Today’s Off Asides is devoted to Donna Douglas, an early TV crush for young men who grew up watching The Beverly Hillbillies. The sweet but fiery Elly May Clampett is now swimming in that big cement pond in the sky. (Is it wrong that I just imagined her in a swimsuit?)
With her well-documented love of “critters,” Elly May probably prefers the Lions over the Cowboys in this wild card playoff game.
Then again, Elly May never met Ndamukong Suh.
Last week, the Lions defensive tackle mistook Aaron Rodger’s ankle for a cockroach. The NFL suspended Suh for a game, meaning he’d miss the battle against the Cowboys. But the suspension was suddenly rescinded, and now the best and meanest player on the league’s best and meanest run defense gets to start against DeMarco Murray & Co.
Let me get this straight: Stomp on a guy’s ankle in the heat of battle, and you’re forgiven, but knock your wife unconscious in an elevator while being captured on video for the whole world to see, and you’re out for a season? What kind of message does this send to kids? And why do kids check their messages so often?
I’m glad Suh is playing – a Cowboys victory will mean the dirtiest cheap-shot artist in football will get his comeuppance. That’s the first time I’ve ever used the word “comeuppance.” It feels strange. The word makes no sense. What does coming up have to do with getting your just desserts? Come to think of it, why is getting your “just desserts” a bad thing? Sure, some desserts are better than others, but it’s still dessert. Someone who foolishly made a New Year’s Eve resolution to refrain from eating sweets would surely be grateful to taste most any sugary confection.
I’d stomp on my grandmother’s ankle for a praline at this very second.
I swore off cake, pie, ice cream and other typical desserts about, oh, I’d say eight years five months 12 days and 37 minutes ago. Chocolate was my crack cocaine, although crack withdrawals are a breeze compared to kicking a heavy Snickers habit. Cereal is the only exception I allow for my sweet tooth these days. Did you know that mixing a bowl of dry Kellogg’s Honey Smacks with honey roasted peanuts tastes like Cracker Jacks but doesn’t officially count as a dessert or a sweet?
That kind of institutional knowledge will be lost should I stick with my new resolution.
Hopefully, the excitement of the playoff game will keep my mind off sweets, although that’s doubtful considering the game is still minutes away and the referees’ black-and-white uniforms are reminding me of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls.
Today’s game is crucial (well, as crucial as anything can be without a caramel and nougat center).
Poor Tony Romo, the loyal, talented, hard-working, tough-as-nails gamer will be dubbed the franchise’s all-time biggest choker if he loses today. If he wins, fans will temporarily refrain from calling him the franchise’s all-time biggest choker until he loses next. Nothing short of a Super Bowl victory will shut up his critics.
The Lions, meanwhile, have never sniffed a Super Bowl. The last time this team won a playoff game was against the Cowboys. Troy Aikman was in his third year. Now he’s old. It was that long ago.
The Cowboys own five Lombardi trophies. The Lions own none and live in a post-apocalyptic hellhole where stomping on ankles is a typical greeting. How bad is this team? Look up the word “loser” in the dictionary and you will find the word “loser.” (Dictionaries don’t list football teams, silly.)
While everybody’s focusing on Romo as a potential choker, take a look at Lions QB Matthew Stafford. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 (Romo went undrafted). Stafford has been to only one playoff game in five years, and lost. So he’s developing a choker reputation as well.
OK, enough chit chat. I’ve surpassed my word count for this column and the game hasn’t even started yet. Can you tell I’m excited? My dog, Hazel, senses my zeal. She looks at me in her calm, reassuring way, as if to say, “You’ve got Fruity Pebbles in the pantry.”
This breaking news just in: “Comeuppance” originated in the 19th century and refers to “coming up” before a judge in court.
Finally, the opening kickoff arrives. Dallas wins the coin toss and elects to receive (note: no election actually held). It’s time to put on my game face. Sports fans across this great nation look to Off Asides as the definitive voice of the Cowboys. That’s a lot of pressure on a guy easily distracted by cereal.
The hometown crowd is so amped up that Romo must wave them quiet before his first snap. This irks me. People pay hundreds of dollars to attend the game. They’re excited. And Romo tells them to STFU? OMG! This could be a bad omen.
Sure enough, the offense goes three and out. Wideout Dez Bryant fumbles the first ball thrown his way, although he recovers it. Romo is rusty and tense, throwing errant passes. He looks terrible.
