Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bursting Bubble for Dallas Cowboys?

Did you watch the Cowboys - Giants game this past Sunday?

No, it's not a trick question.  Surprise!  This is a genuine football reference!

Even though I don't really care for the sport, since this was Dallas' last chance to enter the playoffs, I admit it: I watched most of the game, with mild interest.  If they lost, I knew that basically our local media here in north Texas would shut down all football coverage for the next eight months.  If they won, we would be subjected to the continued hype about "da Boyz" until the next game they lost.

So Dallas lost the game this Sunday up at the new Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey that the New York Giants share with the New York Jets.

Dallas lost badly.

And for the past two days, our local media has been ripping Jerry Jones apart.  Jones, you see, is the egomaniacal billionaire owner of the Cowboys, a storied NFL franchise that hasn't won much of anything in over a decade.  The fabled powerhouse of Tom Landry lore - the coach Jones unceremoniously fired immediately upon buying the team - won three Super Bowls during the early days of Jones' ownership, but in the "what have you done for me lately" mentality of American sports, he's having a hard time keeping a legitimate claim on the Cowboy's lofty motto, "America's Team."

After Landry, Jones, as the team's Supreme Owner and self-appointed general manager, burned through so many coaches, it's hard to keep track of them all.  And of course, after every losing season, Jones blames his coaching staff, even though he's the one who notoriously prowled the sidelines during games like a back-seat driver - at least until the inimitable Bill Parcells, frustrated at Jones' second-guessing, summarily banished him to his luxury suite.

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know I'm not qualified to write much about football.  And I'm not going to, except to say that Sunday's loss may have more to say about good - and bad - business practices than just sports.

I will, however, compliment Jerry Jones, who actually, since he built his stunning new football palace for the Cowboys here in Arlington, has been fairly generous to our town.  I don't know how it compares to when Jones' team played in nearby Irving, and I wouldn't say he's drenched Arlington with cash from his private bank accounts, but he and his wife have helped fund some local charities, which has been appreciated.  He seems to genuinely respect the leadership at our city hall, even after our fire marshal ruled the sloppily-installed temporary seating for last year's Super Bowl here unsafe, forcing hundreds of suddenly seat-less fans into a class-action lawsuit against Jones and the NFL.

But there was a story on a local news website today about how the Cowboy's continuing dearth of championships is affecting newer generations of fans.  Most of the teams' faithful, die-hard fans today are old enough to remember their last Super Bowl victory, back in 1996. Which was also their last Super Bowl appearance.

But 1996 was 15 years ago!  Any teenager these days won't remember Dallas' last Super Bowl, and they're more likely to wonder why their parents like the Cowboys so much, instead of other more successful teams.

Jones' three aging trophies might be enough to sustain rabid enthusiasm elsewhere, but they're now ancient history here in the football-crazy Lone Star State.

Granted, the Dallas Cowboys still top most charts when it comes to team merchandise sales and the worth of each franchise.  But that's today. Most of the merchandise and tickets are purchased by people older than 15.  What's going to happen as today's teenagers matriculate up through college, and then start their own families, and maybe even develop allegiances with other sports teams with fresher trophies?

Plus, are the Cowboy's large national TV audiences tuning in to watch Dallas win... or be beaten by their home team?  TV ratings can work both ways.

Might the value Jones has indisputably built into his team, despite their recent record, be just another bubble ready to burst?  Are the Cowboys cresting, at least in terms of how much they're worth to their owners?  Will the Cowboys become the tech bubble and sub-prime debacle of the NFL?

That's what Jones and his minority ownership "partners" need to be thinking about during this off-season.

At least, in my uneducated sports opinion.

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