The Cowboys As A 'Mistress'

IRVING, Tex. - Before the Lions game, Bill Parcells was waxing nostalgic with the Detroit media. "This football is a powerful mistress," Parcells said in a conference call.

"It's hard to let go. There's a lot of truth to that, and I say that in a respectful way. The games become more precious, and the seasons become more precious. I don't want to sound corny, but that's really the truth."

A "mistress''? Coach, you don't sound "corny''; knowing that you hang out mostly alone in what amounts to a hotel room in Las Colinas a few miles from Valley Ranch, likely occupying your time by a) figuring out a retirement threat that will milk more dough from Jerry, b) watching old game footage of your Hoss-to-McConkey glory days and c) swooning all by your lonesome to your Sinatra 8-track tapes, calling football a "mistress'' doesn't make you sound "corny.'' It makes you sound "horny.''

Seriously, what is troubling about the quote -- completely irrespective of Dallas' stumble-into-the-playoffs 39-31 home-game embarrassment at the hands of the crappy Lions -- is what is tucked between the lines, what is suggested by the metaphor, what is quite possibly the ingredient missing from the Cowboys Championship Stew.

Ask yourself these questions: To a divorced man who is in the too-cold winter of a heralded career, shouldn't his football job be not his "mistress,'' but his "wife''? And if he is completely "married'' to the task at hand, why risk even the hint of an uncertain future, thus creating a distraction, if not for the purpose of frightening his owner into yet another raise?

And the big one: If coach Bill Parcells is occupying his time as the Cowboys leader by contemplating ANYTHING but how to beat the Lions, and now contemplating ANYTHING but how to win his first-round playoff game in Seattle, can you understand how Cowboys followers -- that is, the players -- might fall into the same trap of distractions?

Do football teams take on the characteristics and personalities of their leaders? What adjectives would you use to describe the Bill Parcells you hear and see virtually every day? Arrogant? Egomaniacal? Manipulative? Distrusting? Finger-pointing? Self-indulgent? Selfish? Erratic? Constantly threatening to quit?

Now, the same question about the Cowboys as a team (and no, NOT just Terrell Owens). Did many of those adjectives not seem evident during the must-win loss to a Detroit team that NEVER wins on the road, to a Detroit team that couldn't possibly have really WANTED to play a holiday road game, to a Detroit team stripped of some of its stars, to a Detroit team that was in position to finish a dismal 2-14 with the 14-point loss Las Vegas had predicted for it?

Aren't these Cowboys awfully arrogant for a 9-7 wild-card team? Don't these Cowboys awfully distrusting of one another? Aren't these Cowboys awfully self-indulgent considering they've lost two in a row and three of the last four? Aren't these Cowboys awfully erratic for a club that was financed by Jerry Jones with the expectations to be "special''?

Aren't these Cowboys, like Bill himself, quitters?

The 2006 Cowboys ARE Bill Parcells. So much talk. So much money. So much attention. So little production, as always for Parcells' teams in Dallas, when winter arrives. This year, 1-3 down the stretch. Last year, 2-4. In '04, 1-3. In '03, 2-3. Add it up: Leading to Decembers and in Decembers, Parcells' Cowboys are an astoundingly bad 6-13.

Can they fix all of this in time for the Seahawks? Of course; Seattle has some of its own ailments, as do most of the NFC tournament entries. But it must start at the top. Bill Parcells, for this week, anyway, must re-engage The Dallas Cowboys Football Club in a marriage -- and quit acting as if it's a one-night stand.

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