The Triplets were retired: To begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. For the Glory Days of the 1990’s have long since passed, replaced with a pedestrian output of unwavering mediocrity. Jerry Jones was cognizant of this, having personally accepted the Lombardi trophy years ago. He was very aware of the time that has passed since. Jones was rich, filthy rich, but he was also a big spender, never to be labeled miserly. If only his short falling was so clear to identify. But still Jerry charged on with his business in the same manner he felt he always had. The way that worked back in the day.
With the work day complete Jerry grabbed his topcoat and departed for home. Still reminiscing about an interview he had earlier in the day. “Would I fire myself as a GM?” he grumbled, repeating the questions that caused particular annoyance. “Do I feel I undermine my head coaches? Will I ever bring in an additional football mind to help me? Help? Bah. Humbug.” He dismissed.
Jerry entered his house noting how cold it was inside. His wife Gene liked it warm but she was gone doing charity work in Arkansas and will not be returning until tomorrow, Christmas Day. Jerry typically turned the heat off whenever she was gone. If the tax-payers in Arlington weren’t paying for it, he could do without it, he figured. But still, he didn’t exactly intend it to be this cold. Oh well, he was a stubborn man and refused to admit he turned it down too far. He would endure the cold and show his toughness to her when she arrives home in the morning. He ate at the office and the night was already late so he readied his bed and changed into his winter dressing gown. Before settling in he leaned in to kiss his Lombardi’s goodnight as he always did. As he leaned in to apply the first kiss something happened. What should appear on the trophies Jerry so loved and admired, but the faces of Emmitt, Michael, and Troy.
“Jerrrrrrryyyyyy.” They said in unison.
“This can’t be!” Jerry exclaimed. “You are not real! You are the product of bad sushi, that’s what you are!”
“Jerrrryyyyyyy!” The triplets escalated. “You are on a path of failure. You are doomed to a fate of embarrassment. Tonight you will be visited by 3 ghosts. Expect the first when the clock strikes one.”
Jerry was speechless – not a familiar state for him. He scurried across the room and dove into bed. Pulling up the covers and refusing to look as he softly fell asleep.
The Ghost of Football Past
The clock chimed once. It seemed louder than usual and woke Jerry up instantly. Looking down on him was the shadow of a stalky but well-built man. He had the most beautiful silver and perfectly styled hair Jerry had seen since….”Jimmy?” Jerry questioned. “Is that you?”
“Yes Jerry. It’s your ol’ buddy Jimmy Johnson. I’m here to help. Take my hand and we will go.”
Before Jerry could speak a word or even offer his hand, Jimmy reached down and seized Jerry’s hand. Like a rocket out of North Korea Jerry and Jimmy flew through the sky sputtering and popping through the air. Landing softly on a runway of roses Jerry asked, “Where are we?”
“We’re in Pasadena Jerry. We just won our first Super Bowl.” Jimmy answered.
Champagne was spraying everywhere as Jerry saw a younger (and less surgically enhanced) him, hugging his best friend Jimmy Johnson. A flood of emotions and remembrance overcame Jerry as he looked upon the 1993 him speaking to the 1993 Jimmy.
“Do you remember what we talked about when we left that night, Jerry?” The ghost of Jimmy asked the 2013 Jerry.
“We spoke of meeting with the scouting department, reviewing college tape, and even some guys you had your eyes on.” Jerry replied to the ghost of Jimmy.
As the Super Bowl scene faded in the background, Jimmy whispered back, “Yes Jerry. You wanted to talk to everyone you could. You wanted to build a team that would last forever and wanted all the best minds working to that goal. And we did.” Adding even more softly and barely audible, “For a while at least…”
With that, Jerry was asleep safely at home. Sleeping as still and soundly as he ever had. Until the clock struck two of course.
