Buffalo's chrome-domed quarterback Jim Kelly denies getting a $200,000 bonus for playing in the Bills' conference championship victory, which bonus (if real) he deserved and earned but which (real or not) came under question because he rushed back to work from an injury, maybe too soon, and so sent the sainted savior Frank Reich to the bench.
The three innocent football fans in the land may accept Kelly's denial as gospel truth. The rest of us figure he got the $200,000 and good for him. The question this week is how big a bonus Jim Kelly gets if he's the quarterback when Buffalo wins a Super Bowl.
What do you think, $250,000? Half a million?
Maybe he gets Niagara Falls? A week in Toronto? A lifetime supply of Rogaine's?
My friend Tom the World's Youngest Curmudgeon has a theory on this Super Bowl. He believes God would not have people live in Buffalo and lose the Super Bowl three years in a row. So he's picking the Bills by a touchdown "provided Thurman Thomas finds his hat."
Two things wrong with Tom's analysis. First, God can be curmudgeonly. He has allowed Michael Jackson to perform at both President Clinton's inauguration and the Super Bowl halftime show. What did we do to deserve that? So it would be no surprise to this reporter if a white-out blizzard buries Buffalo about when the score reaches 35-0, Dallas.
Second, the Cowboys are just too good. They ride into town telling you what they're going to do, which is beat you up real bad, and they're so good at it that when they're done doing it you want to rise up off the saloon floor to thank 'em for the honor of being beat up so expertly.
Thinking here of two plays when the Cowboys beat up the mighty 49ers, a Super Bowl bunch any other year. First came a late fourth-and-one when the Dallas brain, Jimmy Johnson, said no to a field goal because he wanted to stomp the 49ers deep into the Candlestick mud. That the play failed, and that it gave San Francisco one last chance to win means nothing. Had Emmitt Smith made the first down, the score likely would have wound up 31-13.
Instead, the 49ers marched to a touchdown and then had the Cowboys backed up. Visions of a miracle finish: stop the Cowboys here, get the ball back and win on the last play. Instead, even deep in their territory, the Cowboys threw a pass, a play full of dire possibilities which, when it went for 70 yards, became absolute proof that these Cowboys are more than fearless. They're mean. They're arrogant. They're H. Ross Perot on steroids.
To beat the Cowboys, the Bills must run with the ball and they must not allow Dallas to hand the ball to Emmitt Smith or throw it to Michael Irvin. Fat chance of that. These Bills were bad enough to fall into a 35-3 hole against the Houston Oilers. No way they can beat a Dallas team good enough to score 30 and win by 10 in San Francisco's mudhole.
What we have in these Cowboys, I'm sorry to say, are new Cowboys like the old Cowboys. You remember those days. The Cowboys irritated the bejesus out of most right-thinking folks by winning so much and being smarty-pants about it. You remember Roger Staubach. He threw 711 last-minute passes that flew under a bridge, through a tunnel, out the side window of a speeding train and into Drew Pearson's hands to win big games.
A famous piece of NFL Films footage shows Sam Wyche in his youth as a third-string quarterback who carried the clipboard for Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer at Washington. As a Cowboy ball-carrier is hurled down near the Washington bench, Wyche, caught up in the emotion of a rare victory against Dallas, cries to the fallen man, "Die, you yellow dog, DIE!"
It was, in the NFL, an almost-universal sentiment seldom expressed so sweetly. And then came a blessed patch of time when the Cowboys could do nothing right. The impossibly rich owner went impossibly bankrupt and had to sell. The new owner, tired of this broken toy, sold the team again--and not to a Texan but to a foreigner, an oil man . . . from Arkansas!
First thing this Jed Clampett did was fire the genius Tom Landry and hire his University of Arkansas buddy, the hard-haired Johnson, who'd been busy winning national championships with, and posting bond for, the wayward youth of the University of Miami.
The Cowboys went 1-15 in Johnson's first season. Lordy, it was morning in America! And Jerry Jones, just because he paid $100 million for the team, thought he could tell the Cowboys cheerleaders to wear halter tops and spandex bicycle shorts. The cheerleaders resisted because, no matter if columnist Molly Ivins called them "open-air coochie girls," they'd have you know they were wholesome, clean-cut, sweet young thangs who often visited nursing homes. Anyone who thought they just jiggled a lot was wrong as could be. So there.
History records the cheerleader issue as a defeat for Jerry Jones. The cheerleaders still wear their Puritanical outfits of old, each outfit larger than most men's handkerchiefs.
But, again sorry to say, Jones and Johnson won most of their battles in the last four years. They hoodwinked Minnesota in the Herschel Walker-for-an-army trade. They made Troy Aikman a winner beyond doubt. They turned Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin loose. They built a defense that will beat you up expertly.
Just when we thought the Cowboys might be this decade's Tampa Bay--what a delicious thought--Jimmy Johnson turns out to be one helluva coach who did in Dallas what great coaches did at Green Bay, San Francisco, New York and Washington: He made a dying yellow dog sit up and take a bite out of the world's rear end.