"Sandy Irvin has blood in her hands'' and other assorted reflections on this week's marvelous Cowboys Ring of Honor press conference/party, reflections that you won't read anywhere else...
Yes, the lovely Mrs. Irvin reached out to hug me following the press conference but hesitated. What's up? We breaking up? "One of the boys (Irvin's children) got a bloody nose,'' she said. "So I have blood on my hands.'' Symbolic? Ironic? I don't know. But I thought you'd want to.
I say this isn't really the time to spend too much brainpower on "who should be next'' or "who will get passed by.'' This should be a time of celebration, and we should trust Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin to handle the issue with grace. Each of them, speaking without notes, just naturally invoked names like Pearson, Martin and others. At the same time, they quite naturally leaned toward mentions of their contemporaries, wanting to make certain that the '90's Cowboys were not just a three-man team. By casual count, they mentioned Washington, Norton, Haley, Lett, Tolbert, Newton, Stepnoski, Tuinei and E. Williams all at least once. And they mentioned Novacek and Woodson more than that. And they positively slobbered over Daryl Johnston, who was in the audience with his young son. Clearly, when in the future Jerry surveys these three about which of their teammates should be honored, The Moose will get their nod.
Speaking of those left out: Forget speculation about a new "Cowboys Museum'' that "could'' honor the next level of great players. It is in the plans. And if they do it right, there will be "exhibitions,'' not "inductions.'' So there could be a "Cliff-and-Charlie'' section, and a "Cowboys Blockers of the '90's'' area, maybe a place to honor Too Hall and Harvey and Charles in a "Defensive End'' section, and a "Hail Mary'' exhibit. People like Gil Brandt, or Dave Wannstedt, or long-time equipment manager Buck Buchanan, or broadcaster Brad Sham, might not belong in the Ring. But in the Museum, we can honor and recognize. ... everything!
Norv Turner also got all kinds of run during the press conference. Each of the three mentioned Norv as a pivotal reason "all the pieces came together.'' You know who didn't get much run? Ol' Jimmy Johnson. He got mentioned once, in passing, 70 minutes into the session. Significant? Nah. Just interesting. Or, OK, maybe it's significant. Because Jimmy is certainly worthy, but inasmuch as it took Tex >>> fornever>> to put Jordan in. ... I wouldn't expect Jerry to hurry on Jimmy.
Oh, and speaking of the greatness of Norv, true story: You probably know that back in the day, Norv was the fourth guy Jerry and Jimmy interviewed for the offensive coordinator job. You probably don't know that Turner was such an unknown then that right before getting ready to phone the candidate, Jerry had a Rams media guide in his hand, trying to figure out how to pronounce the name "Norval.''
Years ago, Jerry wisely rebuilt the bridge between old Cowboys and new. He did so, very much behind the scenes, with the help and guidance of Roger Staubach. And there, Wednesday at Texas Stadium, was Staubach again, seated humbly and quietly in the third row. The Ring of Honor is rightly seen now as "Jerry's Ring'' in that he is its one-man committee. But in so many ways, the classy, quiet omnipresence of the legendary QB makes this "Roger's Ring,'' too. And when Roger says "the door isn't closed. ... don't give up on the old guys,'' believe him.
Aikman told me the scheduling difficulty was largely his fault. The QB-turned-car-dealin' boss had just flown in from an automotive conference in California. Meanwhile, Irvin had spent the earlier part of the week in Hollywood. "I was taking a meeting,'' said Cecil B. DeIrvin. And, as you heard at the presser, Emmitt is looking to get busy. "I don't have a job with the network,'' Emmitt said, grinning, essentially sending out a televised resume and cover letter.
It always kills me when people say Charles Haley should be honored because he "put the Cowboys over the top.'' The idea is essentially that Dallas already had 10 Super Bowl-caliber defenders, but needed one more. ... so why should the 11th guy be honored for arriving later than the similarly important other 10th guy? Or fifth guy? Had Haley gotten here first and, say, Kevin Smith come later, would Pup be the guy who "put the Cowboys over the top''?
