Romo’s Legacy will be just “Dandy”

1491964954690There once was a quarterback who played for the Dallas Cowboys.  He was a charismatic, fun-loving leader who often did not get the respect or credit he deserved.  This guy was tough, took a beating and played through injuries.  He took a losing franchise and made them relevant, yet when he performed on the biggest stage the final act was more symbolic of a Greek tragedy as opposed to happily ever after.  He hung it up while he still had something left in tank.  He took a job in broadcasting and finally earned the kudos he should of had during his playing days.  In retrospect the fans and organization appreciated the colorful playing career he had and he found his way into the Cowboys Ring of Honor.  While he didn’t earn a bust in Canton, he was honored with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award at the Enshrinee’s Dinner.

It sounds like the past, present and potential future for Tony Romo? Right? Take another guess.  That is a brief synopsis of  the late Don Meredith’s legacy in professional football on the field and in the booth.

Long before Romo and any other recognizable Cowboys quarterback, there was “Dandy” Don Meredith.  Meredith, who played his high school and collegiate ball (SMU) in the North Texas area, joined the hometown expansion Cowboys in 1960.  He never made it to the Super Bowl, but Meredith has to be given credit as the man who established playing quarterback in Dallas as a glamour position in professional sports.

Meredith did more for his legacy as one of the original broadcasters on Monday Night Football.  It made viewers recall what a very good quarterback he was and how his playing career was just inches from being legendary.

The epic of Dandy Don is one of my favorite football stories.  He was a character like no other.  So why aren’t there any movies or books about him?  Well there kind of is.  His former teammate and good friend Peter Gent wrote a novel titled North Dallas Forty in which fictional quarterback Seth Maxwell is based on Meredith.  The controversial and captivating read was later made into a movie.

Tony Romo’s ballad could be the inspiration for a paperback or a Hollywood script one day, however now that he heads to partner up with Jim Nantz he will have the opportunity to add to his legacy in a new fashion.  Many feel that Romo is receiving a shot at CBS that he doesn’t deserve considering he has no broadcast experience.  That may be true and it likely won’t be an easy transition, but I’m betting on Romo. The curiosity of Romo’s commentary will give the ratings a slight boost and younger fans will appreciate a familiar player that they grew up watching calling the action.  I predict he will surprise a lot of people with unique insight.  Meredith retired after the 1968 season before joining Monday Night Football in its debut in 1970.  That didn’t turn out too bad, did it?

But let’s go back to Tony Romo the player.  How should he be remembered?  Is he being shown too much love on his way out the door? What did he accomplish to receive this praise?  In sports there is room for a lot of different characters, novelties and myths.  Not everyone gets to be the knight who slayed the dragon and rode off on a white steed with a beautiful princess’s arms clutching his waist.  We might envy the ultimate hero, but we don’t always identify with him.

The role of Romo as the tragic hero is something that we are more able to relate to.  Many of us in life have had to work hard to conquer the odds and in doing so we were able to exceed expectations, but for whatever reason the big break never came and the grand milestone achievement eluded us.

Even though it didn’t have a fairy tale ending, it doesn’t take away the incredible plays Romo made on the field.  There are certain things he did at the quarterback position that only a sorcerer could duplicate.  He made football in Dallas fun again.  Whether you loved him or hated him you wanted to see him play because he seemed to add high drama to the game.  He teased you into thinking he might pull it off only to blow it in the final minutes or he fooled you that he would fold again while stealing another win.

Romo doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, but he was just a couple plays away from greatness.  Take away a non-catch here, a bobbled snap there, a drive-killing penalty here or a fluke injury there and the narrative on Romo has changed significantly.

Unlike Meredith, Romo is receiving the accolades he deserves as he rides off into the sunset.  Just because he didn’t deliver hardware it doesn’t mean fans can’t appreciate the fact that he set team records, made some of the most memorable plays in franchise history and did it all while sacrificing his personal health.

What’s next for the undrafted kid out of Eastern Illinois?  Will he be as revered of a broadcaster as Dandy was?  Let’s not look that far ahead.  Joining Meredith in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor would make the most sense for the near future.

 

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T.O. be or not T.O. be

The legacy of Terrell Owens will forever be stained because of his ability like no other to divide a locker room.  He also had  the ability like no other when it came to producing game breaking plays.

Many writers on the Hall of Fame selection committee have made an adamant case against the “player” simply known as T.O.  They will tell you three teams let him go in the prime of his career and that he dropped too many passes.  According to the T.O. detractors his childlike behavior and a drop here or there negate the fact that he is statistically a top 3 receiver in NFL history.  It probably doesn’t help that Owens himself has gone out of his way to say publicly that Hall of Fame voting was a “flawed process”.

I was on the fence about Owens until I asked myself what about Randy Moss?  You have to have Randy Moss (who is eligible next year) in Canton and therefore Mr. Owens should join him as well.  Moss had off the field issues that Owens didn’t, he took plays off, knocked balls down to avoid hits, was accused of quitting on his team and bounced around from franchise to franchise due to his behavior.  While Owens tantrums may have caused him to lose focus on the field occasionally, there was never any doubt that the original 81 gave it his all on every play.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has a decision to make.  Do they want to make it about play on the field or do they want to factor in things didn’t happen between the lines?  The Baseball Hall of Fame has received criticism for keeping guys out like Pete Rose, the sport’s all-time hits leader because he bet on baseball as a player and manager.  And what about the great steroid era debate?  Talk about a real flawed process.

Pro Football Hall of Fame it is time to take a long look in the mirror to decide who you want to be.  Look at baseball and their “get off my lawn” boomer fan base.  Their commissioner looked the other way while guys were juicing and cranking them deep helping the Major Leagues recover from their strike in the mid nineties only to have a bunch of old white-haired bureaucrats on Capitol Hill do an investigation all so they could “protect” their precious records from their childhood with an asterisk.  And yet Rose, whose record you can’t attach an asterisk to, still can’t make his way into Cooperstown over three decades removed from his last at bat.  Pro Football Hall of Fame this could be your future if you are going to lower yourself to Owens’ level by not giving him his bust out of spite.

The NFL’s Hall had set the gold standard in a lot of people’s eyes when it came to how a Hall of Fame selection should operate.  Now it’s flirting with idea of changing the rules in the middle of the game.  You know who does that?  The WWE Hall of Fame.  Yes Pro Wrestling’s shrine to squared circle greatness that erased Hulk Hogan, basically the most iconic figure ever to lace up his boots and throw on a pair of those speedo-like trunks, from their Hall of Fame webpage because there was allegedly some audio out there of him making racist comments.  And this is where you Pro Football Hall of Fame need to remind yourself that you did not remove O.J. Simpson, even though he was convicted in civil court for butchering two human beings, because it had nothing to do with his playing career in the 1970s which got him his gold jacket in the first place.

So Pro Football Hall of Fame save face while you can and give that crybaby T.O. his bronze bust and gold jacket he deserves. Don’t be Cooperstown and please, please don’t be the WWE.  Vote Owens in sooner rather than later.  There will be more controversy not inducting him or voting him in posthumously than it would be to knock on his hotel door next year.  And if you want an example of an after death induction as a result of animosity look no further than pro wrestling legend Macho Man Randy Savage, one of the more beloved personalities in the industry, yet denied the right to receive his final accolades until after his existence had concluded.

Canton please do the right thing  so that you can continue to be a real Hall of Fame.  The fact that you drew comparison to fake one should be wake up call.