Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …
*In delivering admiration, Jerry Jones wound up having to also distribute an apology. Welcome to the ’Boys of Summer, where – no matter the zip code – Dallas Cowboys training camp annually produces a zany sideshow as much as a football preview.
Camp No. 63 had barely kicked-off this week when the owner comically eulogized recently departed long-time buddy Larry Lacewell and uttered – who knew? – the “M-word.”
Sure enough, “midget” is now offensive, replaced by the kindler, gentler “little person.” (I’m all about not offending anyone, especially if it’s as easy as changing a sports mascot or tweaking one word of my vocabulary. So … “little person” it is.)
In the past, Jerry referenced wanting some “glory hole” in pursuit of a Super Bowl. Surely him invoking the “m word” will find its place in infamy on the long list of Cowboys’ training camp “entertainment.”
From Clint Longley’s fists to Michael Irvin’s scissors to HBO’s cameras, the lead-up to the Cowboy’s season is usually riveting, must-see TV.
Through the years their preseason homes have included Forest Grove, Oregon; Delafield, Wisconsin; Northfield, Minnesota; Marquette, Michigan; Thousand Oaks, California; Austin; Wichita Falls, San Antonio and Oxnard.
In the 1960s, head coach Tom Landry barked through a megaphone atop a tower and made his players run five miles up a mountain after two-a-days in pads. In the 1980s, the drama was fueled by competition (Gary Hogeboom vs. Danny White, 1984) and acquisition (Herschel Walker, 1986). In the 1990s, Irvin would intentionally start on-field fights at St. Edward’s University so the defending champs wouldn’t lose their edge. And through the years training camp has seen its share of holdouts (Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith, Ezekiel Elliott), labor strife (1974, 1982 and 1987) and headlines from owner Jerry Jones (1989-2022).
The 20 most memorable moments from Cowboys’ training camps:
20. Hard Knocks, 2002 – Head coach Dave Campo made players punch time clocks and sang karaoke “My girl.” His team was even worse on the field.
19. Asthma Field, 1989 – Okay, this was technically minicamp, but it previewed Jimmy Johnson’s pre-season iron fist on his team. When free-agent kicker Massimo Manca arrived at Valley Ranch out of shape and blamed his “asthma” on failure to complete conditioning drills, the coach gave his legendary directive while pointing to the parking lot, “the asthma field is over there!”
18. Toodles, Too Tall, 1979 – The Cowboys hit Thousand Oaks determined to avenge a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl XIII, but were immediately blindsided by news of stalwart defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ retirement. “It is my intention,” Jones said in a stunning statement, “to become heavyweight boxing champion of the world.”
17. Switzer vs. Hansen, 1994 – Not too many times has an NFL head coach “playfully” punched a member on the media on live TV, but so it was on a clownish August night with Barry Switzer and Channel 8’s Dale Hansen. Switzer accused Hansen of “fabricating stories”, to which Hansen stood by his account of a “power struggle” on the coach’s staff. To punctuate his points, Switzer aggressively slapped Hansen’s left arm three times and outright punched it once. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Switzer screamed. Retorted a semi-serious Hansen, “This is starting to hurt a little bit.”
16. Hard Knocks, 2021 – From coach Mike McCarthy’s impassioned “Charlie F*ck-around” speech to players and a breath-taking drone tour in, around and through The Star in Frisco, the popular TV miniseries was as edgy as ever.
15. TMZ Photos, 2014 – After a week of ominous silence in the wake of photos being released of him canoodling with women not named Gene Jones, Jerry finally addressed the situation by saying he’d been aware of the photos for five years and calling their release an “extortion plot.”
14. Lilly’s Unretirement, 1973 – After grousing about being underpaid to play the grueling sport of football for six months per year, Bob Lilly told the team he was retiring and a press conference was scheduled at 9 a.m. But at 4 a.m., “Mr. Cowboy” had a change of heart and returned to camp.