Dallas TV legend Dale Hansen tells me that there is a dispute of some sort between Drew Pearson and Jerry Jones, and that maybe it has something to do with Drew's Ring absence. A licensing issue relating to Drew's cap business, maybe? Jerry ducked the question when I asked him, but did say old timers should not think that there is some chronological issue that now discounts the contributions of Cowboys who preceeded Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin.
Speaking of Pearson, I asked Irvin what he thought of my idea of inducting Pearson and Irvin -- two 88's -- together. He, um, didn't think much of it.
The media ain't what it used to be. The presser was held in the Stadium Club, and reporters were treated to an open bar. Yippee! Except there probably weren't more than five drinks ordered all night. ... And i had three of them. In fact, I was so conspicuous with a beer in my hand that Emmitt Smith freaked out at my Miller Lite -- until I pointed out to him that the positioning of the cameras for the press conference placed behind his head a zillion-foot-long Texas Stadium billboard advertising Miller Lite.
Irvin kept calling it "cherry on the pie.'' "Cherry on the pie''? Michael meant "cherry on top,'' unless momma Pearl used to serve little Mike a piece of pie. ... and then plop one more "cherry on the pie.''
Cliff Harris attended the party, and what a helluva guy. Just like he had guts, his son -- also in attendance -- has guts. Want proof? The boy is about 6-3, a junior in college. Yeah, he plays safety. Yeah, he's a hitter. And oh, he plays at the University of Richmond. Which is in Virginia. Which is Redskins country. Guts.
I was saying this as early as the winter of '92, and I'll say it again: Cherish this time. These don't come along very often. Think about it for the Ultimate Cowboy Fan, Jerry himself: When was the last moment he experienced that was this glorious? Maybe 1996? I hope you enjoyed these 'Boys in the 90's, and I hope you enjoy this now, is all I'm saying, because while the memories can linger, the moment whizzes by.
Jerry said this idea has been fermenting in his mind since the retirements of Irvin and Aikman. True, but it was still a mad scramble to put the presser together. Texas Stadium officials had only a 24-hour notice to make the proper arrangements, and the hectic nature of things caused Jerry to forget at least one item. "Fish,'' he said to me, "have you seen Gene? She was supposed to make it.'' That's right: Though each of the three players thanked the Jones family, including Gene Jones, Jerry's better half, Mr. Jones himself was so pre-occupied that he misplaced his wife.
Try as some might, there is simply no way to argue with this induction decision. You can be an old-timer, you can be a fan of offensive line play, you can be what you will. How do you campaign AGAINST Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin?
Bad play by the Dallas Morning News to twist Charlie Waters' concerns about old timers into a headline that reads "Waters Blasts (Jones).'' As you've learned in this space over recent weeks, Charlie still shoots from the hip. But as his comments in the actual story below the headline read, Waters believes Jones lacks information about the past -- hardly a "blast'' of bad blood.
Yes, funny guy, Emmitt has indeed agreed to waive his appearance fee for Sept. 19.
Our Scott Knudsen is absolutely onto something when he guesses that including Irvin and his baggage in the same ceremony with obvious Hall-of-Famers-to-be Aikman and Emmitt was with purpose. Emmitt and Aikman are the mightly oak trees; Michael is the hammock that gets to hang between them. It is a message from the Cowboys to the world (and to HOF voters): These three guys are equals. And should be recognized as such.
Let's refer to Dallas Morning News writer Rick Gosselin's report on the announcement: Writes Goose: "Irvin became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2005 and reached the final six. But he was voted down. That wasn't catastrophic. Of the 17 modern-era receivers in the Hall of Fame, only four went in on the first ballot. So Irvin still has the time and the credentials for induction. ... A receiver such as Irvin comes along once in a generation.''
Well, OK, but Gosselin -- who doubles as the guy who must do the Cowboys-related campaigning for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- better give a better speech than that come next winter. "A receiver such as Irvin comes along once in a generation''? If you don't know my history or haven't figured it out by now, I'm an Irvin guy. Always have been. We're friends. No media person is closer to him than I. BUT. ... in fact, in the coming years, Irvin the pass-catcher will be pitted against Art Monk, Andre Reed, Cris Carter, Shannon Sharpe, Tim Brown and some guy named Jerry Rice. "Irvin is once-in-a-generation''? That's the bumper sticker, the T-shirt, the front-yard campaign sign slogan? Please, Goose, give a better presentation than that, else you get laughed out of the Super Bowl Saturday meeting room.