His detractors must be right — he’s Mr. Choke.
Well, maybe I’ll give him another possession or two before making an official declaration.
The Lions score a 51-yard TD pass on their first possession and make it look easy. This is scary. Things get scarier on the next Cowboys possession. Romo is creamed repeatedly. The vaunted offensive line can’t keep a four-man rush out of Romo’s face. Murray can’t run. Everything is pointing to a rout similar to the one the Cowboy suffered Nov. 27 against the Philadelphia Eagles, when Romo played the worst game of his career.
Romo will have to earn his legacy today. But Off Asides is a believer. Romo is The Man. I’ll bet a half-empty box of Fruity Pebbles he leads this team to victory. My friend, George, isn’t so sure. He calls after the Lions take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
“Romo is a choker!” he said. “It happens every f****** year! It’s a pattern. You can’t deny a pattern. Jeeezus Christ!”
I try to be the voice of reason: “Romo can’t be the hero who leads his team to a come-from-behind victory unless he falls behind at some point in the game. It’s good that he’s falling behind early so he’ll have time to make his comeback.”
George isn’t convinced. “Put down your hash pipe, Cheech,” he says.
My confidence is beginning to flounder when, with less than two minutes in the first half, Romo miraculously hits Terrance Williams on a 76-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7. Put that in your hash pipe, George!
The third quarter begins with the Cowboys intercepting a Stafford pass, but Romo can’t move the team 20 yards. In fact, they go backwards 10 yards and have to settle for a field goal, except the NFL’s best kicker, Dan Bailey, misses wide left. By now the Lions are up 17-7 and an ominous cloud settles over Hazel, who looks at me as if to say, “Just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean I am.”
By the third quarter, game announcer Joe Buck notes that the “crowd is not a factor at all.” Of course not, Romo told them to shut up on the first play, and then he played like crap for three quarters. But if the Cowboys lose, it isn’t because Romo choked — it’s because the O-Line collapsed.
At least the crowd hasn’t started booing Romo. Cowboys fans used to boo Don Meredith regularly back in the 1960s for failing to win clutch games. It was a disgrace. “I can take boos for a bad game,” Meredith told The Dallas Morning News in 1964. “But I hate to think they’re booing me because they think I’m dogging it.”
Meredith never dogged it, and neither has Romo. Meredith is now swimming laps with Elly May, so he got the last laugh. But Dallas fans shouldn’t make the same mistake with Romo. Don’t boo him as a choker. Cheer him for playing hard and taking his teams as far as they are meant to go.
These deep thoughts might be moot because the Cowboys are waking up. Dallas cuts a Lions lead to six points, 20-14, and then cuts it again with a field goal to make it 20-17 in the fourth quarter. The crowd is back in the game, hypocritical bastards. Most will turn on Romo in a heartbeat if the Cowboys lose.
The Lions get the ball back with 2:30 left in the game, down by four points, and the Dallas defense struggling. Stafford has the eye of the tiger. He wants a victory.
It’s up to the Dallas defense, not Romo, to win this game. If anyone earns a choker tag in this game, it will be a defensive player.
DeMarcus Lawrence, the rookie defensive end, recovers a fumble that would have sealed a Cowboys victory. But he tries to pick up the ball and run instead of falling on it, and he ends up fumbling back to the Lions. The disappointment on Hazel’s face is palpable. I, too, am perturbed, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve momentarily forgotten about cereal and I’m instead considering becoming a serial killer with Lawrence as my first victim.
The Lions get a fresh set of downs. Stafford has two minutes on the clock, plenty of time to ruin Hazel’s dreams of a Cowboys Super Bowl run. The crowd is roaring so loud the speaker on my TV is crackling. My friend Jimbo messages me to say his sphincter could thwart a needle. I tell him to cut back on the dairy.
In fact, that damned Lawrence is such a choker and I’m so pissed off and Hazel’s so disappointed that I impulsively switch the channel and start watching a rerun of Kourtney and Khloe Take the Hamptons.
Damn you, Lawrence.
You ruined my life.
Postscript: Well, as it turns out, Lawrence sacked Stafford a few plays later, forced a fumble, recovered the fumble, and won the game for the Cowboys. So it looks like somebody owes somebody an apology. Yep, I think Romo and Lawrence should apologize to fans for making us almost turn on them.