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Thursday, January 2, 1997
with Cowboys becomes chronic ailment in Dallas area
By Rick Bonnell / Knight-Ridder Newspapers (Jan. 2,
IRVING, Texas (KRT) - Are the Dallas Cowboys America's Team
or America's Most Wanted?
Bill Bates, who played for all three of this franchise's coaches,
is no longer sure.
"The things that have happened over the past couple of
years are very disappointing," said Bates, in his 14th season.
"For a guy who wanted to play his whole life for the Dallas
Cowboys, at times it really makes you sick to your stomach."
That feeling is a chronic ailment around these parts. In the
latest in a chain of embarrassments, two stars, wide receiver
Michael Irvin and offensive lineman Erik Williams, are expected
to meet with police Thursday to be questioned on the accusations
of a 23-year-old woman. She told police Irvin held a gun to her
head while Williams and another unidentified man raped her at
Williams' home Sunday. Williams has had no comment. Irvin said
Wednesday, "I wasn't even at Erik's house."
There appears to be a strong possibility Williams and/or Irvin
could be arrested Thursday or Friday before the team flies to
Charlotte for Sunday's NFC semifinal with the Carolina Panthers.
It would not be the first time either was in trouble with
the law. Irvin is serving four years' probation following a no-contest
plea to cocaine possession last summer. Williams just came off
probation for a drunken-driving charge and paid an out-of-court
settlement to a 17-year-old stripper to avoid her pressing charges
of sexual assault.
Four days from what coach Barry Switzer calls "the biggest
game of the year," this team has been besieged by national
media. They don't ask questions about the game, just about the
tarnished image of the most famous football team in the world.
Quarterback Troy Aikman can't blame them.
"I think maybe some of the things people feel, and maybe
some of the things people think, are justified," he said.
"There's a lot of attention that comes to this organization.
... Some of it is just because of the organization and its rich
history. And some of it is self-inflicted."
Indeed. Various Cowboys drew seven of the past 13 drug suspensions
levied by the NFL. The league barred Irvin from the season's
first five games after the no-contest plea. Last month, defensive
lineman Leon Lett, the NFL's premier run-stopper, was suspended
for a year for multiple violations of the league's drug policy.
But perhaps the most embarrassing moment came last spring
when offensive lineman Nate Newton rationalized some players
renting a party house near the team's headquarters by saying
it was a place "just to run some whores in."
This franchise has always had problems - ex-Cowboys Lance
Rentzel, Thomas Henderson and Rafael Septien had highly publicized
incidents involving drugs or sex in the '60s, '70s and '80s.
But the constancy of transgressions over the past three years
is almost numbing.
A Dallas player arrested or suspended is treated with a shrug
and joke. As they sing satirically, "Mama, don't let your
babies grow up to date Cowboys. ... "
Switzer and owner Jerry Jones have received harsh and constant
criticism the past two years, particularly from Randy Galloway,
sports columnist of The Dallas Morning News and host of a popular
radio talk show.
Galloway characterizes the franchise under Jones as a model
of pragmatism and ego run amok. He says winning three of the
past four Super Bowls no longer rationalizes this team's behavior
in even the most ardent fans' minds.
"There's no way there's that warmth still there - that
Cowboys, right or wrong (loyalty)," Galloway said Monday,
before the most recent accusations. "The Irvin (drug arrest)
blew the lid off the city dump. I've never seen a reaction like
"I don't think winning will cure this. Now, they've got
a terrible image problem."
Others question the priorities of Switzer and Jones. The Oklahoma
program Switzer coached 1973-88 bore striking similarities to
the Cowboys. The Sooners won three national championships but
were in constant trouble. The height of the problems included
an Uzi being fired at Oklahoma's athletic dormitory.
But Cowboys back-up quarterback Wade Wilson said it's not
fair to throw all the blame Switzer's way.
"I think it's up to each individual to take responsibility
for his actions," said Wilson. "I mean, if it's a high
school or college it might be a different situation. But these
are professional athletes and they're grown men and you have
to be responsible."
Switzer has said as much, though he adds that he has regularly
lectured the team on the dangers of drugs.
Switzer had no NFL experience and was out of coaching when
Jones hired him to replace Jimmy Johnson in 1994. Jones had an
ugly separation from Johnson, who saw Jones as a meddler and
a publicity hound.
"He's there because Jerry Jones had to have a puppet.
He wanted a coach who would not rebuff him," said Galloway,
who recalled Switzer saying, "I just want to sit on the
curb with Jerry as the drum major."
Jones, an offensive lineman at Oklahoma when Switzer served
there as an assistant, said his coach is fully qualified for
the job. Jones does admit synergy was a key in the hiring: "Barry
and I work so good together," Jones said Monday. "We
can always get on the same page."
That's no quite so true for Aikman. It's clear he's of two
minds about what the Cowboys have come to represent.
"I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish. I'm
disappointed in a number of things," Aikman said. "But
yeah, I'm still very proud to wear the helmet with the star on
(c) 1997, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).
Visit The Charlotte Observer on the World Wide Web at http://www.charlotte.com/
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All content copyright 1996,
AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News
and Reporter OnLine
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