13. Another Bob Hayes, 1970 – Speedy receiver Bob Hayes held out of camp, telling the team to “pay me or trade me.” Hayes’ demands? $40,000 per year. The Cowboys’ response: They signed Canadian Football League speedster Margene Adkins and branded him “another Bob Hayes” before realizing the original was, in fact, impossible to duplicate.
12. Family Feud, 2012 – After an altercation in which he was arrested by Desoto police for assaulting his mother, Angela, receiver Dez Bryant showed up to camp with his lawyer. “Did a family disagreement occur? Yes,” the attorney said. “Did Dez Bryant commit family violence against his mother? No.”
11. Hard Knocks, 2008 – Head coach Wade Phillips was continually astonished by Pacman Jones’ uncanny ability to catch – and hold – six punted footballs.
10. M-Word, 2022 – During an emotional opening press conference in which lamented the recent deaths of 105.3 The Fan engineer Ted Nichols-Payne, assistant Marilyn Love and forever right-hand man Lacewell, Jerry joked that he’d like to have his diminutive sidekick around. “Lace used to hold court out here in Oxnard,” Jones said. “So I’m going to get me somebody – a (“m-word”) – to stand up there with me and dress him up like Lace, and think Lace is still out here helping at practice with us.” Cue apology.
9. T.O. vs. Tuna, 2006 – Throughout his tenure, Bill Parcells wouldn’t refer to receiver Terrell Owens by his name, instead only calling him “the player.” He also rolled his eyes at camp when Owens’ sore hamstrings relegated him to riding a stationary bike. The receiver poked fun at himself by one day showing up in a Lance Armstrong-replica yellow Tour de France jersey. The coach, as predicted, was not amused.
8. Bad News ’Boys, 1997 – After a camp in which Nate Newton was accused of sexual assault, Erik Williams was served with a paternity suit and Leon Lett was suspended 13 games for failing a drug test, the Cowboys literally burned the house down on their way out of St. Edward’s University in Austin. They left dorm rooms with extensive damage water damage, a busted security camera, kicked-in air vents and a hallway that reportedly smelled of urine. Next summer, camp was moved to Wichita Falls.
7. Annulled Divorce, 1971 – Duane Thomas won Rookie of the Year in 1970 and helped lead the Cowboys to Super Bowl VI. By training camp a year later, however, he no-showed and demanded a new contract. GM Tex Schramm responded by trading him to the New England Patriots, who promptly sent him back and voided the trade when they got a load of his attitude. Disgruntled and taking a vow of silence, Thomas nonetheless led the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns.
6. Defiant Dez, 2010 – Though a rookie, Bryant brought a hefty diva attitude to San Antonio and immediately refused to take part in the rookie ritual of carrying veterans’ pads. “I’m not doing it,” Bryant said. “I was drafted to play football, not carry another player’s pads.” Said veteran Roy Williams, “He’ll learn the hard way.”
5. MVP MIA, 1993 – The Cowboys were preparing to defend their Super Bowl when Emmitt Smith decided to play hardball. The two-time rushing champ missed all of training camp, threatening to retire, enrolling in classes at the University of Florida and even requesting a trade. His absence dominated camp, and after an 0-2 start without him the Cowboys made him the NFL’s highest-paid running back.
4. Dubious Double-Entendre, 2012 – Lamenting his team’s prolonged lack of success, Jerry kicked off his Oxnard state-of-the-union address by proclaiming “I want me some glory hole!” Cowboys’ PR man Rich Dalrymple attempted to explain to the snickering media that Jones was referring to a term used in the oil and gas business. To which Jones deadpanned, “that’s news to me.”
3. Player Cuts, 1998 – Offensive lineman Everett McIver had the audacity to jump in front of Irvin to get a camp haircut and it cost him getting his throat cut. The Cowboys initially described the injury a result of “horseplay.” But when McIver wouldn’t leave the barber’s chair in Wichita Falls, Irvin escalated the altercation and slashed his teammate with a pair of scissors, leaving an 18-stitch wound.