The Ring of Honor, Jerry noted, "is not an exact science.'' And he used the word "exclusivity'' a skillion times. Give him some credit for opening things up, though. In the last five years, compared to the previous 40, Jones is well on his way to doubling the number of honorees. Jerry is still being "exclusive,'' but he's also hit the accelerator.
Irvin has told me over and over through the years that his motivation has always been "fear of failure.'' Now, looking back, guess what one of his most memorable games is? That 1994 NFC title game loss at San Francisco. And guess what Emmitt and Aikman said when asked the same question? Yeah, the same game. Eleven years later, "fear of failure'' still resonates.
Is it just me, or did the fellas seem a little prickly about the idea of the Colts' trio or some other trio being labeled "The Triplets''? Hey, pull a Pat "ThreePeat'' Riley and trademark the thing, or else let the performance speak for itself. Until Indy wins three Super Bowls, until the Rams win a second, maybe untul they revoke the rules of free agency that generally break up potentially great trios, nobody will pretend any "Triplets'' match these "Triplets.''
The next big party, of course, is Sept. 19, when the Cowboys play NFC East rival Washington on Monday Night Football. The induction ceremony will be at the half. Jerry tells me that the Cowboys have already petitioned the NFL to allow for a longer-than-usual halftime break, and that there is precedent for such a move. By the way: Don't think the marketing people didn't suggest to Jerry to make this three ceremonies, thus ensuring three sellouts. Jerry does it this way, further verifying that he's as much a sportsman as he is a businessman.
Biggest, widest grin of the night? Cliff Harris, maybe. Rayfield Wright was a happy fella. But my vote for biggest, widest grin goes to a guy named Joel Finglass. Who? Joel is the Cowboys big cheese in charge of ticket sales.
Earlier in the day, I joked on my radio show that Aikman now fills his day studying film, peddling trucks and, most of all, shopping for little girls' sun dresses. Gosh, I'm good: At 6 p.m., in walked Troy, two of his young daughters in tow -- wearing brand new matching white sundresses.
Mr. Jones attempted to give me a compliment when he said he saw me from a distance and said I looked like a "beefed-up Sean Connery.'' Nice. Except i think "beefed-up'' means "fat.'' And except I'm 45 and the former James Bond is, like what, 75?
Emmitt told the story of first walking into Texas Stadium on Draft Day 1990, and of looking up at the Ring and saying to a companion that his goal was to someday see his name joining those legends. He noted that plywood was covering the field because of an uncoming Texas Stadium tractor pull, and boy, who knew then that with Emmitt running behind Step, Nate, Big E, Tui, Gogan, Larry and the rest, that the Emmitt Smith Tractor Pull would last a decade-and-a-half?
A Cowboy exec tipped me off to the press conference earlier on Wednesday by all but ordering me to skip my plans to catch Rangers-Yankees. "It's going to be special,'' he said. "You MUST be there.'' Thank you, Cowboy exec. You were right.
Emmitt told the story of his 3-year-old son, E.J., sitting down for almost daily viewings of the Cowboys' Super Bowl wins on tape. Emmitt says the reasoning behind it is that the boy will understand what the "E. SMITH'' on the back of that jersey stands for. Cool. Except we're quite sure the Missus, Pat, probably instructs E.J. to mix in some "Sesame Street'' or "Teletubbies'' or "Barney'' or something. ... otherwise, "E. SMITH'' will be the only six letters he recognizes! (Just kidding, Emmitt.) Seriously, there is a special bond between this father and this son: Did you know both Emmitt's were born on May 15?
How did Aikman end his day at Texas Stadium? By taking his little girls down to the field.
It was 8:20 p.m., and the party had broken up. Emmitt and his family went its way. Troy and his family went its way. And Michael and his family headed out for a celebratory dinner. I was driving out of the Texas Stadium parking lot when my cel phone rang.
"Fish, it's Michael,'' said the voice. "I have a question for you: I've really been working on trying to speak in a way that gets to the point, to not ramble. I think 'Roy and Emmitt had that in their minds, too. So. ... how'd we do?''