As an Eagles fan, I’ve long despised the NFL’s pro-Cowboy bias – from the Michael Irvin Push-Off Era through those incriminating paparazzi shots of the league’s officiating director chumming with some healthy-looking girls on Jerry Jones’ party bus.
Nothing makes me fume like the Retired Cowboys Affirmative Action Program. That one offers high-visibility network jobs to veterans of the blue-and-silver whether they’re qualified or not. So Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Jimmy Johnson and Deion Sanders have all gotten to bark nonsense into your living room.
And now Tony Romo. The Cowboys goofy-looking QB retired last week after a 13-season career in which he won two playoff games. He was immediately foisted into the No. 1 analyst’s chair at CBS. That Romo has never called a game, never relayed an insightful anecdote and never displayed a sense of humor obviously did not hinder his ascension. He wasn’t even required to audition for the coveted job.
This is wrong on several levels. As veteran broadcaster Bonnie Bernstein Tweetstormed last week, Romo’s chat-and-cut to the front of the analyst’s buffet line insults every hard-working person in the craft of TV.
“While this isn’t quantum physics,” Bernstein wrote, “it is a really difficult job with a lot of responsibility and pressure. I was just sticking up for all of the really talented former players and coaches I know, who have been busting their tails and would give anything for that gig”
Perhaps you don’t care about this. Perhaps you’re just relieved that Romo’s skyrocketing means you’ll no longer have to decipher Phil Simms on Sunday afternoons.
OK, fair enough. But consider what Romo gurgled about Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after the news broke: “I wish people would get a chance to see into his heart and the way he just loves this football team, loves his family and just loves the people that have done right by him. There's not a more loyal guy you'll ever meet.”
Hmmm. Do you sense that spreading the Gospel of Good on Old Jerry will be among Romo’s agenda items? Grab me a barf bag.
Facing a national audience as an A-team broadcaster is challenging, in part, because fans study for moments of bias. Consider how many locals loathed Dan Dierdorf back in the day, or Cris Collinsworth. Joe Buck self-mockingly heads his Twitter account with, “I love all teams EXCEPT yours.”
And now comes a guy who might as well have a blue star tattooed above each ear. When Romo’s overrated playing career was still viable, in 2013, a poll published in Forbes listed him among America’s 10 most-disliked athletes. Just 27 percent of respondents said Romo “appealed” to them – four ticks higher than Mike Vick.
I can’t imagine anything since has prompted that flaccid number to rise. And I doubt it will help putting an untrained, monotone Romo before the critical eyes of a national audience. For me, none of this is likely to change my view of the guy. I’ll always remember him for my favorite game, his 44-6 loss in Philly back in 2008.