Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Long It's Been: The Dallas Cowboys Reached a Super Bowl

In 2013, to promote is new coverage of English soccer's Premier League, NBC had Jason Sudeikis play Ted Lasso, a former NFL coach who had been hired to manage that other "football," specifically North London's Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

Like pretty much everything associated with "Spurs," it was laughable, and he didn't last long. Part of his "learning curve" was learning to associate teams in his new league with teams in his old one:

Assistant: "Manchester United. Super-rich. Everybody either loves them or hates them."
Ted: "Dallas Cowboys."
Assistant: "Liverpool. Used to be great. Haven't won a title in a really long time."
Ted: "Also, Dallas Cowboys."

And the Cowboys got knocked out of the Playoffs over this weekend, losing a thriller at home to the Green Bay Packers, the real "America's Team."

Cowboy fans who talked smack online all season long look like idiots now. I mean, more so than usual. The last time their team won a Super Bowl, it was rather hard to talk smack online, because the Internet was pretty much just message boards.

The Cowboys haven't even played in a Super Bowl since January 28, 1996. That's about to be 21 years. How long has that been?

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Barry Switzer was coaching a team led by "The Triplets": Quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, and receiver Michael Irvin. Other stars included Nate Newton, Larry Allen, Mark Tuinei, Jay Novacek, Darrell "Moose" Johnston, Charles Haley, Russell Maryland, Deion Sanders, Darren Woodson, and... Leon Lett? "Not Leon Lett!"

Aikman, Irvin, Novacek, Johnston and Sanders are all now part of NFL broadcast teams. Aikman, Smith, Irvin and Sanders are now in he Pro Football Hall of Fame. Aikman, Smith and Irvin are also in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor.

The Denver Broncos, the Los Angeles Rams (then in their St. Louis sojourn), the Cleveland Browns franchise that was in the process of becoming the Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Colts since moving to Indianapolis, and the New Orleans Saints had never won a Super Bowl. The Patriots, the Browns/Ravens, the Buccaneers, the Seahawks, the Indy version of the Colts, the Saints, the Atlanta Falcons, the Tennessee Titans (having just completed their next-to-last season as the Houston Oilers), the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals had never even been in one. All those facts are now untrue.

The Cowboys were playing in Texas Stadium in Irving. The Pittsburgh Steelers, whom they beat, were playing in Three Rivers Stadium. Both have moved to new stadiums, and their old ones have been demolished. Super Bowl XXX was played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. While Arizona State University still plays football there, the Cardinals have moved to the other side of the Phoenix suburbs, to Glendale, and have hosted 2 Super Bowls there.

Of the 30 teams playing in the 1995-96 NFL season, only 7 are still playing in the same stadiums: Buffalo, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, New Orleans and Oakland. (That doesn't count the Chargers, now in the process of moving from San Diego to Los Angeles.)

Early NFL legends Sammy Baugh, Don Hutson and Sid Luckman were still alive. Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were in college. Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger were in high school. Aaron Rodgers was 12 years old, Clay Matthews and Ndamukong Suh were 9, Richard Sherman was about to turn 8, Russell Wilson was 7; Cam Newton, Rob Gronkowski and Andrew Luck were 6; Odell Beckham Jr. and Johnny Manziel were 3, and Marcus Mariota was 2. Derek Jeter had 12 hits in his major league career, LeBron James was 11, and Sidney Crosby was 8.

Current Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was Aikman's backup as Cowboys quarterback. Todd Bowles was an assistant with the Packers, Ben McAdoo was attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Terry Collins was managing the Houston Astros, Joe Girardi was playing for the Yankees, Jeff Hornacek was playing for the Utah Jazz, Kenny Atkinson was playing in Spain's basketball league, Alain Vignault was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators, Jack Capuano was an assistant coach with the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, and John Hynes was playing at Boston University.

