The two well-dressed businessmen have taken a break from their high-powered dinner meeting and veered toward the restroom of the snazzy restaurant, one man walking in front of the other. The first gentleman scurries ahead and slides into a corner where he won't be detected by his partner. When the partner turns that same corner, the first guy jumps out of nowhere – "Hooo!'' – administering to his victim something between a heart attack and a conniption fit.
Want some insight into the everpresent mood of the Dallas Cowboys' management team? Want entry into the inner sanctum of one of the most powerful families in sports? Know that the first gentleman (the "Hooo'er'') is Jerry Jones Jr. And that the second gentleman (the "Hooo'ee'') is Stephen Jones.
"I get him on that,'' Junior says, "almost every time.''
The Cowboys do indeed "get ‘em almost every time'' in every way. Oh, OK, they possess "only'' three Vince Lombardi Trophies. But let's give them credit: In addition to overseeing arguably the most iconic franchise in all of sports and supervising the construction of the grandest stadium in all of sports – that's what Stephen and Jerry Jr. are doing at the restaurant, meeting with potential multi-million-dollar sponsors of the new stadium in Arlington – these ‘Boys seem to be having fun.
"That's the main reason I showed up at training camp,'' says former Cowboys scouting chief Larry Lacewell, a long-time Jones family friend. "I was available to watch film. And I watched practice. And I sure had an opinion on everything for anybody who needed one. But most of all, when Jerry said, ‘C'mon down to San Antone, I'm buyin' the beer,' well son, that's an invitation a man should never turn down.''
In JerryLingo, the Joneses are "blowin' and goin','' doing business, winning football games and playing grab-ass all at the same time.
There is only one problem with all of this: In the often-staid world of the National Football League, "fun'' is sometimes more of a product on a shelf than a reality. There is a reason, you know, that NFL players have for years derisively termed their own employer the "No-Fun League.''
I watched the Jones Boys goofing off like this and thought, for just a second, "I hope Roger Goodell isn't somewhere here in the restaurant to see this.''
Now more than every, the NFL and the people who live it struggle to find a balance, to obey all their masters: Pressure. Behavior. Business. Fun.
I decided to visit with three of the NFL's
gatekeepers of those efforts. The panel:
** Norv Turner, head coach of the San Diego Chargers, a flashy franchise whose greatest question mark might be Norv himself.
** Marvin Lewis, head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, in many ways the "poster boys'' for misbehavior in the NFL.
** Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, a man in position to make "grab-ass'' a more acceptable feature of the NFL.
Let's start with Norv, who right off the bat acknowledges that the pressure in San Diego falls squarely on his shoulders.
"I know I have something to prove,'' Norv says. "I want to prove I belong in this job.''
That's frank talk from Turner, who takes over a team featuring glitzy young talents like LaDainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman and Antonio Gates. With that talent – and with those personalities – expectations are high. And question marks exists, largely because Norv has endured two failed tries at head coaching, in Washington and Oakland.
"But,'' Norv adds, "there is pressure on all of us. I'm aware of it. But every player and every coach has to deal with it. That's why I think it's important to enjoy what you're doing. Our teams in Dallas (in the early ‘90's) had a terrific work ethic. Troy Aikman was the kind of guy who led that, and he was all-business, and that rubbed off. But there was also Michael (Irvin), who had the same sort of work ethic – but he supplemented that with a personality that reminded everybody that football was supposed to be fun.
"We're looking for that sort of balance (with the Chargers).''
Marvin Lewis also makes a reference to those Cowboys teams, noting that Dallas' "Triplets'' represent something his Bengals are trying to emulate with Rudi Johnson, Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson. Marvin's problem obviously isn't talent; his problem is something else those old Cowboys grappled with: misbehavior. The Bengals are the NFL's leading Police Blotter team, with a reputation that extends even to the field, where the flamboyant receiver Chad Johnson creates controversy. … without even getting arrested.
"Well,'' says Marvin when asked about Chad's penchant for on-field silliness, "he knows if he causes us a penalty he's never going to play. So that's not an issue. And he's never cost us a penalty that way – and he never will.''
Does that mean "Ocho Cinco'' won't be riverdancing and proposing marriage to cheerleaders and such? Quite the contrary.
"He can dance all he wants as long as he's in that end zone,'' Lewis says, "and I hope he gets to dance every chance he gets. And that's fine as long as he doesn't do the things we know will draw the flags. (Otherwise) he can have all the fun he wants, and that's part of it. He can. … act the fool.''
Which brings us to Jerry Jones (no, not because Marvin said "act the fool.'') Does anybody in sports better juggle the balls of business and pleasure that the Cowboys owner? Those sons of his – grown men with children of their own – didn't develop that knack for yelling "Hooo!'' behind a bathroom wall all on their own, you know.
"I think we get an emotional charge out of putting everything we have into everything we do,'' says Jerry when I tell him the restroom story. "We're talking about the Dallas Cowboys here. "Let's put it all out there. We're blowin' and goin'.''
Adds Stephen: "Jerry always used to tell me, 'If you've got something you really want done, give it to a busy man.' So yes, we're busy. But, you know, you call this ‘work'?
And maybe the lesson for the "No-Fun League'' is somewhere in there. Between Norv and Marvin and the Jones Boys. Between the business meeting and the bathroom.
The Jones Boys and the No-Fun League
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