2. Punching His Ticket, 1976 – You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, spit into the wind or, above all else, sucker punch Captain America. But in Thousand Oaks, disillusioned backup quarterback Clint Longley thought he should be No. 1 over Staubach. During a practice, Longley cussed Drew Pearson for running the route. Staubach calmly told Longley that, no, it was the quarterback’s mistake for overthrowing the pass. In the locker room that afternoon, Longley sucker punch Staubach in the face. He was an ex-Cowboy by sundown, traded to the San Diego Chargers.
1. Sayonara, Starter, 2004 – In 2003, quarterback Quincy Carter led the Cowboys to a 10-6 record a playoff berth. But before Parcells could further elevated his game, his career – and his attendance – evaporated. Carter left Oxnard overnight, cut by the Cowboys because of a stubborn substance-abuse problem that led to another failed drug test. He was immediately replaced by Vinny Testaverde, and played seven games for the New York Jets that season before ending his NFL career. The Cowboys also cut their starting quarterback in mid-camp in 2001, but that was for Tony Banks’ inept performance.
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*This is where we are with the Texas Rangers: It’s okay to lose, but no longer to be okay with losing.
They are still yay-deep in rebuilding, and nobody expects them to win this season. There is, however, danger in growing too comfortable with unsuccess. Take this week in Seattle. The Rangers are 2-11 against the Mariners this season and 3-17 since 2020. Tuesday they rallied for two runs to take a 4-3 into the bottom of the 9th. But 11 Brett Martin pitches later they lost another heart-breaker, 5-4. Martin allowed a single and a run-scoring double before intentionally walking the bases loaded and surrendering the walk-off sacrifice fly. He dropped to 0-6 this season with two blown saves.
Manager Chris Woodward’s reaction: “Brett left a couple pitches over the plate, but you can’t blame him for this one. He’s been so good for us all season.”
He … has? Oh and six?!
A month ago the Rangers were flirting with .500. Now they’re nine under and buried. Again. But the manager shrugging off abject failure is something they shouldn’t accept with open arms.
*That collective groan you heard this week came from Dallas Mavericks fans upon hearing that Cowboys COO Stephen Jones was protecting his team’s salary-cap space as “dry powder.” As the Mavs have proven time and again, dry powder only produces empty results.
*Not a car guy. But lots of people like driving them and also just looking at them. Included in that group is my Big Brothers Big Sisters lil’ bro Ja.
*Say you’re good at your job. Like really good at your job. Consistently successful. Respected by your bosses; revered by your peers. If someone asks if you’re worried about your job security, the question wouldn’t move your needle much less irritate you.
But if you’re Mike McCarthy, yeah, it’s bothersome.
Because, truth is, you know you’re not secure and, further more, haven’t done enough to have earned job security. Go ask Sean McVay or Bill Belichick or Andy Reid about their job security and see if they get irritated. Nope. If pressed, they’d offer something along the lines of “I feel great about it, actually. I’m damn good at my job and I consistently make decisions on and off the field that put my team in the best position to win football games. And the results speak for themselves.”
Can McCarthy echo that? Or does he need his boss to offer an awkward vote of confidence before the season starts?
By the way, also offering a vote of confidence: Friday birthday QB Dak Prescott, who proclaimed “Mike’s my guy!” this week at camp.
*Recession, my ass. Gas is up and morale is down and … Americans still have money to gamble. Big-time. As in, Friday night’s Mega Millions jackpot is worth, get this, $1.02 billion. After taxes, that’s a net cash payout of $602.5 million. (I’ll never understand this about me: I don’t play the Lottery when the jackpot is around $9 million, but will make a special trip and whip out $10 when it jumps to a billion. As if I’m so well-to-do that $9 million wouldn’t alter my lifestyle.) Arlington folks are flocking to this supposedly lucky convenience store, while the CEO of Cane’s bought $50,000 worth of tickets with a promise to split with employees if he wins. If this is the last Whitt’s End you ever read, you’ll know I won. In other words, see you here next week.
