Monday, November 13, 2006

Birth Of A Cowboy Star

Well, my Dallas Cowboys were playing live on free TV in the New York area for the seventh time in their nine games -- but unfortunately I had to work a catering gig that started the exact same time as the game: 4:00. So I not only missed a sweet Cowboys road victory (they're all sweet) that went a long way to erasing the bitter taste in their mouths from last week's disturbingly tough loss to the Redskins, but I was unable to witness Tony Romo's first of hopefully many 300-yard passing efforts. The important thing is that Dallas got the win, 27-10, over the Arizona Cardinals, whether or not I got to see it. The only damper on the day was a season-ending injury to veteran DE Greg Ellis, a team leader and one of the most underrated players in club history. But as the saying goes, you can't make the club in the tub, and you can't make any money home in bed, unless you're a prostitute or a crack 'ho, and things haven't gotten that bad. Yet.

I left the apartment a little before 3, hopped on or at least stepped lively into the N train, and took it down to Prince Street, where the rain was pouring down with depressing intensity. Luckily, the event was a cocktail party for around 100 teachers, and not a sit-down or even buffet style dinner, which of course is much more involved and tedious. The revelers were due to arrive at 6, leaving us a solid two hours to set up the room. Austin was the captain, ably assisted by yours truly, Ashley, Allysha, Efrem, Eric, and Dan. We had a bar set up, with two of the staff manning that important post, while the rest of us passed tray after tray of appetizers -- crab cakes, quesadillas, duck spring rolls, etc. We also helped set up a much smaller party at Little Red Schoolhouse, located at Bleecker & 6th Avenue, an institution of lower learning that once counted one Robert DeNiro as a student. It went off without a hitch, and we were out of there by 8:00. But even accounting for the brief length of the event, and the amount of food I sampled as the night wore on, "they" still got their money's worth. My arms are still sore from having to carry a case of 32-oz. Cokes around six blocks from one school to the other, and it still feels like a pull in my massive bicep muscles. Listen to me now, but hear me later...

I was dreading this gig, not only because it interfered with my 'Boys game, but because the last time I had worked a party at the same school -- Elizabeth Irwin at 40 Charlton Street -- it was a treacherously complicated affair, probably the hardest party I ever worked in my not quite one full year in the catering biz. The school has no elevators, so everything has to be carried up flights of stairs, including heavy dinner plates, ice, racks of glasses, etc. But for us yesterday, we had plenty of personnel and it was one of the easier gigs in recent memory.

I got home in time to catch the last three plus quarters of the Bears-Giants game on Sunday Night Football. The Bears were down 10 just before halftime, 13-3, before a quick score cut it to 3, and then the Bears just dominated the overrated Giants in the second half, winning 38-20 and leaving the Cowboys just a game behind with seven games left in the season.

QB Eli Manning came crashing back down to earth, playing a dreadful game and finishing with horrid numbers: 14-32 for 121 yards, no TDs, 2 picks and 2 fumbles. Let's hope for more of the same. The injuries are also catching up with the Giants, and there are no pity parties in the NFL; you just make do with what you have. However, you can't play the position better than Giants' MLB Antonio Pierce -- all over the field yesterday with 15 tackles, including 9 solo stops.

It was a very "unordinary" day in the NFL. Only five out of 15 home teams won. The Jets go to New England and beat the Patriots. That's just not supposed to happen when the Pats are coming off a loss. In fact, amazingly, their loss yesterday was the first time in 57 regular season games that New England has lost back-to-back games. (The alltime record is 60, held by the 1995-99 SF 49ers. playing in a very weak division at the time.)

The Chargers trail the Bengals in Cincy 28-7 at half, then roar back behind first-year starter QB Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson, outscoring them by a ridiculous 42-13 margin in the second half for a madcap 49-41 Chargers win more reminiscent of the old AFL than the current NFL.

Another strange statistic jumped out at me from the Bears game. Bears RB Thomas Jones (older brother of Cowboys' Julius Jones) rumbled for 26 yards on a 3rd & 22 play near the end of the first half. Why is that significant, you ask? Well, besides being the play that turned the game around for the Bears last night, Jones' run marked the first time since 1999 that a team converted on a 3rd down play with more than 20 yards via a running play. That seemed like it can't be right, seven years without such a play -- but of course most teams don't even attempt to run on that down & distance. But still a crazy statistical anomaly.

Another kooky stat is points differential. Going into yesterday's action, the 9-0 Colts and 4-4 Cowboys had the exact same point differential -- plus 59, points scored minus points allowed -- usually a reliable indicator of overall strength. Which means the Colts are winning but squeaking by, while I guess Dallas wins by blowouts and loses close ones. Also representative of the crazy season are the successful records of teams like the Jets (5-4), Chiefs (5-4), Packers (4-5), Forty-Niners (4-5), and of course the Saints (6-3), who most experts had pegged for dismal seasons. But that happens almost every year. Even Packers QB Brett Favre has bounced back from his dismal '05 campaign -- sure to rekindle all the "will he or won't he retire after the season" talk.

Nothing will detain or delay me from sitting in front of my TV next week, however, to watch the 4:00 clash between the undefeated Colts and the Cowboys at Texas Stadium. Tony Romo (20-29, 308, 2 TDs yesterday) gets the chance to outplay the best QB on the planet, Peyton Manning, and the Cowboys get to show that they're better than their mediocre 5-4 record would indicate, with the chance to knock off Indy from the perch of the unbeaten. And the continuing beauty of this season is that we have found our quarterback of the future, the 26-year-old wunderkind, Tony "Il Buono" Romo, who played his third straight effective, impressive game since being named starter. His QB rating stands at a terrific 101.2, and that is good enough for second in the entire NFL (behind Peyton Manning). His completion ratio of over 65.6 is excellent for any QB (he's tied with Manning), but for a first-year starter it borders on greatness. And since he's replaced Drew Bledsoe in the starting lineup, the Cowboys have been 25-44 converting on 3rd downs. Not too fucking shabby...

Considering Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent from small school, Division I-A Eastern Illinois, a ton of credit has to go to Bill Parcells, who not only took a chance in the kid but saw enough to slowly groom the unknown QB over four years. For those cynics who had begun to question Bill's ability to judge talent, Romo's success so far this year makes for a nice rejoinder.

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