Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Arkansas Cowboys: How Jerry Jones drank my milkshake

With the NFL season waning to an improbable Super Bowl tilt featuring the Steelers and the Cardinals, I decided that perhaps it is time to finally write a football story that has been in the back of my mind from my youth. With no big-market Giants, Patriots, Cowboys or Raiders in the mix, I think a tale of greed, treachery and misdeeds on the part of “America’s Team” might be in order. With the bust that was Adam “Pacman” Jones dominating sports highlights a week ago (by the way, just how many strip-club fights are you allotted before the league actually takes action?) and considering the Cowboys implosion to finish the season (losing 44-6 to the despised Eagles to eliminate them from playoff contention), it may seem cruel to kick them when they’re down. However, growing up in Arkansas in the days of Clinton and living through the effects of Jerry Jones and the Arkansas oil swindle, I admit it is nice to see the tables turned and have the chance to seek whatever retribution my pen will allow.

When Jerry Jones emerged from the business world and bought the floundering Cowboys franchise—and Texas Stadium—in 1989 for $140 million, he did so with such panache and charisma that most immediately trusted his good ole boy façade and you-betcha, thumbs-up, twinkle-in-the-eye demeanor. Wanting to witness the resurrection of “America’s Team,” they were willing to ignore the past and eagerly welcome a gridiron Messiah. So, how did Montgomery Burns Jerry Jones achieve the tycoon status necessary to purchase the Cowboys? He did so by swindling his own. After several failed business ventures in the 60s, the Little Rock native and former Arkansas Razorback stand-out hit it big in the 70s in oil and gas prospecting with the Jones Oil and Land Lease. However, the mythical image of Mr. Happy-go-lucky striking it rich, forwarded by Jones, is but a veneer for a hardened businessman who sold out his own for millions. Jones began drilling in Oklahoma and quickly returned back to his native Arkansas, pillaging the Natural State. Then, when his company expanded into California and Canada, how did he honor his roots: by enacting a veritable stranglehold on fuel prices through the infamous Arkla-Arkoma deal that effectively drove up fuel prices in Arkansas (and elsewhere) - a state still reeling from the Grand Gulf Affair. (Then again, I was far too young to remember any of this and I may be but another vulgar Marxist heir to the "anti-wealth and pro-scandal bias" - alas.) For a first-hand witness, my mother, who lived in Southeast Arkansas in the 80s, remembers paying $390/month in 1987 to power our 2000 sq. ft. home. What was then the Arkansas Gazette did a comparative analysis with fuel prices in other states (with higher standards of living) to reveal that Arkansas was only slightly less than twice than the national average of around $200/month. No wonder Santa never brought me the Tony Dorsett jersey I coveted—but, was it lack of funds or was mom boycotting filthy lucre?

So, it could essentially be said that the state of Arkansas bought the Cowboys for Jones. But, do they benefit from season ticket reductions the way Green Bay Packers owners-fans do? Absolutely not! A far cry from a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches tale, a more befitting literary/historical persona for Jones would be Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood. We had the land. He had the straw. He drank our milkshake… he drank it up!

Of course, many laissez-faire free-market capitalists will see no wrong with Jones’ exploitation of Arkansas, excusing it as a successful, common-place business venture. So, for you who still think it’s pardonable to turn your back on your home state, may I add that Jerry Jones has no scruples within the football microcosm either. Upon arriving at Dallas, his first big move was to fire the Cowboys’ iconic coach, WWII hero and Super Bowl champion Tom Landry, without as much as giving him the chance to develop his prize recruit UCLA’s Troy Aikman. He hired within his Arkansas/Texas/Oklahoma good ole boy network and won a few Super Bowls with his what-have-you-done-for-me-lately approach. Hiring buddies who were hot at the time, Jones fired them as soon as they had a single mediocre season. He went through coaches like Paris Hilton goes through fiancés. In the most blatant and famous example, he fired former college roommate, teammate and best friend Jimmy Johnson the season after a championship in order to hire Oklahoma’s up-start coach Barry Switzer—only to see both friendships fizzle and sour as a result. The rift exists still. Even with the championships, the Cowboys were known for just as well for criminal activity. Not to mention names, but a popular joke in the 90s went: “Why will there be no home games in Dallas this year? Because the Cowboys smoked all the grass and snorted all the lines.” Jerry Jones continues his unscrupulous patterns in hiring, taking on “Pacman” Jones, “Tank” Johnson and Terrell Owens, when other teams had labeled them as untouchables and cancerous to team unity and cohesion (and this after Owens had desecrated the Texas Stadium mid-field star seasons earlier). Believe me, Michael Vick will have a place in Dallas when he gets out of prison. Texans are catching on: a recent SI poll conducted in the Lonestar State had Jones voted as “Public Enemy #1” and Cowboys fans are growing increasingly tired of Jones antics.

