Even Cowboys lovers get the blues US News & World Report, Sept 11, 1989 by Lynn Rosellini new Everybody in Dallas has an opinion, even people who don't like football. They either hate Jerry Jones or they love Jimmy Johnson or they think the cheerleaders' situation is "shocking" or "tasteless" or 'Just another thing Jones is thrusting down our throats." More than 4,700 angry callers telephoned the Dallas Times Herald when legendary Cowboys Coach Tom Landry was fired, and psychologist Franklin Lewis, who has practiced in Dallas for 17 years, says he has never seen anything like it. "Virtually every patient I see, male and female, eventually gets around to mentioning Jerry Jones in a less than endearing way," he says. "It has given people an avenue to vent a lot of unresolved anger." Who is Jerry Jones, and why are he and the Cowboys giving Texans fits? The answers are not entirely clear, but they somehow involve rap music, an $11 million quarterback who has never thrown a regular-season pass, cheerleaders who either will or will not be required to wear biker pants during games and a town whose collective self-image seems to rest on 45 men in helmets and cleats. When the Cowboys meet the New Orleans Saints in the regular season opener next Sunday, "America's Team," the worst club in the NFL last year, will for the first time in iis 29year history be under new management. There will be a new owner (Jones) and a new coach (Johnson). There will be a new defense, a new 2-minute offense and, if training camp is any indication, a variety of expletives that have not been heard on the field at Texas Stadium since it was built in 1971. There will be new music, too, and it will not be country and western. But we're getting ahead of the story. To understand why this newness is turning the town upside down, you first have to understand Dallas, which has always been a bit of a puzzle to the rest of America. It is a mix of good ol' boys, Bible-totin' conservatives and new urban sophisticates clustered upon tbe scorched Texas plains beneath an incongruous scattering of gleaming new skyscrapers. Dallas never does things by halves. Banks thrive or go under, real estate soars or office buildings go vacant and the Cowboys are brilliant or disastrous. When the team was founded as part of the NFL's expansion in the early 1960s, Dallas suffered from a flat economy and a cow-town reputation colored by images of violence and ultraconservatism. "The Kennedy assassination was very traumatic for the people of Dallas," recalls former Cowboys President Tex Schramm. "They were held up to a lot of ridicule." But the Cowboys seemed to offer Dallasites something different. Coach Tom Landry was a devout Christian who seemed as upright and unflappable as John Wayne. Schramm was the epitome of Texas ebullience and optimism. Quarterback Roger Staubach, a former Navy man, was someone mothers could love. More important, the Cowboys were winners. Between 1966 and 1983, the team compiled a record of 209-81-2, including 18 consecutive winning seasons, 13 division championships and five Super Bowl appearances. No wonder the town filled Texas Stadium to overflowing on game days, creating traffic jams on Highway 183. In time, of course, both town and team would fall on hard times again. But while fans might bemoan the losing record (3-13 last year), call for Landry's dismissal and even stay away from tbe stadium on game days, one thing didn't change. "The Cowboys," says Times Herald Editor Roy Bode, "are still the soul of Dallas." An owner from Arkansas. At least they were until last February. Jerral Jones, 46, is a tall, slender, passionate man whose words tumble over each other in a soft drawl. All he wanted was to have a winning football team and to have his old college buddy, Jimmy Johnson, coach it. "I regret that my enthusiasm can be mistaken at times for being insensitive " he says sitting in his new office at Cowboys Center, where a Darth Vader helmet rests on a shelf amid Cowboys paraphernalia. On February 25, Jones, an Arkansas oilman whose lifelong dream was to own a pro football team, bought the Cowboys for $140 million from owner Bum Bright, a local businessman hard hit by the declining Texas economy. On the same day, Jones painted a Cowboys helmet on the tail of his Learjet, summarily fired Landry and announced at a press conference that Schramm would no longer run the organization.It was hard to tell what bothered people more: Jones's heavy-handed treatment of Landry and Schramm or the simple fact that a non-Texan had bought the Cowboys at a time when all the town's major banks and much of the downtown real estate had been sold to out-ofstaters. Then, too, Jones was an Arkansan, which many Texans halfseriously consider a species of barefoot hick. Columnists likened him to Jed Clampett of "The Beverly Hillbillies," and before long a bumper sticker began appearing on Dallas cars: "Money Can't Buy Class, Mr. Jones." Outraged cheerleaders. Jones