In winning their 3rd title in a span of 4 years -- it remains a unique feat since the beginning of the Super Bowl era -- the Cowboys dethroned the San Francisco 49ers as NFL Champions. The other titleholders at that point were the New Jersey Devils, the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Rockets. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was... well, it was Bruce Seldon according to the WBA, Frank Bruno according to the WBC, and the title was vacant according to the IBF, last held by the second coming of George Foreman. There was no current holder of the MLS Cup, as MLS was still 3 months away from beginning its 1st season.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America twice, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain, Russia and Brazil. The World Cup has since been held in France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

Bill Clinton was beginning his campaign for a 2nd term as President. Conservatives were obsessing over Hillary Clinton's paper documents. Former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, their wives, and the widow of Lyndon Johnson were all still alive. (Both Fords, both Reagans, and Lady Bird Johnson have since died.) George W. Bush was in his 1st term as Governor of Texas. Barack Obama was practicing law with the Chicago firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland. And Donald Trump, while not screwing over anybody he could with his businesses, was still cheating on his 2nd wife, Marla Maples. Melania Knauss was still modeling in Milan and Paris, and may not even have met her future husband yet.

The Mayor of Dallas was Ron Kirk. Current Mayor Mike Rawlings was then Chairman of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Governor of the State of New York was George Pataki. The Mayor of the City of New York was Rudolph Giuliani. The Governor of New Jersey was Christine Todd Whitman. Andrew Cuomo was Assistant Secretary of Housing & Urban Development.

Only 4 of the Justices on the Supreme Court then are still on it now: Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. The current holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was Joseph Rotblat, a Polish physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb, then spent the last 60 years of his life working to prevent its use. The Pope was John Paul II. The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chretien, and of Britain John Major. Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne, and she still is. Blackburn Rovers were the holders of the Premier League title, and Everton of the FA Cup.

Major novels of 1996 included several political stories, in anticipation of the year's Presidential election: Absolute Power by David Baldacci, Executive Orders by Tom Clancy, and Primary Colors, a barely-veiled portrait of Bill Clinton's 1992 New Hampshire Primary campaign, whose author was originally listed as simply "Anonymous," but was later revealed to be Newsweek reporter Joe Klein.

Other big novels of the year included The Fourth Estate by Jeffrey Archer, Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding, The Runaway Jury by John Grisham, The Green Mile by Stephen King, Intensity by Dean R. Koontz, How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Jeff Shaara's Civil War story Gods and Generals, and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. (Oops, I talked about it.)

The 1st book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, which gave its name to the TV series covering all the books in it: A Game of Thrones. Natalie Dormer was about to turn 14. Richard Madden, Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington were 9, and Rose Leslie was about to be 9. Jack Gleeson was 3, Sophie Turner would be born 24 days later, Maisie Williams 15 months later, and Dean-Charles Chapman 20 months later. The Harry Potter books had yet to be published. Daniel Radcliffe was 6, and Emma Watson was 5.

January 1996 was not a good month for movies: It saw the release of Dunston Checks In, Bio-Dome, From Dusk till Dawn, and the parody of gangsta rap movies Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. Television saw the debuts of 3rd Rock from the Sun on NBC, Moesha on UPN, and the much-mocked "glow puck" on Fox Sports' hockey broadcasts. Aside from Robert Kardashian Sr., part of O.J. Simpson's recent defense team, none of the Kardashians were famous yet: Kourtney was 16, Kim was 15, Khloe as 11, Rob as 8, Kendall Jenner was 3 months old, and Kylie Jenner wasn't born yet.

Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men had the Number 1 song in America with "One Sweet Day." Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce from Michael Jackson, although they remained friends for the rest of his life. Jamaican authorities, mistaking it for that of a drug trafficker, open fire on a plane carrying Bono and Jimmy Buffett; it lands safely, with no injuries. Jonathan Larson died at age 35 of an undetected heart defect, just 1 day after his musical Rent was to have its 1st public performance, which went forward anyway. Kid Rock released his debut album, Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp. (He sure looked stoned on the cover.)

