Dallas last played Cleveland to open 2008 regular season.
The headline itself may not jump out as some surprising news. After all, shirts, hats and other NFL attire are nothing new for the American football fan.
But when Dallas Morning News reported the Dallas Cowboys are offering a commemorative t-shirt celebrating this weekend’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Super Bowl t-shirts featuring the two contestants are one thing.
But a t-shirt that highlights a matchup between these two teams is nothing short of astonishing, at least when you look passed the “Old School Match Up” angle of this particular shirt.
I can’t say I have clear recollection of the other time the Cowboys offered a regular season matchup t-shirt but I do believe it has happened. So long as this is true, I’ll bet that t-shirt commemorated a game between two teams better than this one.
The Browns are in serious contention for only one thing: The first overall pick in the NFL draft next April. Only Jacksonville and Kansas City have fewer than Cleveland’s two wins this season. So there is still time for the Browns to catch up—or should I say fall below—the Jaguars or Chiefs.
And for the low, low price of only $21.99, you can have a t-shirt celebrating the fact that a lousy football team not from Dallas made its way to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
To start with, there’s nothing “old school” about this football game. Obviously the Browns are in no way related to the Jim Brown or Otto Graham era, especially given Cleveland only started playing in the NFL in 1999.
That’s right, the franchise Brown played for now resides in Baltimore, which replaced the departed Colts who left for Indianapolis way back in the early 1980s.
Then again, NFL Network will offer NFL “classic game” re-broadcasts that feature a contest that was played within the last two years.
No, the Browns are not “old school” and neither are the Cowboys. Brown or Roger Staubach might very well be there in a suite, but obviously not playing. These two franchises offer nothing that resembles the success both have enjoyed in decades past.
The mere fact I have to use the words “decades past” really speaks volumes about the state of these floundering franchises.
Dallas and Cleveland succeeded at a time when football was still football. Wide receivers got hit even when they didn’t catch the ball—and there was no flag thrown. Players didn’t make so much money league owners had to start dumbing down the very product fans embraced because of financial considerations.
And you didn’t have retired officials appearing as guests on television, along with play-by-play teams, simply to convince the viewing public a given call was right or wrong.
And you certainly didn’t have the ridiculous idea of free agency and salary caps, which create a never-ending supply of players playing their former teams every single year.
Each game didn't have to have an American flag the size of Connecticut stretched across field the and football players never, ever wore pink for a quarter of the season.
I’m too young to have ever watched Brown run over linebackers and secondaries as both the strongest and fastest player on the field. I barely remember anything about Staubach and “Doomsday”. I was just too busy with my Jedi Knight training back then.
But even the football I did watch beginning in the early 1980s through the early 1990s was much more “old school” than anything we all see today.
Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones likely hatched this idea during the offseason when the team was lining up sponsorships and promotions for each home game, regardless of whether or not Dallas might win a few.
And perhaps that is getting to my point.
Instead of trying to figure out how to make another buck while there’s already plenty, start applying those funds towards a better football team. This is what Jones tries to sell each and every year and for several of his first seasons it worked.
But we are so far beyond associating Dallas with the rest of the league’s contenders it just doesn’t work anymore. This is not like asking “what have you done for me lately?’
Decades is not lately, at least in my book.
About the only thing interesting about this game is the fact that Browns' soon-to-be-unemployed president Mike Holmgren should be in attendance.
If so, Jones needs to bring him one of those shirts and convince him the blue star on the right helmet is a heck of a lot cooler than the construction-zone orange on the left one.
Tell me Jones will do this and I’ll buy a case of those tees.