So, was it pleasurable for me to watch the Eagles stomp the Cowboys on the last night of the season? Absolutely; and, the most pleasurable part was seeing the look on Jerry Jones’ face. It’s nice to kick the Cowboys when they’re down and to vindicate my Arkansas roots so many years later.


Corry Cropper said...

Is there any way we can also pin the recent economic crisis on Jones?

By the way, is it a negative that he hires the untouchables? I kind of admire him for doing that... The Cowboys are football's equivalent of cycling's Rock Racing (a team that hires riders coming off of doping suspensions). If they didn't have so much money and if Jerry Jones hadn't taken advantage and misused so many people, I might actually root for them... (I know, that's kind of like saying: "If I could jump, shoot, run, and play defense, I'd be a good basketball player.")

Anonymous said...

It is negative when Al Davis had already cornered the market on fielding felons back in the 70s. By the way, will Lance Armstrong be riding with Rock Racing any time soon?

Sad confession: it really is hard to entirely dislike someone as charismatic as Jerry Jones. There is still something charming about him

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I had no idea....

Like M Ball and Rock Racing (who barely afforded their UCI license and i think is 2/3 of the way out the door-a bank guarantee never had less meaning than in pro cycling) taking 'untouchables' in any sport has zero to do w/ any of the benevolent rhetoric espoused by M Ball, J Jones, etc.
Rather, it's an inexpensive way of attracting publicity (we know that all pub is good pub). They get to be the 'savior' for these morally estranged sinners. these athletes can almost always be grabbed at fire sale prices w/ few contract strings attached. they have little to no bargaining power and are usually more than wiling to play the contrite song and dance demanded by the owner and media alike. If they 'fail' owners are free-no, expected-to dismiss them out of hand. Seems to me a total win, win game to me.

Perhaps the best example of this can be found in the nearly decade long soap opera of Belgium's Frank Vandenbroucke. (see wikipedia's good review)In the late 90's he was heir apparent to Johan Mussieaw as Belgium's next cycling legend but the guy had/has serious mental and drug related issues including multiple suicide attempts. Nearly every year the owner of some tiny Belgian team "magnanimously" offers wayward Frank a lifeline, but of course as the good father, he will tolerate no disobedience and when Frank inevitably fails to show up at the first few races, "daddy", despite his wishes, has to fire Frank. Publicity for all, everyone's happy, except Frank who simply gets used and of course no one is really serious about helping the guy. Just like Jerry Jones.

anyway, excellent post. thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

How does one man raise oil prices? This makes no sense.

ruthellaowens said...

Anonymous...Read how two folks, the Hunt brothers brought down the silver market in the late '70's. Then filed bankruptcy to stem lawsuits, paid a pittance fine to the Federal Government. And I know you know the Enron story, which repeated itself again and again during the Bush W. years. It takes ONE man, with a scheme, to orchestrate a catastrophe. Punishment should be a hanging, instead they barely get a slap on the wrist.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha Funny story He(Arkansas Cowboys) told "How Jerry Jones drank my milkshake" I would reccomend you to See net worth of Jerry Jones at Jennifer Beals Page, You would be really surpise to know. He is now RICH as Arknasas, SO he might dont have money to drink Milkshake :P