They are two southern drawls that reside in separate worlds.
One’s a Texas man; the other wants to be.
One’s interested in building a franchise on country miles of good ol’ boy determination, the other pushes to keep a brand afloat that came to be an American sporting icon on the fruits of a family oil and gas business.
For years, October was Jerry Jones’ time to shine. Actually, September through February was Jones’ time.
Nolan Ryan had the summer months. When the heat stifled and the Cowboys took vacation, Ryan entertained in Texas before fading back to his ranch for winter after another championship-less baseball season.
Texas’ sporting lexicon begins and ends with football, and the Dallas Cowboys have always provided the fodder.
“America’s Team” captivated the country in the days of Aikman, Smith and Irvin.
Only the old, rugged proponents of ash wood and chaw would still say the sport is America’s pastime.
No, the times aren’t changing. The National Football League left baseball behind in popularity years ago, and that’s not about to change.
But as Halloween comes and goes and Thanksgiving awaits, there’s a metamorphosis taking place deep in Texas.
It may be only a 2010 thing, or it may last a little longer than that. Permanent it is not.
But for one October at least, this is reality: The Texas Rangers are playing more meaningful games than the Dallas Cowboys, and it’s not even close.
Yes, it has everything to do with success. The Rangers are in the World Series for the first time in franchise history, and the Cowboys—after losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday to fall to 1-6—have quickly become a million-dollar home without water and power.
But records tell only part of the story.
The Choice Separating Winners from Losers
It’s the way that the two franchises go about their business that is most telling, and it would behoove Jerry Jones to snag a couple tickets for Games 4 and 5 and head to Arlington to watch Ryan and his team operate.
The Rangers had a good club in spring training, but there’s not a soul in the world that thought they would be in the World Series this year. Outside of their locker room, that is.
That didn’t matter to Ryan. Ryan had a plan and a vision, and he didn’t set a timetable for success as the team’s president.
It began with changing the culture of the Rangers. In short, there weren’t going to be any more excuses.
To Ryan, the summers aren’t too hot in Texas to win. The ballpark isn’t too small for the Rangers to pitch well. August swoons? To hell with August swoons.
Of course, Ryan knew it began with the pitching staff. Who better to remake the psyche of a group that had been coddled and told to get through six innings without stinking up the joint until the offense could come rescue them?
Ryan wanted winners, and he wanted tough men. To Ryan, losing was a choice, and it was a choice his team wasn’t going to make.
Why else do you think guys like Colby Lewis—who earned this opportunity by succeeding in Japan—have carved up the New York Yankees and everyone else this October? Ryan took their talent and made them believers, he made them set standards and live up to them.
Nothing would test Ryan’s conviction and sense more than when news broke in March of manager Ron Washington’s positive cocaine test.
Here’s a franchise that was trying to rebuild its image, trying to earn the trust and respect of its fan base, and the skipper dabbled in coke?
Washington walked into Ryan’s office and asked to resign. He told general manager Jon Daniels that he would be long gone as soon as they wanted him to be.
That would have been easy.
But if Ryan was going to continue to talk of accountability and professionalism to his organization—undoubtedly the toughest pitches of his life—then he couldn’t take the easy way. He had to do what was right.
And so it was that Ron Washington got a second chance.
From Washington to Josh Hamilton, Ryan says that the Rangers organization is one of second chances.
“I’ll Do Whatever the Hell I’ve Got to Do”
The decision could have backfired, sure, but Ryan didn’t care.
Ryan was going to stand up and fight for the Texas Rangers, and he made Ron Washington do the same.
That theme has been apparent through Texas’ improbable run to the American League pennant and the impenetrable confidence and will of Washington has been on display throughout the World Series.
They say a man’s character shows not in times of triumph but rather in times of despair. If you wanted a peek into the hearts of Washington and Ryan, you need not look any further than their reactions after the Rangers found themselves down 2-0 to the Giants.
Washington spoke of keeping the faith and playing with confidence as the Rangers moved back home for the next three games of the series.
When Washington met with the FOX broadcasters prior to Game 3, he was asked about his decision to start Tommy Hunter in Game 4 instead of bringing Cliff Lee back on short rest. Washington stood behind Hunter.
But what if Texas was down 3-0 to San Francisco, what would Washington do then?
“I’ll do whatever the hell I’ve got to do,” Washington said.
When Ryan took the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 4, he wore a suit and tie as he toed the rubber.
It fit him, because this was a man prepared to handle business. Ryan toed the rubber as if he were throwing the first pitch of the game for Texas.
He put on that familiar snarl, looked to the plate, and fired a fastball. How hard was the pitch?
Sixty-eight miles per hour.
And with that pitch, Ryan officially set the tone for Texas.
You got the sense that Ryan believed he could come out of the bullpen to get a hitter out if need be.
Of course, he can’t, but metaphorically he had the bullpen’s—the one that has struggled mightily so far in the series—back.
From the manager to the owner to the players, it’s been a “we” thing in Texas.
Jerry and his puppet
So how does this relate to Jerry Jones and the Cowboys?
It doesn’t, only because none of the themes and characteristics listed above have been present in Cowboys land.
Jones is the invisible hand in Dallas, the owner who wants to be the GM and the coach all while receiving the biggest piece of the financial pie.
Jones played college ball at Arkansas. He co-captained the Razorbacks 1964 National Championship team. The man knows the inner workings of a team and what it takes to be successful, which is why it’s so shocking that he refuses to run his franchise that way.
Jones—with an ego and persona befitting the moniker “Everything’s Bigger In Texas”—wants to be the star on Dallas’ helmet, he wants to be the Picasso of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl portrait.
In order to do that, he keeps Wade Phillips on as coach. Phillips is a puppet in Jones’ comedy and magic show. Jones pulls a string and Phillips responds accordingly.
Any sane person can look at the Cowboys and see there’s no life; there’s no pride. It’s not a lack of talent in Dallas that’s the issue.
The Cowboys show up week after week and accept mediocrity by continually making the same stupid mental mistakes. There’s no leader on that team to shake up the locker room and demand—not ask, demand—success and accountability.
The Cowboys used to have that, and the Rangers did not.
There’s nobody in Dallas that will look the players, fans, media, whomever, in the eye and say, “I’ll do whatever the hell I’ve got to.”
At some point, Jones will realize that he’s using the Dallas Cowboys tradition and history to accumulate dollars and not titles, and the fans aren’t going to continue to settle for that.
When Jones meets that epiphany, the Cowboys will return to the iconic franchise they became throughout the ‘90s because there’s no reason for them not to be. Every resource needed to win can be had in Dallas.
Until then, it’s the Rangers that have become the respected franchise trying to build a winning culture while the Cowboys drown in turmoil, and who ever thought that would be the case?
Follow Teddy Mitrosilis on Twitter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.