Almost 35 years after Peter Gent's seminal "North Dallas Forty" showed us what untamed beasts football players could be, Jeff Pearlman delivers "Boys Will Be Boys," which, not coincidentally, is also about the freewheeling, demented, and fiercely determined Dallas Cowboys, once and always dubbed "America's Team."
Except Pearlman's Cowboys are those of the 1990s, the ones who followed the firing of legendary coach Tom Landry, and who make the men of "Forty" look like altar boys.
The dean of Dallas decadence was wide receiver Michael Irvin, known as The Playmaker. "Did he love snorting coke? Yes. Did he love lesbian sex shows? Yes. Did he love sleeping with two, three, four, five (yes, five) women at the same time in precisely choreographed orgies? Yes. Did he love strip clubs and hookers and house calls from exotic dancers with names like Bambi and Cherry and Saucy? Yes, yes, yes."
But because Texas is football, Irvin's antics, including an arrest for cocaine possession and stabbing a teammate who Irvin believed dissed him by cutting in line to get a haircut, were waved away with a smile. And when Irvin helped turn the hapless Cowboys around, from 1-15 losers in 1989 to multiple Super Bowl champs by the mid-'90s, well, hookers were practically handed out with the after-game painkillers.
Pearlman, a former senior writer for Sports Illustrated and a contributor to [...] Page Two, also wrote "The Bad Guys Won!" about the 1986 Mets and "Love Me, Hate Me," about Barry Bonds. So he has some experience with talented villains you love to hate.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the story of Charles Haley, who came to the Cowboys when they most needed "a disruptive, no-holds-barred defensive lineman - the type of player who put fear in the hearts of rival quarterbacks."
Haley "quickly earned high praise as one of the league's dominant quarterback killers. And as one of its most imbalanced."
A lot of it had to do with Haley's exceptionally large penis, which he liked to expose to players, trainers, management and reporters. Sometimes he would take it out and stroke it inches from another player's face; the players tried to laugh it off but Haley was relentless. He would masturbate during meetings, all the while trash-talking other player's wives. Once Haley wrapped an Ace bandage around it and strolled through the locker room, screaming, "I'm the last naked warrior!"
How, you might be asking yourself, did the team's coach, Jimmy Johnson, or it's owner, Jerry Jones, allow this to go on? Simple - Haley, who had helped the San Francisco 49ers win two Super Bowls in six seasons before coming to Dallas, "knew the game better than any of us," said former teammate Antonio Goss. "He could pick up little patterns and cues that nobody else would see. Charles might have been odd, but he was intelligent and incisive."
The drama between coach and owner was equally fascinating. Jones and Johnson had come to the Cowboys together, but despite appearances, had little love for each other. In fact, the coach learned he was being fired from a local Dallas reporter. "It's not always pleasant," Jones told a reporter. "But leadership means making tough decisions."
The Cowboys kept taking chances on players that other clubs were thrilled to cut from their rosters. And what did they get for their troubles? Hoodlums, nutcases and out-and-out psychopaths, who somehow managed to pull it all together on Sunday afternoons, piling up more and more winning games and seasons. So what's a little coke and hookers?
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