Stana Katic, Katie Holmes, Heath Ledger, Pink, Michelle Williams (both of them), Ben Savage, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Chris Evans, Beyonce Knowles, Britney Spears, Sienna Miller, Kate Middleton, Hayley Atwell and Kirsten Dunst were in high school. Matt Smith, Anne Hathaway and Andrew Garfield were in junior high. Lady Gaga and Drake were 9 years old, Kevin Jonas was 8, Rihanna and Emma Stone were 7, Joe Jonas was 6, Sarah Hyland was 5, Louis Tomlinson was 4; Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Zayn Malik were 3; Ariana Grande, Liam Payne and Niall Horan were 2, and Harry Styles and Justin Bieber were about to turn 2; and Abigail Breslin, Ariel Winter, Rico Rodriguez and Nolan Gould weren't born yet.

A U.S. postage stamp was 32 cents, and a New York Subway token -- or a single ride on the newly-developed MetroCard -- was $1.50. Dallas doesn't have a subway, but since 1996, it has developed a light rail system. The average price of a gallon of gas was $1.32, a cup of coffee $1.79, a McDonald's meal (Big Mac, fries and shake) $4.11, a movie ticket $4.42, a new car $13,600, and a new house $118,200. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the preceding Friday at 5271.75.

The first tablet computer was about to be released. But, as yet, there was no Wikipedia, no iPod, no Skype, no MySpace, no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter, no Tumblr, no iPhone, no Pinterest, no Instagram, no iPad, and no Vine. Motorola had just introduced the Motorola StarTAC Wearable Cellular Telephone, the world's smallest and lightest mobile phone to date. Finally, instead of clipping a mobile phone onto your belt, you could fit on in your pocket. But you still couldn't access the fledgling Internet from your phones.

At the beginning of 1996, 30 inches of snow were dumped on the Northeast, a storm that killed over 150 people. Fighting broke out between Russian soldiers and rebel fighters in Chechnya. Coup took place in the African nations of Sierra Leone and Niger. Haiti, on the other hand, has its 1st-ever peaceful transfer of power. And Amber Hagerman, age 9, was murdered in Arlington, Texas, not far from where the Texas Rangers played and where the Cowboys would move in 2009; she became the namesake of the AMBER Alert system.

Francois Mitterand, and Gene Kelly, and Superman creator Jerry Siegel died. Sasha Pieterse, and Tyler Ulis, and D'Angelo Russell were born.

January 28, 1996. The Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 at Sun Devil Stadium, to win Super Bowl XXX, their 3rd World Championship in 4 years, and the 5th World Championshipin their history.

They have never even been to another Super Bowl. In the 21 years since, the Dallas Mavericks have been to 2 NBA Finals, winning 1; the Dallas Stars have been to 2 Stanley Cup Finals, winning 1; FC Dallas have been founded, won 2 U.S. Open Cups, and reached an MLS Cup Final; and the Texas Rangers have won 2 Pennants, although they haven't won a World Series, but at least they've been to their sport's finals.

AT&T Stadium, the new Arlington home of the Cowboys, hosted Super Bowl XLV on February 6, 2011, and many Cowboys fans thought that they would become the 1st team ever to play a Super Bowl on its own field. It didn't happen.

Since Super Bowl XXX, the title has been won by the New England Patriots 4 times, the Denver Broncos 3 times, the Green Bay Packers twice (including the one in Arlington), the Baltimore Ravens twice, the Pittsburgh Steelers twice, the New York Giants twice, and once each by the Rams (then in St. Louis), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks.

But for 21 years, the Cowboys haven't even been to one. That means, come January 28, 2017, just 11 days from now, a person born on the day the Cowboys last won it can legally buy a drink and toast the Cowboys' entire generation of failures.

HOW 'BOUT DEM COWBOYS? DALLAS SUCKS!

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