*I get Jerry’s “Availability > Ability” explanation for getting rid of Amari Cooper. But he offered Randy Gregory $70 million to stay, so throwing him on the same pile feels disingenuous.
*Turned on the news this week: Heat wave … wildfires … Love Field airport shooting … road rage incident … shooting inside Deep Ellum club … Monkey Pox … Thank you sports, life’s ultimate reality diversion.
*Mavs owner Mark Cuban turned a laptop into a TV/radio, and with it became a multi-billionaire. But does that mean he’s a shrewd businessman with a savvy eye toward all things inventing and investing? According to his track record on Shark Tank … nope. After investing nearly $20 million in 85 startups, he’s taken a net loss.
*Props to the Rangers for taking a shot on former two-time Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel. At the major league level there’s Martin Perez and Jon Gray. In the minors there are lots of promising arms a couple years away. In between, there’s Keuchel. Maybe he finds his elite form; maybe not. In the middle of a lost season amidst a long rebuilding climb, it’s the perfect low-risk/high-reward gamble.
*NFL quarterback wins (and playoff wins) since 2016: 1. Tom Brady 71 (13); 2. Aaron Rodgers 59 (4); 3. Russell Wilson 58 (2); 4. Dak Prescott 53 (1); 5. Patrick Mahomes 50 (8).
*Annual average U.S. deaths attributed to weather-related events: Heat+Wildfire = 109. Tornado+Hurricane+Winter Storm = 104.
*I got your Cowboys conspiracy theory, right here. Troy Aikman is the new voice of Monday Night Football. Tony Romo is the lead analyst on CBS. Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith and Jason Witten and, heck, even Don Meredith have all had their time in front of national TV cameras. So when Fox was replacing the Joe Buck-Aikman pairing as its new No. 1 team, it went anti-Cowboys.
Hence, Daryl Johnston – who has been with the network since 2001 – was passed over even though his long-time partner on the No. 2 team (Kevin Burkhardt) was promoted to No. 1.
No way Greg Olsen is good enough to break up a Johnston-Burkhardt team that Fox has cherished for that long. While Burkhardt was promoted, Johnston remains on the No. 2 team alongside new partner Joe Davis.
*My Mom, who turns 81 next week, is a borderline diabetic. No medication prescribed by her physicians or anything, just “watch what you eat and don’t crazy with the sweets.” Sage advice for all of us. Turns out, hers is apparently a flexible strand of Diabetes. Because, at times, she demands sugar-free food due to her disease. Other times – usually in the candy aisle of Kroger – it’s wheels off! God bless her.
*Jerry says the Cowboys are in “better shape” to win a Super Bowl than a year ago. Crazy as it sounds, oddsmakers agree. Entering camp in 2021 they were 25-1. Now? 16-1.
*Prescott turns 29 today. He calls it a “Golden birthday … So I plan for this to be a golden year.” I was prepared to rip him as a youngster who didn’t know the real “golden” age was 50, but … I’ll be damned. Back when I turned 8 I had no idea.
*Practice what you preach, and live to preach a little longer. Dr. Kenneth Cooper – founder of the world-renown Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas – has devoted his life to fitness and healthy living. I know naysayers (they’ve evolved into “haters”?) like to recite stories about “health nuts” that just “dropped dead” as a way to embolden their own unhealthy habits. But Cooper last week spoke at the Senior Wellness & Safety Event sponsored by the Dallas Police Department, where he implored the importance of daily exercise to prevent illness and disease and promote a long, healthy life.
He is 91.
*This Weekend? Friday let’s play some tennis, and buy some lottery tickets. Saturday let’s run/bike around the lake. Sunday let’s rest, if you call making a list of things to buy with my lottery winnings “rest.” As always, don’t be a stranger.