Tag Archives: fans

I’m Packing Up My Game

The Dallas Cowboys announced that Tony Romo had back surgery this morning and will not play in the season finale on Sunday night, nor any playoff games should the Cowboys win.  This ended four days’ worth of speculation on whether or not he would suit up for the de facto division title game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

There has been a narrative over the past few years that Romo is not a good quarterback, that he chokes in the clutch.  While there are plenty of examples of games where he has had an opportunity to come through for the Cowboys and the team lost, the fact of the matter is that this narrative is hideously unfair to Romo.

The most recent example is the loss to Green Bay nearly two weeks ago.  The Cowboys blew a 26-3 lead, but the only thing that fans point out – goaded on by the media, too – is that Romo threw an interception to effectively end the game.  You know what?  Take a look at any football game ever: there is a really good chance that, minus a few kneeldowns, it’s going to end on an interception.  When you’re trying to score in a short period of time, passing is the way to go, and you don’t often have the time to be picky.  That’s a recipe for a turnover for anyone, not just Tony Romo.  And yet, none of that even comes into play if your defense can hold on to a 23-point lead in the second half.

On Sunday, a clearly gimpy Romo led his team to the winning score.  “Oh, that’s just one time!” people said.  And yet, according to ESPN’s Stats and Info Twitter feed (a very good follow, by the way), Peyton Manning has the most game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime since 2006 with 25.  Tied for second?  Tony Romo!  Over the last eight years, only one man has led his team to victory late in the game more often than Romo.

Of course, the losses stick out more than the wins.  Part of that is the prominence of the Cowboys in the national spotlight: success and failures alike are magnified when you play for “America’s Team.”  But keep this in mind as well: the reason that Romo has had so many opportunities to lead game-winning drives – and game-losing drives, as it were – is because the Cowboys play a lot of close games.  That’s not just Romo’s fault.  That’s on the player personnel people, the coaching staffs, and the other 52 guys on the roster.  The Cowboys simply haven’t been very good over the last eight years.

As an Eagles fan, I obviously hope that the Cowboys lose on Sunday night.  As someone who is tired of the constant bashing of Tony Romo, I hope they do so embarrassingly in his absence.

Hate Me Now

Today is the three-year anniversary of “The Decision,” when LeBron James went on ESPN and had an hour-long special devoted to where he was going to sign as a free agent.  In the end, James tore out the hearts of Cleveland fans on national television and said he was going to “take [his] talents to South Beach” and play for the Miami Heat.

I remember the few days leading up to “The Decision,” when rumors ran rampant.  Miami, they said.  Chicago is the winner.  It’s going to be New York.  And then even the announcement of the announcement became a big deal.  I followed the story from a hotel lobby in San Francisco; I was in town for a convention, and there was free wireless downstairs.

(Side note: when you send people emails from the West Coast at midnight local time, and they’re back East and see you sent it at 3:00 in the morning, they assume you were drunk.  Just so you know.)

I got home in time to turn on the TV for the last half hour or so of the show.  I had nothing better to do, so why not?  When you know everyone is going to be talking about something the next day, it makes it that much easier to tune in, even if the whole idea seems self-serving.

In the end, that’s exactly how it turned out.  James went to Miami, and the hate flowed from every corner of the country.  The introduction of new signings James and Chris Bosh, alongside the newly-extended Dwyane Wade, the next day in Miami made things even worse.  Somehow, a guy who was arguably the league’s best player had become its biggest villain.

During the 2010-11 season, the Heat got off to a rough start, and sports fans laughed.  “We knew it wouldn’t work,” we cried.  And yet the Heat found themselves in the NBA Finals, taking on the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of the 2006 Finals.  “The Big 3,” as the Heat’s new core was known, couldn’t stop Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and the rest of the Mavericks as Dallas rode a team-first mentality (and no doubt the support of everyone outside the city of Miami) to the franchise’s first title.

Let me put that in perspective: America’s hatred for LeBron James turned Mark Cuban, the flashy, polarizing owner of the Mavericks, into the good guy during the series.

As the general populace decried Miami’s strategy of surrounding three superstars with cheap, veteran role players, it seems we forgot one thing: the Heat still had LeBron James, the best basketball player alive, for another three seasons.  Two of those seasons have now passed, and all James did was win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, the Finals, and the Finals MVP award.  Twice.

So while “The Decision” was widely (and deservedly) panned, and the irrational ire of a suddenly moral police state was directed towards South Florida, all James did was do, literally, all he could do.  And now he’s a two-time champion.

Which was kind of the point.  When James signed with Miami, people claimed he was admitting that he couldn’t be the top dog on a championship-caliber team.  “This is Wade’s team,” they said.  That may have been the case that first season, but ever since, this has been James’ team – heck, you could say this is James’ league – and Wade and everyone else just had to hold on for the ride.

Nowadays, we only talk about “The Decision” when pundits (or their networks) remind us about it.  That’s what winning does.  Beyond that, despite his public relations misstep, LeBron James has defined greatness for his era in the last two seasons, and that, more than any accumulation of rings, is what makes people forget that one night in July of 2010.