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Original Issue

The Case for ... Fewer Cowboys

WHITHER THE Marlboro Man, that oft-mustachioed Madison Avenue depiction of the American cowboy? He was tough. He was weathered. He was stoic. He would, one reckons, answer a question with a spit of chaw and a "nope" only if the chaw alone wouldn't do the job. This creation is far preferable to the modern, NFL-generated Cowboys. Those dudes won't shut up.

As you may have heard, after 13 years under center in Dallas, Tony Romo finally found a way to remain working through the playoffs—he took a job as a color analyst at CBS, alongside Jim Nantz. According to those who make a living conducting interviews, Romo is "a good talker." Apparently this is all it takes to go from regular IR entry to the top announcing team at one of the league's main broadcast partners. We may not have seen Romo's last fumble.

Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman joined FOX as a color guy in 2001 and had to wait a whole year before ascending to the top team. At least at CBS, Romo will largely be limited to AFC games, whereas Aikman is often required to analyze his old team as well as his former rivals. That breeds such a perception of bias among viewers that 25,000 Packers faithful signed a petition in January seeking to ban him from calling Green Bay games. This is a misapplication of fury. If anything Aikman should be banned for repeatedly using the phrase "was wanting," as in "Rodgers was wanting to throw deep, but ... "

It wouldn't be so bad if it were just Tony and Troy. FOX also employs Daryl (Moose) Johnston, a Cowboys fullback during the Aikman era. Their backfield mate, Emmitt Smith, was let go by ESPN in 2009. He's made two appearances on Dancing with the Stars since, having, one assumes, decided to let his feet do the talking.

But wait, there are more. Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders have held primary roles on the NFL Network. Irvin often seems to think words are like receptions: more are better, even if he must jump over someone in the process. And while Prime Time's gift for gab remains impressive, the fun of listening to him comes in tracking how long he can go without taking about his favorite subject: Deion Sanders.

Irvin and Sanders are known for their "enthusiasm"—code for yelling and interjecting catchphrases in a way that makes FOX's NFL Sunday analyst (and former Steeler) Terry Bradshaw sound like Bertrand Russell. Bradshaw, of course, shares a table with onetime Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson, the man with the hair made to withstand a broadcast from an outdoor set in the Windy City, in January.

Need to rustle up more former Cowboys? Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson, Bill Parcells, Marcellus Wiley and Darren Woodson work for ESPN, which used to employ Butch Davis, as well. Steve Beuerlein calls games for CBS. Brian Baldinger opines for NFL Network. And let us not forget Dandy Don Meredith, who sung for his supper on both NBC and ABC's Monday Night Football.

One might ask, What's the harm? Between camera-loving owner Jerry Jones and all of his on-air former employees there's the risk of NFL coverage becoming a Cowboys propaganda machine—a Texas TASS.

O.K., that's far-fetched. How about: It's annoying. As America's Team, the Cowboys are wildly popular, especially outside their region and among bandwagon fans, which inspires resentment in diehards and loyalists. The Boys get more than their fair share of coverage, and being forced to listen to them after having them thrown in our faces during their playing careers is a reminder of their seemingly undue adoration.

It's probably too cruel to say "break a leg" to Romo, so good luck. But if CBS had asked if I was wanting another Cowboy on TV, I would have stared into the distance and spit a wad of chaw.

Tony Romo finally found a way to remain working through the playoffs—he took a job as an analyst at CBS.