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August 30, 2012

DAHLBERG: Cowboys desperation shows with Bryant

DALLAS — Owning a major sports franchise isn't all about charging gullible fans $75 to park, and counting all the millions that television networks throw your way. Not for those who take their work seriously, secure in the knowledge that winning one Super Bowl or World Series will both excite the local populace and make the team even richer.

The new owners of the Dodgers understand that, or they wouldn't have invested the entire worth of a lesser franchise in a first baseman, an outfielder with a bad wing, and a pitcher better known for drinking beer and eating chicken in the clubhouse than performing on the mound in big games. It was a move born of desperation to win at once, with the playoffs barely a month away.

Equally desperate, it seems, are the San Francisco Giants, tasked with defending a lead against the new Dodger juggernaut. Just a few weeks after losing the best hitter in the National League to improved drug testing, they welcomed back to the ballpark Barry Bonds built a reliever already busted twice. If you believe the Giants, all Guillermo Mota did wrong was take some children's cough syrup.

But there is no owner more desperate than Jerry Jones, whose Dallas Cowboys have defined mediocrity for more years than he would like to count. Once they really were America's Team, but they've won only one playoff game in the last 15 years.

The problem is, Jones has a big new $1.3 billion stadium he needs to fill on game days. To do that, he needs to sell fans on the idea that there is hope, even if recent results suggest otherwise.

And that's why, Dez Bryant now has babysitters.

Yes, babysitters. Something most of us outgrow by the age of 12 or so when we're big enough to figure out how to behave in the real world.

Bryant is 23, and behaving in the real world is something he doesn't seem to do terribly well. That's the main reason the Cowboys were able to get him in the first place, taking the talented wide receiver from Oklahoma State late in the first round of the 2010 draft despite numerous teams with obvious needs at the position picking ahead of them.

Jones knew he was getting a player with issues, but he was so enamored with Bryant's talent and potential that he didn't care. He saw a player he thought could take the Cowboys to a Super Bowl. It's a pattern Jones has followed over the years - signing Terrell Owens after his blowup in Philadelphia; picking up Adam "Pacman'' Jones to anchor his defense.

And how has Bryant repaid him? With a decent second season on the field, to be sure, and that seemed to be all that mattered to Jones despite Bryant being kicked out of an upscale Dallas mall for wearing sagging pants and for his reported involvement in a fight with rapper Lil Wayne at a Miami nightclub.

But when Bryant was arrested last month for allegedly assaulting his mother, even Jones couldn't ignore his behavior any longer. His mom, Angela, later said she didn't want to press charges against her son, but in a 911 tape released by authorities she indicated it wasn't the first time. She is heard saying she wanted to "put an end to it.''

"I can't keep letting him do this,'' she said on the tape.

What Jones should have done was put an end to Bryant's employment right then. But that would mean admitting it was a mistake to draft him in the first place, something Jones' massive ego won't allow. So, instead, he signed onto a plan that employs a rotating security team to keep an eye on Bryant at all times.

It will make sure Bryant doesn't drink or hang out in strip clubs. Make sure he gets to bed on time. Most importantly, the team will keep him safe, and deliver him to Cowboys Stadium for games on Sunday.

This is not a first for the Cowboys. They did the same thing with Jones, only to have it fall apart when Jones got into a fight with one of his minders at a Dallas hotel. This one is just as iffy, but it does offer the Cowboys their best hope of getting Bryant through a 16-game regular season without further trouble with the law or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

That's really all that Jones and most Cowboy fans care about. Bryant is so good at making tough catches that he could be the difference between a Dallas team that finishes 8-8 again or one that goes to the playoffs.

All will be forgiven if he helps the Cowboys get there.

In professional sports, talent almost always trumps everything. The list of players who've been given second, third and even fourth chances was long before Bryant's name was added.

Ultimately, though, the plan is bound to fail. No matter how great the lure of a possible Super Bowl run - and it's a longshot for the Cowboys even with Bryant - you can't babysit a grown man forever.

The fact Jones is even trying shows how desperate he is.



 

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