tried to ignore it. In a coup that half a dozen NFL owners might have envied, he hired Johnson, the winning coach at the University of Miami. Jones drafted standout quarterbacks Troy Aikman (UCLA) and Steve Walsh (Miami) and set about slashing the vast Cowboys front office, one of the league's most expensive. But every time the new owner opened his mouth, he seemed to get into trouble. One day, he decided he wanted to modernize the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Thirteen cheerleaders got mad and quit, and by the time they returned three days later, the controversy had drawn more local outrage than the Supreme Court flag-burning case. Outsiders can't understand how some of the suggested changes, like Spandex biker pants or allowing cheerleaders to date layers, could sully the image of women who regularly appear semiclad in suggestive poses in the Dallas Cowboys Weekly centerfold. But as with religion and football, the cheerleaders' blend of sex and innocence seems to hold a special, tamper-resistant place in the hearts of Texans. This time, Jones quickly scheduled a press conference and said he was misunderstood. Only one thing about the cheerleaders would change. There would be no more band, no more beloved country and western tunes like "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." The cheerleaders would perform to rap, rock and soul. The unlikely source for that idea was Jimmy Johnson. "I want music that will make people get up and dance," he said. Johnson, 45, has his fingers in everything. He thought the band was old-fashioned and complained to Jones, who eliminated it. He felt that old Cowboys retainers cost the club too much, so he took away their free tickets. He likes practicing in hot weatherthinks it toughens the men-so he is considering moving training camp from California to Dallas, though some think he's nuts, given Dallas's 100-plus-degree summer days. Johnson's extraordinary authority flows from his longtime relationship with Jones (as Arkansas roommates, they used to lie awake at night and dream aloud of keeping football in their lives forever). But if Jones is a PR disaster, Johnson is a natural: Big, pudgy, jolly, direct. Perhaps because of his style, perhaps because of his track record (his Miami teams went 52-9 in the past five years), the local media have been easier on Johnson than on Jones, saving the worst barbs not for his coaching but his blown-dry hair, Still, for Cowboys aficionados, the jolt of seeing an interloper where Landry once reigned is almost visceral. In jacket, tie and fedora, Landry paced the sidelines even on the hottest days, displaying a decorum he expected of players. He never used rofanity and only an occasional clenched jaw or refri erated glare indicated that the Great Stone Face was displeased. By contrast, Johnson yells a lot. When a player collapsed with asthma in 96-degree heat during minicamp in July, Johnson screamed at his prone form: "Asthma, my ***! Get out of here!" Unlike Landry, who rarely got personally involved with his players, Johnson sees his job primarily as a motivator and says, "I try to get to know every individual so I can bring out the best in him." Not surprisingly, Cowboys practices look a lot more like the Southwest Conference than the NFL these days, with players chattering, coaches shouting and Johnson trotting up and down the field during scrimmages exhorting: "Who's gonna make the play?" After the first minicamp, he even rewarded the players with a barbecue and beer party. "The last time I had a coach like this I was a sophomore in high school," marvels linebacker Jeff Rohrer. Certainly, NFL history is littered with successful college coaches who couldn't make it in the pros, and Johnson will need more than sixpacks and rah-rah to tum the Cowboys into America's Team again. Still, there's an enthusiasm around the Cowboys locker room tbat hasn't been seen since 1985-the last winning season. Chatter on the line of scrimmage is O.K. now, and so are creative spikes and end-zone dances. "We were crying for a change around here," says wide receiver Mike Irvin. "The attitude now is so different you can almost touch it." Whether that new attitude will win converts in Dallas may not be evident for months to come. In an office just two exits down the freeway from Cowboys Center, Tex Schramm wipes away tears when he speaks of his old team"There's such a thing as winning," he says, "and then there's such a thing as winning with a particular style and class." Still, one suspects that if the Cowboys duplicate their preseason victories, columnists will pen paeans to Jones and the fans will jam the stadium all over again, perhaps even start wearing the famous Arkansas Razorback snouts along with Cowboys silver and blue. Before long, Schramm's devotion to the past could be little more than a romantic throwback. For even in Dallas, no tradition counts quite as much as winning. COPYRIGHT 1989 All rights reserved.