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The Ghost of Football Present
Jerry woke jerking his bedcovers over his head as if to protect himself from the horror in his chambers. The darkness under the covers gave way to light as the glow from the room penetrated Jerry’s cocoon of blankets. Frightened but curious Jerry slowly lowered the sheets from his face peaking toward the light. He rose from the bed noticing the light is sourced from across the hall. He followed the light cautiously entering his study. The glow from the fire shining brightly offered a bold warmth amplified by the cold temperature of his empty home. His large leather chair was faced away but a man was clearly seated in it. Jerry could make out a well-groomed plot of red hair emerging from the top. As the chair slowly turned to face him, Jerry preemptively asked, “Is that you Jason?”
“It sure is Jerry. I’m your head coach Jason Garrett”. I’m here to show you what’s happening right now.”
“Listen here Jason.” Jerry sternly spoke. “I run things. I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on around here.”
“Then you know about the salary cap situation next season. You know of the dead money. You know of the bad contracts of Carr, Ware, and Austin.” Jason quizzically asked.
“Of course I do.” said Jones
Jason quickly shot back. “Then you also know the complete misevaluation of the offensive and defensive lines. The high paid players past their prime. The utter failure in the secondary, season after season. The free agent misses, the draft follies, the …”
“I know what you’re getting at and I don’t appreciate it!” Jerry defensively interrupted. This isn’t as easy as it looks. I’m almost building this team on my own here!”
Jason smiled bringing light to the words Jerry just said. “But you don’t need to do this on your own. You have a staff that is qualified but too scared to speak up. A scouting department that follows to support your opinions rather than leads the evaluation. The minds you have differ in opinions. What was a synergistic team of player evaluation in the early 90’s, slowly gave way to this current dictatorship of opinion and whimsy.”
Still defensive and now upset Jerry turned away and peered out the window. Instead of seeing the darkness of his estate at 2 AM, Jerry sees into a living room on what appears to be Christmas Day. Jerry sees a young family around the Christmas tree. As they open presents the television is overheard in the background. It discusses another lost year for the Cowboys. It repeats the tired line of Romo’s inabilities and the Cowboy’s general ineptitude in the front office. The human figures that were previously difficult to identify slowly now gain focus for Jerry. He sees he is in the Romo living room.
Holding up the remote, Tony turns the television off. He’s visibly annoyed with what he just heard. Tony turned to his wife and said, “We are going to turn this around. Jerry is going to get some guys in here and we’ll be fine.” His tone was meant to sound reassuring to his wife but Jerry noticed the tone sounded as though Tony was reassuring himself more so.
Jerry turned to Jason and said, “I want it to. Nobody wants it more than me!”
Jason replied, “Then let your people do their jobs. Step back. Add another football mind to the process. The more open minds we have evaluating, the better the result. Don’t overrule decisions made by those you placed in decision-making positions. We can all do this if you let us.”
With that the fire faded and Jerry was back in his cold empty bed. Jerry was very much awake, too frightened to look at a clock.
The Ghost of Football Future
Jerry could now see his breath in the cold bedroom air. It became so distracting to Jerry he barely noticed the clock chiming or the shadow standing in his doorway. Jerry slowly turned his head toward the figure. He tried to make out the figure but the room was dark and the silhouette was occupying conveniently placed shadows. Jerry jumped up exclaiming, “Spirit! I get it. I need to change. I’ll consider others opinions! I can save this team, please just leave me be!” The figure slowly turned, extending its arm into the moonlight. With a move of an index finger, the spirit motioned for Jerry to follow. Jerry obediently rose, dreading what was to be shown but terrified of what may happen if he failed to obey.
Following the spirit, Jerry found himself standing in a crowd in what appeared to be a Hall of Fame induction in Canton, OH. He looked up to see Tony Romo in a golden jacket midway through his acceptance speech. Jerry sighed an exaggerated sigh as he deducted Romo could have only done this through Super Bowl victories. The relief quickly turned to horror as he listened on…
“I wish my friend Jason Witten would have listened to me when I tried to convince him to join me in Philly. The only thing that could have made winning a Super Bowl in Philadelphia better would have been doing it with him. Getting cut in 2016 for salary cap reasons was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Tony spoke.
