(I feel like I should mention… because football fans are fucking psycho… I’m not a Cowboy fan… just sayin)
Tony Romo was a complex character in the history of the NFL. He seemed to lack arrogance, while still being arrogant. Does that make sense? He possessed the confidence of a man who knew how to win… but just didn’t. It’s this complex character that showed in his eyes, mannerisms, speech and how he approached the game. He walked with such confidence, as if he knew what would happen next. He seemed to know something more than the rest of us. What I like most about him is that I think he understood that this is just a game. I know that in the ‘kill or be killed’ ‘macho-man Randy Savage’ ‘high-stakes world of fantasy football’ that’s a cardinal sin, but I admired how he approached the game. The key to playing a game is remembering it’s a game. We forget, because the NFL is a billion dollar industry that produces sadness for thirty-one teams and extreme joy for one (for at least a few months). For the rest of that time, you devote yourself to petty rivals, constant trash-talk and an incessant need to hack away at the hypocrisy of the NFL.
I’m talking about Romo the player, because I don’t know the man. He seems like a decent human being, but the player, the myth and “legend” is most of what we see. He inspired rage and became a target for the media, as well as weary NFL fans who grew tired of hearing about ‘the greatness of Romo’. It might not seem like anything, because most of us have never had the media and thousands of angry football fans cursing our name. I’ve always thought of it as a storm. It starts with some heavy rain. You get your shoes soaked and think it’s no big deal. After a while it reaches your ankles. Still, you’re fine. It’s about the time that it’s up to your neck that you really panic, because that sense of urgency never comes when we think about devotion, truth and utter insanity.
The media loved him in the beginning. They made him more than he was. Romo had the potential to be a great quarterback, but so do many worthwhile players. The difference is in which of these players is able to keep his head above water. So many get overwhelmed, either by injuries or lack of talent. The former got Romo, as well as time and, for those of us who believe, fate. Fate had it in for Tony Romo. If fate had shifted a few centimeters, he’d be a king. The real history of the NFL is a mass of corpses, strewn along a highway out of some ‘Madmax’ dystopia. Concussions, surgeries, self medication, drug hypocrisy, bankruptcy… the landscape of the NFL is more treacherous than we can comprehend. Once fate intervened, the media lost interest. It was easier to paint Romo as ‘the king of blunders’ and certainly calamity followed. I say calamity, because it sounds like a funny way to look at the ruins. The dystopia of football revealed itself through Tony Romo.
Fans don’t pay as much attention to the dystopia. It’s the aftermath of our fandom. We worship and pay hundreds to watch games, buy jerseys, hats, socks, calendars, tire flaps, (Everything… literally everything… the NFL will throw any of its logos on… anything). Fans demand a lot for their sacrifice. They… we, work offensively mundane jobs to watch every week and, for whatever reason, this computes within our psyches to our teams owing us a simple victory every given Sunday. I never noticed until recently that I’m insane, well, at least when it comes to football. Romo became a constant. He was a player who stood out in a time when the ‘quarterback’ position has evolved to a point of such extreme urgency that teams will sell out their futures just to fake as if they have one. Romo was a constant for his team. He could be flashy. When he was flashy he became the foolish child that loved the game. I truly admired that. When he wasn’t flashy, he became the punching bag. Either way, the media made him a shape-shifter, to which I still don’t know who or what I was watching.
America is a country obsessed. We have a number of unhealthy obsessions, none more so than football. Every week, some dedicate Sundays to the lord… I give my soul to my knowing savior… the almighty masters who have blessed me with football. I know how that sounds. It’s god damn ridiculous. I’m a grown man who has no stock in my team. I have no control. I only played football until eleventh grade. I’m no expert, which is no easy claim in a world that seems full of people who know just about everything. When it comes to football, everyone knows everything. Everyone is allowed an opinion, because it’s football. It means nothing. Yet, everyone has an opinion, because they love it. It means everything. Make sense?
The media loves football, because it’s so easy for them to paint the narrative. You have much less control of the narrative when you’re talking about real shit, like health care or epidemics or orange idiots that, through a populist insurrection steal countries. The narrative is so simple that over the past few years I’ve become more and more offended. It begins with a few simple words. Choose your favorite, but out of all the sports marketing nonsense… I think my fave is ‘Ball is life’. It’s such a great saying, especially when it’s used ironically. Some don’t see it. They see ‘Ball is life’, but it’s in all CAPS and painted on their tank tops. They go to parks and play flag football. Their shirt says ‘ball is life’… all CAPS. They live out something, a fantasy locked in their psyches… I blame all the toxins in the air… maybe the lead in our water.
Romo didn’t fit into the narrative of a hall of fame quarterback. He did, however, fit much better into the mold of a high-priced punching bag with no ‘will to win’. I’m not an expert and I can’t claim to have seen every game ever played. Romo was a great. Reaching his potential was never in the cards. Fate had other plans. A few slips on key plays and BOOOOM you’re a joke. That’s how fast it happened. Literally a play before that he was a god. People were all set to buy his jerseys and run around during Thanksgiving and act out the impressive drive that almost one him the Cowboys’ first playoff game in years. Sponsors were thinking of catchphrases to sell his own sneaker-line… something like ‘Just do it’ or ‘In God We Trust’. He became a god and every Cowboy fan worshiped him. He stood atop the world, like Zeus, posing with a lightning bolt, ready to zap someone’s ass into oblivion, until he slipped. That’s all it took: one slip to define a career. It didn’t stop there, but the loss of that blessed immortality came down on high like a wind breaking through an otherwise cloudless day.
Watching Romo in the beginning of his career was what I imagine it would be like to ‘be overwhelmed by the presence of greatness’. He was one of those pure, elite quarterbacks that wasn’t meant to be an athlete. He was a quarterback. He was that position… and then, everything changed. It took one flub to define a career. It took one mistake to somehow become his legacy. I just want it to be known that he was great… although history won’t remember him. How many of us can say the same?