Anthony the Inevitable

I talk Dallas Cowboys football with many people, and I do mean many.

For various reasons, but it's mostly an attempt to take the temperature or gauge the hot buttons of the true Dallas Cowboys' fan. Not all, but most conversations will inevitably find their way around to Cowboys' quarterback, Tony Romo. And why not? He's the proverbial lightning rod for all things that are Cowboy-related. It's the so-called nature of the territory. Truth be told, you can have that territory. It's a no-win proposition, and you're damned if you do and certainly damned if you don't. The job description is very lengthy, and unless the occupant possesses kryptonite, there's a fat chance he'll meet each and every expectation. How do you personally handle scrutiny? Do you enjoy people constantly looking over your shoulder sizing up everything you do and say? Do you enjoy the feeling of a single, white-hot spotlight hanging from a ceiling while interrogators thrive on the challenge to make you crack under pressure? Has the positioning and wearing of a baseball cap ever been more thoroughly analyzed? These are just a few of the constant challenges Tony Romo faces on a daily basis. It never stops, and none of us is aware of how far a reporter or twisted fan will go to unearth some gem no one has yet seen or heard. Did you know Tony prefers paper over plastic? Shocking!

So, why does this phenomenon, paranoia and quest for all and anything Tony Romo exist? Quite simply, he holds the most prestigious position in all of professional sports, and the expectation bar is somewhere north of the earth's atmosphere. Who is responsible for setting the lofty expectations? Guys named LeBaron, Meredith, Morton and White, but no two bigger than Staubach and Aikman. Everything Tony Romo does in a Dallas Cowboys uniform is bench-marked with the feats, accomplishments and accolades of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.

Is that fair?

It doesn't matter. Fairness has nothing to do with it. You either measure up or you don't. There is no middle ground when it comes to Cowboys' signal-callers and field generals. Staubach and Aikman have been stalwarts and backbones of the organization, and most importantly, they've won on the world's biggest stage. By prox, those are also the expectations and benchmarks for Tony Romo. Some would argue the comparisons are unfair due to pedigree alone. Staubach a Heisman trophy winner and war hero, and Troy Aikman a #1 overall pick coming out of UCLA having been tutored by Head Coach Terry Donahue and others. Tony Romo?

Merely an undrafted, rookie free agent from Eastern, Illinois. I remember Charleston, Illinois well as we used to take an annual trek to watch the Illinois high school state track meet year after year. But then again, that was way before the coming of Tony Romo. The Panthers weren't much to speak of during those times. However, if it weren't for that school and its ties, Tony Romo may have never become a Dallas Cowboy. The fact that then offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Sean Payton was an Eastern Illinois Alum was probably the greatest thing to happen to Tony Romo. You never know whose watching and how the paths might cross. He did just enough to capture the attention of Payton and Bill Parcells, hung around for a while, and the rest is history.

As soon as he stepped in for an inept Drew Bledsoe, it was "Game On." Thus, from that very moment he's been trying to build his legacy as the Dallas Cowboys fandom exercises its usual impatience and unrealistic expectations. They can't help it as they are as spoiled as they come, and the five Lombardi trophies that are attached to the organization create the most vivid description of "What have you done for me lately?" When it comes to #9, the wish list has come up a little short.

If you could judge his body of work within the confines of the regular season, then you have a bone fide superstar and pro bowl quarterback. In the three years he's been behind center, he's lit up the NFL, put up serious numbers, and caused a sizeable dent in the Cowboys' record book. The kid can play, and everyone has to give him that. He's the real deal, but unfortunately some things just haven't bounced his way when needed most, and when they don't, the public perception and scrutiny takes on a whole different light and meaning. The biggie? He's incapable of winning the big game. Has he? Yes, but unfortunately it hasn't been in the vaunted and all-important post-season. The only venue where things matter and skins get attached to walls. Is it coming? Damn straight it is.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Ben Roethlisberger are their own guys and quarterbacks. The only reason their names surface is they've won on the biggest stage, but none of these guys are the exact same quarterback, and trying to paint Tony Romo into that canvas is highly unfair. For the record, I like Tony Romo. Tons. I would take him over any of the guys mentioned above. Seriously. Even though his style of play (past body of work) can cause ulcers, he also possesses a certain magic that surrounds and dictates his game. Everyone in this world needs coaching for refinement and cautionary purposes, but coaches have to be extra careful and not try to change the "essence" of the player. Romo does have a certain riverboat gambler style, and that intrigues me as a fan. Granted, you have to keep the bottle of Pepto Bismol and a few rolls of TUMS around, but he sure makes the game fun and exciting.