Jerry fell back blacking out in shock. As he awoke he noticed he was in the much more familiar environment of Valley Ranch. Still in a panic from what he just witnessed, he ran through the hallways to his office. He needed to check the roster to make sure the Romo situation was just a bad dream. But when he arrived at his office he saw the furniture was all different. Looking at the desk he saw the name of Stephen Jones owning the title of Owner and GM. Jerry reached down to pick up the name plate from the desk as if looking at it closer will change it. Behind him walked in his son Stephen with Jason Garrett and an unknown but familiar looking man. Stephen was angrier than Jerry had ever seen him.
“Jason. This is unacceptable! How can I get anything done with you constantly contradicting me?” Stephen rhetorically asked. “The ‘right kind of guy’ is who I say it is! If there’s one thing Jerry taught me it’s to stick to your guns and do not compromise when you know you’re right. I know I’m right so if you can’t support that, this job isn’t for you!”
With that, Jason laid his resignation on Stephen’s desk. Turning to the familiar but unknown man, Stephen said, “Well, Lane, I guess the job is yours.
In that heart-stopping moment Jerry recognized the unknown man was Lane Kiffin. Jerry was filled with a feeling so overwhelming it seemed as though he swallowed a baseball. Sitting down in the corner of the office, with his hands to his face, he dropped his head between his knees weeping.
“How could this be?” he asked himself. “How did it get this far? We had something so good. What happened?” Jerry uncovered his face to see no one was there to answer his question or offer support. Jerry was all alone. He jumped up running down the hall in search of someone –anyone – but office after office was empty. Bursting into the film room Jerry saw the projector that hasn’t been used in decades was running with various clips of local and national media. Standing between Jerry and the screen was the silhouette of the spirit once again. Afraid to approach the Spirit Jerry stayed back watching the film snippets from the back of the room.
“The Raiders found hope for their team after Al Davis passed on, but the Cowboys have to now endure the next generation of the Joneses.” The analyst spoke. “I feel bad for Cowboys fans. They really have no reason to be hopeful” said another.
“I can change! I see now! I see what I’ve become! I see what I’m doing! I’ll let Jason do his job…I’ll empower scouting…I’ll stop interfering! I’ll be a good example to Stephen. I’ll bring in more football minds! We can do this! It can’t be too late!” Jerry sobbed to the Spirit.
Jerry reached out to the figure in a way of both humility and submission. The figure dipped his head removing a Fedora and calmly handed the hat to Jerry. At that moment of realization, Jerry again dropped to his knees, completely losing consciousness.
“Jerry. Jerry, why are you still in bed?” asked what seemed like the sweetest voice ever heard. Jerry opened his eyes to see his lovely wife Gene looking down upon him. Tears filled his eyes as instantly as the smile grew across his face.
“Gene! What day is it?“ He excitedly asked.
“It’s Christmas Day, honey. Are you feeling ok?” She replied
Jerry flew out of bed babbling about his plans for the day as he searched for his clothes. “I need to see coach Garrett first thing. No, I need to call Stephen. I need to call everyone! I need to tell everyone things will be different in Dallas!”
Smiling, but obviously worried for her husband’s mental health, Gene stood back quietly listening to her almost unrecognizable husband.
“Everyone will have equal input. I will give mine but let everyone else have theirs! I’ll even bring in a GM to help. A consensus will govern the Cowboys once again.” Jerry said as he added a hat to his mismatched outfit. Realizing he didn’t own a hat like this, he looked over to the mirror already knowing what he would see. For this was the hat of that final unrecognized spirit. With a smile and nod Jerry reached up firmly moving it into perfect position. Tom Landry’s Hat fit him perfectly.
Author Reid Hanson’s original version titled, A Cowboy’s Carol, can still be found on thelandryhat.com. This revised version is new for 2014 and exclusive only to SportDFW.com.
Do you have questions or comments regarding Dallas area sports? Email Reid at [email protected]. You may be included in the next weekly mailbag. Follow Reid on twitter @ReidDHanson