Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tony Romo Scores Big Off the Field

Right now, couldn't you use a dose of classy, unselfish honesty?

We've come through a tortuous election season, with no end in sight as far as the acrimony against Donald Trump - and against Trump's opponents - is concerned.  The media - mainstream and otherwise - remains consumed with the many angles of Trump's victory and what they supposedly mean for just about everybody on our planet.

But then a guy we haven't seen on television for months shows up for a press conference in suburban Dallas yesterday afternoon.  He's Tony Romo, the injured quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys NFL franchise, and without any fanfare - casual clothing, an unshaved face, a grim countenance - we're treated to a stunning announcement of personal transition and remarkable grace under intense public pressure.

If you don't live in north Texas, aren't a Cowboy's fan, or don't follow professional football, you might not have heard Romo's speech.  Maybe you've never really heard of Tony Romo, since people from around the world check into this blog.  But here in north Texas, even though conventional media protocol is to call people by their last name, when somebody says "Tony" we usually know who they're talking about.  In many sports towns, it's probably that way with that home team's stars.  Even the guy who's replaced Tony on the field, Dak Prescott, is usually simply called "Dak".

Even I know who Dak is now, and I haven't watched any football in years.  And like virtually everybody else 'round these parts, I've known who Tony is for seemingly a long time.  He's not a tiger, like in the cereal.  Or an award, like on Broadway.  He's the aww-shucks quarterback who keeps getting injured, and keeps getting blamed by football fans for keeping America's Team out of the Superbowl.

The pressure Tony has been under this season has been extraordinary, even more so than ever before.  And especially because Tony got injured during the pre-season this past August, after sitting out multiple games in previous seasons due to other injuries.  Meanwhile, with Dak in Tony's spot this fall, the Cowboys have only lost one game in the regular season.  Their record is so good, now when people talk about the team making it all the way to the Superbowl, unlike any time in recent memory, it's not a joke, or a dig at the team's irascible owner, Jerry Jones.

Folks have been wondering, however, what will happen to Tony once he heals up from this latest injury, and is ready to play again.  Will he wrangle with Jones (people call him "Jerry" here, too - but not very affectionately) and force his way into the top position?  Will Jerry let the winning vibe his team has stumbled upon be risked with a Romo return?

Well, Tony himself put the rumor mill to rest yesterday, bravely acquiescing to a role that didn't seem possible during the pre-season.  He's now the back-up quarterback, in the shadows, out of the spotlight, and he's the one who told the sports world the news.  He didn't leave it to a press release from the Cowboy's media relations department.

Like I said, I'm not a sports guy, and I frequently dismiss athletes as having more brawn than brains.  But in Tony's case, he did his team and his franchise proud yesterday with one of the most eloquent and elegant speeches I've ever heard a professional sports participant give.

Indeed, it's one thing to know how a person acts when they win.  And while Tony hasn't exactly lost here - he's still pulling down a very handsome salary, even as a second-string player - his humility is palpable in his graciousness.  His attitude seems rare, not just for the sports world, but for most prominent Americans, particularly after an election pitting two exceptionally narcissistic publicity hounds against, in effect, America's voters.

Tony's poignant speech has become something everybody in north Texas seems to be raving about, and for good reason.  So see for yourself what makes Tony championship material, at least as far as being human is concerned...

Tony Romo's complete statement to the media on Tuesday, November 15, 2016:

"First, I really just came up here to talk to you guys. I wrote something I put together that I really just wanted to read. I know you have a lot of questions as many of you have hounded me pretty much daily. Ed Werder texts on the hour. But I'm not gonna take any questions so hopefully I answer most of them with what I'm saying here and if I don't answer them, I'm sure we'll talk in the future. So hopefully we're gonna keep it short. For multiple reasons, one, I think it's in the best interest of our team. We'll leave it at that. So I'm just going to read this and hopefully you can just stay with me. I don't think it'll be too long, but I think it does capture the essence of what your mindset is through all of this and our football team and the situation. So here we go.

"To say the first half of the season has been emotional would be a huge understatement. Getting hurt when you feel like you have the best team you've ever had was a soul-crushing moment for me. Then to learn it's not three to four weeks but 10 is another blow. And through it all you have a tremendous amount of guilt on having let your teammates, fans and organization down. After all, they were depending on you to bring them a championship. That's what quarterbacks are supposed to do; that's how we're judged. I loved that. I still do. But here you are, sidelined without any real ability to help your teammates win on the field. That's when you're forced to come face to face with what's happening.

"Seasons are fleeting. Games become more precious. Chances for success diminish. Your potential successor has arrived. Injured two years in a row and now in the mid-30s. The press is whispering. Everyone has doubts. You've spent your career working to get here. Now we have to start all over. You almost feel like an outsider. The coaches are sympathetic, but they still have to coach, and you're not there. It's a dark place. Probably the darkest it's ever been. You're sad and down and out and you ask yourself, 'Why did this have to happen?' It's in this moment when you find out who you really are and what you're really about.

"You see football is a meritocracy. You aren't handed anything. You earn everything, every single day, over and over again. You have to prove it. That's the way that the NFL, that football works.

"A great example of this is Dak Prescott, and what's he's done. He's earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say, he's earned that right. He's guided our team to an 8-1 record and that's hard to do. If you think for a second that I don't want to be out there, then you've probably never felt the pure ecstasy of competing and winning. That hasn't left me. In fact, it may burn now more than ever. It's not always easy to watch. I think anyone who's been in this position understands that. But what is clear is that I was that kid once, stepping in, having to prove yourself. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. It really is an incredible time in your life. And if I remember one thing from back then, it's the people that helped me along when I was young and if I can be that to Dak, I've tried to be and I will be going forward.

"I think you all know something magical is happening to our team. I'm not going to allow this situation negatively affect Dak or this football team by becoming a constant distraction. I think Dak knows that I have his back and I think I know that he has mine. Ultimately, it's about the team. That's what we've preached our entire lives.

"I can remember when I was a kid, just starting out and wanting to be a part of something bigger than myself. For every high school kid or college player, there's greatness in being the kind of teammate that truly wants to be part of the team. Everyone wants to be the reason they're winning or losing; every single one of us wants to be that person. But there are special moments from a shared commitment to play a role while doing it together. That's what you remember. Not your stats or your prestige, but the relationships and the achievement that you created through a group. It's hard to do but there's great joy in that. And all the while, your desire burns to be the best you've ever been. You can be both. I've figured that out in this process. That what separates sports from everything else. It's why we love it. It's why we trust it. It's why I still want to play and compete.

"Lastly, I just want to leave you with something I've learned in this process as well. I feel like we all have two battles, or two enemies, going on. One with the man across from you. The second is with the man inside of you. I think once you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn't matter. I think that's what we're all trying to do. Thank you, guys."

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