I honestly believe Tony Romo is a winner. He will ultimately prove that within the confines of the NFL. Listen, when you have a 16 year playoff drought ravishing your NFL landscape, fans look for instant fixes and saviors. It's really that simple. Tony Romo was expected to be a miracle worker, and on his way to being a Super Bowl MVP, he was probably expected to heal a few of the lame and grant sight to the blind. Yes, that's how we view our quarterbacks when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. Admit it, you're right there. This guy is supposed to walk on water, change water into wine and overturn moneychanger and tax collector tables. You want fire and brimstone with every word. You want this guy to say he would lay it all down for this organization and its fans.

Right? Come on people, you know you're right here on the expectation meter!

Bobbled field goal holds and trips to Cabo are not in the Dallas Cowboys quarterback job description. Broken pinkies and ill-advised throws are supposed to be reserved for others. Am I right? Ladies and gentlemen, Tony Romo is human. He has a Father who can get sick. That illness can weigh on your mind and affect your job. The man has hobbies, and he's darn good at most of them. For some reason the picture of your starting quarterback swinging a golf club and competing on a very high level conjures up images of an aloof and disinterested leader. Come on folks, give it a rest. Not only is he human, he's a red-blooded, hormone-filled young man who happens to like the opposite sex.

Cowboys' fans also want the guy to be abstinent. OK, go back and read this paragraph. Do you want your quarterback to be human or a robot?

I've always wondered, maybe it's his choice in women. Personally, I think he needs to ditch the Farmer's Daughter personae. Tony needs a little Kid Rock mantra and influence. Chase the female bad-ass. Trade wholesome for rock-your-world. Back in the day Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Pam Anderson and Sarah Michelle Gellar could have filled the bill, but now throwing down with any Candace Rae, Alessandra Ambrosio, Holly and Amy Weber or Megan Fox will do the trick. So, what am I trying to convey? DITCH CUTE!! If you want Dallas' QB to be the baddest of hombres, then send in the heavy artillery to ride shotgun. Heck, even Troy saddled up Lorrie Morgan at some juncture, and Lorrie had seen her share of honky-tonks! He just needs to break the mold; from gold to bold!

No diva, prima donna receiver calling for every ball in flight, and an offense that will play to his strengths is the recipe Tony Romo needs to flourish. Even Jerry's "Romo-Friendly" description is as stale as 3 week bread. Why does it have to be called anything? Just let Tony do his thing. He's surrounded by enough talent that the combination will take Romo nowhere but up, and by up, I mean League MVP.

As coffee and breakfast just spewed everywhere, get used to the idea. Of course, we want #9 leading the Boys to a division title and post-season participation. A victory within that post-season would be icing on the cake, but he can be much more. With time and without the weight of Rosie O'Donnell on his shoulders. Let the kid play. Let the kid improvise. Let the kid craft his magic.

People, you must understand Tony Romo's style and demeanor will produce mistakes and create miscues. You live and die by the sword, but something says that sword will slay a whole lot more opponents than it will serve as a falling place for Tony Romo. The kid has "it" and many will tell you the very same thing. Delicate refinement will find its way into his arsenal, but the competitive and winning package is there. You just have to be patient enough to let it play out. Just hang around for a while. He's going to have the last laugh, and when he says, "If this is the worst thing to happen in my life, then I've had a damn good life, and there's nothing to worry about."

Believe him!

Contrary to popular belief, he doesn't owe you anything, and while he needs to, and does, understand perception, he's not required to match yours word for word or action for action. If allowed, he'll come damn close. Relax and reap the rewards. Tony Romo is going to provide excitement not seen before on this stage. Don't miss it by being caught up in your perception and conforming expectations. Momma, let him play!

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