IRVING, Texas — It seems like such an entertainingly innocuous thing.
Jerry Jones owns a suite at AT&T Stadium, so he was both the "host” of Monday night’s NCAA championship game and the host of a party in his suite. His guests ranged from Presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) to high-profile former Cowboys (Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin) to participants of more recent vintage (coach Jason Garrett, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo) to business bigshots (Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter) to Jones family members (wives, grandchildren and everyone in between).
TV glimpses and photos published from the evening are notable. They represent a sort of Who’s Who, and the people are stacked in their rows in such a way that all the celebrities look like they are on the set of "Hollywood Squares.”
But those photos are causing "controversy” â either because controversy is Jerry’s stock-in-trade or because it is ours.
ESPN rushed to wonder: "Is Tony Romo Too Close To Jason Garrett?”
Which is odd. Because it was just yesterday (late December, technically) when ESPN was reporting that there existed "tension and friction” between the quarterback and the coach.
This round of over-analysis was fueled largely by a tweet from thoughtful ex-Cowboy Marcus Spears, who suggested there (and then expounded on 105.3 The Fan) that it might not "send the right message when your head coach is hanging out with one particular guy.”
Spears deserves the benefit of the doubt in the sense that while he wasn’t in that suite (and I’m only half-joking when I say this would be less of a controversy had Marcus received an invite), he was in that locker room. As a former Cowboys defensive lineman and team leader, he would be able to speak directly to whether the Garrett/Romo relationship or the Witten/Romo relationship.
And so â¦
"It never affected me to see Romo and Garrett hanging out,” Spears said.
The Cowboys are constantly battling perception issues that an end to 8-8 seasons might or might not sure. Is there a suite seating chart America would’ve approved of? Why wasn’t President Barrack Obama there? Why were there so many white players there and so few black players? (This was actually a frequent social media reaction because some of the photos failed to reveal Murray sitting right next to Witten). Why were so many star Cowboys there but so few lesser lights?
Spears wondered aloud: "I just wondered if any of the other guys felt like they should be there or if they ever were invited to any other events. . . . When you’re building a team, when you’ve got a team concept â as many young guys as the Cowboys have on the team right now â I just felt like it would have been a good situation for all of them to try to get together and hang out and build that team camaraderie with the guys."
Again, if this is a football problem inside the Cowboys locker room being revealed by Spears, it has great merit. But he seems to be addressing an issue that cannot be solved due to logistics.
There are approximately 100 "guys” affiliated with an NFL team’s locker room. That’s 200 folks once everyone brings their dates (as the aforementioned players did). While you certainly want to make sure Romo is bonding with young, black teammates like Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith (and for that matter, backup safety J.J. Wilcox and punter Chris Jones and the assistant equipment managers, too) â¦ there are only so many seats.
A P.S. to this non-issue: Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith are about to earn contracts worth $10 million annually. They could, conceivably, rent their own suite right next to Jerry’s. And invite Romo and Garrett and Jerry and Presidents Bush and Clinton on over!
Football teams truly can find themselves divided by cliques born of differences in race, religion, geographic background, salary, age, and most of all, position. It is a responsibility of Jones, Garrett and Romo, by virtue of their job titles, to try to bridge those gaps whenever possible.
Inclusion, not exclusion.
But not every day. Not every event. And no, not even on the days and the events when TV cameras are pointed at the Cowboys.
This weekend, Bryant attended a function and posed for a photo with Michael Jordan. The fact that no other Cowboys are in the photo isn’t necessarily an indictment of Dez’ leadership skills.
This weekend, cornerback Orlando Scandrick was photographed on a beach vacation with his celebrity girlfriend. The fact that no other Cowboys are in the photo isn’t necessarily proof that Scandrick lacks commitment to team..
To me, it appears that the Jones family threw a fascinating basketball dinner party. But for some, the get-together is "controversial” because we crave controversy.
Jerry’s suite solution for next time? No presidents we might argue about. No businessmen we don’t like. No coaches we might disfavor. No QBs who throw interceptions.
Just kittens. At Jerry Jones’ next televised party, he should fill his personal AT&T Stadium suite with kittens.