progress of Anthony Hitchens, Andrew Gachkar, Mark Nzeocha and any other kids? Or will you clog that progress? Will you be a Pro Bowl-level player when you rolls out of bed and show up in Week 11? Or will you show up fat and high?''
"The best predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior,'' Dr. Phil tells Ro, a gentle way of suggesting a future of "fat and high,'' and the highly-educated Doc can tell both that McClain is smart enough to understand his words ... and too mellow right now to care as McClain deftly baits another hook with his right hand while sucking in another drag with his left.
Ro wants to talk about the decriminalization of marijuana. He mentions that the NFL is behind the times, that all marijuana is medical marijuana, that the physical and emotional demands of his job render pot usage sensible.
"If ... '' he begins, but he's interrupted by his diminutive female fishin' pal.
"If I would've been born 5-10, I'd be a model,'' Judge Judy snaps.
Ro's oh-so-cool with that, but his mellow does not sit well with the older generation; Judge Judy mocks people in her court who try to tell sob stories, essentially referring them to "The Dr. Phil Show.'' Dr. Phil, the son of an alcoholic, hasn't touched the booze in his entire adult life. But Ro thinks they simply "don't get him,'' don't get Jerry, don't get the Cowboys. He explains that none of this is meant to reflect badly on the Cowboys, that it's not about “The Criminal Cowboys!’’ or “Coach Jason Garrett is lying when he says the Cowboys want ‘The Right Kind of Guy.’’ You can be “The Right Kind of Guy’’ and still smoke pot, right?
But, Dr. Phil objects, "Your situation needs a hero. You, Ro, can be that hero!''
But in McClain's world, he is already a hero. Oh, the drug suspension caused him to forfeit his $750,000 signing bonus. And getting paid in Weeks 11 through 16 isn't exactly like getting paid for an entire season. And if there is any negative impact inside the locker rooms of Oxnard and Frisco, that's on the Cowboys decision-makers, not on him. They have to sign Justin Durant or think about Sean Lee changing positions? That's on them. But he emerged from a difficult youth to become a football star. And then? Ro decided long ago that he practices when he wants to, plays when he wants to, shows up when he wants to. Sure, the other five dozen or so teammates don’t have that luxury, and recently, when he was allowed to skip spring work so he could ‘spend time with family,’’ and when Jerry said something about giving Ro "slack,'' maybe some of the other five dozen or so teammates wondered, “Hey, I’ve got family, too. Why am I not allowed to be with them?’' and "Where's my 'slack'''?
Somewhere down deep, Judge Judy senses intuitively, Ro knows all this. She points out that a couple of years ago, right here in Decatur, McClain sat in the back of a police car and pleased with the arresting officer, "You can't expect to be arrested three times in three years and play in NFL.''
Says Ro, repeating a great quote he gave the DFW media a year ago: "I was on a bad path. I didn't deserve to play football.''
But Judge Judy calls him on this, saying harshly to McClain, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.''
The McClain children are still frolicking. Daddy will soon have to go away to training camp 3,000 miles away. This confuses the kids and it pains Ro but it's Daddy's job ... unless he feigns an ailment, requests more "slack'' or -- driven by his love for his children, his fishin' hole and his pot -- begs out entirely.
McClain's bobber submerges and his line stiffens. Dr. Phil ("just an ol' country boy,'' as he loves to call himself) notices and sees the serene satisfaction on his fishin'-hole host's face. He drops the TV catchphrases and the famous chestnuts and the corny memes.
"I think you've hooked a live one!'' Dr. Phil tells Ro, talking about a fish.
"I think you're right,'' Rolando McClain mumbles peacefully, not talking about a fish.