While giving full credit to the Cowboys and Tony Romo for an impressive win Wednesday night, I still think the most amazing, and telling, moment from the kickoff of the 2012 NFL season took place long before the Giants or Cowboys even hit the field.
Late in the day Forbes released its annual team value list. And sitting atop the rankings, again, was the first sports franchise to be valued, conservatively, the magazine said, at $2 billion – or, more than the GNP of roughly 40 countries.
Now, I’ll give you a few hints about the team that topped the list and you see if you can guess who it is, because I think the answer reveals an awful lot about who we are and what we value at the start of another NFL season.
OK, for starters, this $2 billion team has one playoff win in the past 15 years.
During that same span, a full one-quarter of NFL teams have nine or more playoff wins (New England leads the way with 17). So, to give you an idea of the kind of company this team keeps, the only franchises with fewer playoff wins during the last 15 years are the Bills, Bengals, Browns, Lions and the Chiefs. That means, of course, that there are fans of this $2 billion team who will more than likely graduate from high school without ever seeing this franchise in a conference championship game.
This $2 billion team also finished last or next to last in its division nine times since 1997.
This summer, the owner of this $2 billion team encouraged its fans to watch his team kick the New York Giants’ “ass” even though the defending Super Bowl champions had beaten his team seven of the past nine times. He also talked about some kind of imaginary window of opportunity closing for his team’s star players, a quaint but delusional idea considering that since 1997, his team has fewer playoff wins than the Jags, Panthers, Redskins and Dolphins.
Maybe I’m making too much of this, but what does it say about our culture -- and, especially, the so-called old-fashioned, white-socks-black-sneakers 1950s values of the NFL —- that the most popular team in the land and the one making the most cash for the past six years is also one of the worst when it comes to actually, ya know, performing on the field?
To me, it says this: The style over substance meme that has transformed the creepy, dim-witted Kardashian clan into America’s Family has now officially infected our national pastime and transformed Dallas from the once-virtuous America’s Team into something else entirely: the $2 billion Dallas Cowdashians.
Because, on further review, the similarities between America’s Family and America’s Franchise are downright creepy.
Don’t feel bad: The Kardashians charmed Esquire and Oprah while last year the Cowdashians fooled just about everyone into thinking they were Super Bowl contenders. Recently, a media watchdog group discovered that the Kardashians receive 40 times more coverage than even the most important environmental issues. Meanwhile the Cowdashians aren’t even the best NFL team in their own state and yet, for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of that other franchise, the one that actually has a shot at the Super Bowl this year.
After Wednesday night’s 24-17 throttling of the Giants, who knows how many people have jumped back on the Cowdashians' bandwagon? I saw a headline that read: "Not the Same Old Cowboys!" And one of the first tweets I read asked how many points the Cowboys would win the Super Bowl by this year. Yell at me all you want, but Jerry Jones essentially made my point about the vacuous, meaningless nature of modern “success” when he dared to call Wednesday's win “a very significant win for the franchise.”
Love ’em or hate ’em, everyone has an immediate, visceral reaction to the Kardashian “stars” and the Cowdashian five-pointed star – and that’s all that matters. For the past four seasons, the Cowdashians have occupied a $1.3 billion, three-million square-foot home field with a 72-by-106-foot TV that, technically, they co-own with the lucky taxpayers of Texas.
Meanwhile, for five seasons the Kardashians "lived" in a $6.5 million, 8,000-square-foot mansion with five Bedari 24-karat gold chandeliers and 600-year-old fountains from Italy that, technically, they never fully owned, either. (They just shot the show there.)
Kim Kardashian’s last marriage made it 72 days at a cost of $8 million, which is probably the worst coupling since the Cowdashians gave up three draft picks and $20 million guaranteed to Roy Williams.
Wanna see Kim do what she’s rich and famous for (absolutely nothing) in person? It will cost you up to $75,000. Wanna watch the Cowdashians do what they are famous for (blowing fourth-quarter leads)? It will cost a family of four up to $800.
Ya see? I’m telling you, even the members of each family are getting harder and harder to differentiate.
Jones has built one of the least successful teams on the field into a $2 billion global empire. Kris Jenner, no stranger to a little plastic surgery herself -- or the occasionally stupid publicity stunt or headline-making quote -- has built what Barbara Walters once categorized as “no talent” into a reported $70 million in annual income for her team.
But it’s not just the money -- it’s what they spend it on. With billions at his disposal, Jones might not have a single decent backup on his offensive line, but dude’s got a guy specifically assigned just to sit in his luxury suite and clean his glasses while he conducts business. (His son-in-law, it turns out.) Jenner has the same kind of doofus in her corner. His name is Ryan Seacrest.
Tony Romo? Looks pretty good on film, has an affinity for clubs (golf), has had a thing for singers and has rather impressive stats -- but when placed under any kind of pressure often turns to mush. Also seeks a large, bejeweled, one-of-a-kind ring. Kim Kardashian? Ditto.
Bruce Jenner, Olympic gold medalist, once considered the greatest American athlete, has been dragged into reality TV muck and reduced to an insecure, surgically altered cuckold. Meanwhile, after his performance Wednesday, Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware now has 101.5 sacks during his eight-year career. Ware is arguably the most dominant defensive player of his era, but because the Cowboys have yet to make a deep playoff run, his athletic gifts also go largely underappreciated.
Scott Disick is talented but troubled and performs well in the limelight, but he is often out of control and his own worst enemy, leading him to turn great opportunities into endless disappointment. Meet Dez Bryant.
Khloe seems like the most normal one, and Kourtney seems underrated. So I guess that makes them Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray. Murray rushed for 131 yards against the Giants, and Witten returned early from a lacerated spleen to inspire his teammates. (On a side note: Witten was, of course, immediately glorified by the media for his guts and warrior mentality even though we had all just spent the entire offseason declaring this kind of mentality to be dangerous and damaging to the future of football. Proving, once again, that we all care deeply about the safety and well-being of the players — right up until kickoff.)
Rob Kardashian was a tough one. I mean, who do you compare a sartorially challenged, weepy, spoiled, potential sock mogul to on the Cowdashians? How about former Dallas wideout Joey Galloway who, in return for $42 million and two first-round picks, produced 12 TDs in four seasons?
Kanye West. Amazing musical talent whose association to the Kardashians seems to be slowly sucking out all of his mojo. His counterpart? Eminem. Amazing musical talent whose association to the Cowdashians (based on an interview with GQ last year) seems to be slowly sucking out all of his mojo. You’ve heard "Love the Way You Lie," right?
And then there’s Kris Humphries, a mediocre pro athlete who spent $2 million on a 20 1/2-carat engagement ring for a marriage that lasted 72 days. Not the most solid long-term planner in the world, right? Kinda reminds me of former NFL backup QB and current Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. He, too, has struggled mightily with long-term planning, especially late in games and including against the Giants when a potential game-clinching first down for the Cowboys was negated by a holding penalty.
Luckily, Romo bailed out the ’Boys by capping an amazing performance with a 34-yard TD to Miles Austin on the very next play. The throw clinched what I still can't believe Jones called a “a really special” win. Which is exactly what you say when it’s clear that you have virtually no other significant wins to refer to during the past 15 years and the true reality of the situation has already begun to hit home.
That no matter how many billions they're worth or how much popularity they have, until they actually win or accomplish something meaningful, inside the hollow reality in which they rule (and we all happily reside), the Kardashians and Cowdashians will never be anything more than a warm-up act for Honey Boo Boo Child.