NFL 2011

The Dallas Cowboys Are an Ever-Regenerating Tim Tebow
The stadium scene.
Nov. 10 2011 1:44 PM

NFL 2011

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

The Dallas Cowboys are an ever-regenerating Tim Tebow.

130151750
Tony Romo bumps fists with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after Dallas beat the St. Louis Rams.

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Tom, I don't know whether to laugh or go all homer-ish at your charge that Romo is the "secular version of Tim Tebow." Of course, I can't really go all homer-ish because I'm—drum-roll please—Baltimore. But I found my favorite team in the early ‘80s, with a Philly-native father who was an Eagles fan, with the Colts departing at midnight, and several of my friends converting to the Redskins. My theory is that I was, all at once, nursing a rivalry with my father, a career as a Emersonian nonconformist, and a liberal multiculturalist offended by Washington's mascot. This is what I tell people. But more likely I liked the big blue star.

My reason for indulging this bit of memoir is as follows: If anything, your argument that Romo is the secular Tim Tebow is actually understated. The Cowboys, themselves, are perpetual secular Tim Tebows. What you have is a team with enough history to create a narrative and expectations, a self-congratulatory nom de plume as "America's Team," and a record of sticking right in that 5-11 to 11-5 range where you never really win shit, but prognosticators still take you seriously. The result is that you always get your share of national prime-time slots, and that place is justified by all the rabid fans who remember your glory days, and all the rabid haters fueled by your ever-overrated status, who can't wait to see a "lunch-bucket" team like Pittsburgh or Philly kick the shit out of you for "real" football fans the world over. 

But it really doesn't matter whether people hate you or love you. Ratings are ratings. I've written about this some before, but this is actually an excellent business plan. I believe Jerry Jones wants to win. But I also believe that he wins, even when he loses, in a way no fan ever can. And whereas Tim Tebow will someday either ride off to glory or be exposed, the Cowboys are an ever-regenerating Tim Tebow. As long as they don't go 1-15 for five years straight, Jones can always roll out his Cowboys to play the ultimate credible jobber—Leaping Lanny Poffo as a franchise. (Though Demarcus Ware is the truth.)

Advertisement

Jerry Jones will always win. I didn't realize this until the first game in Jones' new Cowboys Stadium, where announcers spent as much time talking about the stadium as they did about football. It became clear that the idea of the Cowboys had actually exceeded the football-playing of the Cowboys.

The question then becomes, what is the responsibility of the fan? There are a lot of Cowboys fans who came on in the early ‘90s. I actually came on in the days of Drew Pearson, Tony Hill, Danny White, Eugene Lockhart, and Dennis Thurman. I remember 3-13. I remember 1-15. I was actually depressed about Herschel Walker getting traded. (Who could know?) When it's clear the fan's interests are somewhat different than ownership's, what is the recourse? In football, especially, there is a strong prohibition against divorce. We're supposed to be lifers. I’m strongly considering courting heresy.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor for The Atlantic. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 4:03 PM You’re Doing It Wrong: Puttanesca Sauce
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 4:36 PM Vampire Porn Mindgeek is a cautionary tale of consolidating production and distribution in a single, monopolistic owner.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.