by Justin Cherot
I’m an athlete playing for a franchise in Dallas with an owner who, for better or worse, will throw money at everything and hopes a championship will materialize.
I’ve got undeniable talent, and every year my statistics are through the roof. But every year–every single f#$%in’ year–I have to hear the same thing from reporters and fans who think they should be the owner or GM:
‘He’s not tough enough to win in the postseason.”
“He’s great in the regular season, but in the playoffs he freezes up during crisis.”
“They can’t win a championship with him as their best player.”
They’re absolutely right. I play awful in the clutch. Really, I do. I’m just a regular season stats guy…
…oh, sorry. Lost my train of thought. I was too busy shining my NBA Finals’ MVP. What were we talking about again?
You laughed just now. Admit it. But, to be fair, Dirk Nowitzki was just as maligned, if not significantly more so, than Tony Romo. The parallels are amazing. Both seemingly came out of nowhere: Nowitzki from Germany BEFORE the foreigner craze (shoot, he CREATED the foreigner craze); Romo out of football powerhouse Eastern Illinois. Both burst on the scene with relative quickness (although it did take a full year for Dirk to get used to the NBA and Romo a couple of seasons to unseat Drew Bledsoe). Both have enjoyed tremendous regular season success (bet most of you didn’t know that Romo has the fourth highest QB rating of all-time).
And yet, fair or unfair, both have had to deal with the whispers–or screams–that they weren’t tough enough to win a championship.
I was one of them. Especially with Dirk.
What I’m about to write has never been spoken aloud and you won’t find it anywhere in cyberspace: it took every last bone in my body not to give up on #41 after what happened in 2007 against Golden State. I think we need video for this one (thanks, Lilpharmacist11).
I was embarrassed to be a Dallas Mavericks’ fan after that loss. Straight up. That was a pretty tough summer, not to mention that I was going through some personal stuff as well.
But I’ll can pinpoint exactly when I truly believed Nowitzki had a title in him, and not just a Glen Rice “third or fourth guy on a really good team” title: a legit title as an alpha dog.
Dallas was having. by their standards, a down season which saw them fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference. To make matters worse, Nowitzki suffered an ankle sprain and a knee sprain on the same play against the San Antonio Spurs in late March (props to acecmopu17).
Did you see that fall!? Human beings probably miss close to a month, if not more. Nowitzki was back in nine days, leading the Mavs to a crucial win over the Golden State Warriors that ultimately helped them clinch a playoff spot.
I felt like that was the subtle beginning to the Dirk we know today, the kind of guy who could shake off a fractured finger and Fathertime to slaughter the Miami Heat down the stretch of games.
But I severely digress. What I’ve been trying to illustrate throughout the past 516 words is that I’ve seen enough to know that, despite cat calls and criticism, Romo is close to being ready.
I should point out that despite my affinity to the Mavericks, I am by no means a Cowboys’ fan. Not even close. I don’t even neccesarily like Jessica Simpson’s former lover. But I can acknowledge when I see a transformation.
His performance with two cracked ribs and a punctured lung against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 was pretty good stuff (especially for my fantasy team). But I was far more impressed with his performance in Week 3. I know what you’re thinking, Cowboy haters:
“But he didn’t even throw a touchdown.”
It has more to do with the extraneous variables going on around him and his response to all the madness. Consider the following:
1) His throwing motion, which has a lot of junk and sidearm action, probably makes the pain even worse than normal.
2) The Redskins openly acknowledged aiming for his ribs and their defensive coordinator was coming after him (which Colin Donohue thoroughly enjoyed, and by “enjoyed” I meant “wanted to drive all the way to Dallas from North Carolina just so he could slap Skins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett with a night stick or something worse.”
3) His center, Phil Costa, apparently was still upset about Temple destroying Maryland over the weekend (no words) and he couldn’t go five minutes without a snap either going over Romo’s head or into his balls.
4) He was without his best receiver, Miles Austin, which should be much higher on the list.
5) There are gamers playing Madden ’12 for the first time who know more about the Cowboys’ playbook than the Cowboys’ receivers… other than Dez Bryant, of course.
And yet… his team won. No word on what this means about the Redskins’ chances going forward (sorry Colin), but his team won because he put that team on his back. Because he refused to let all those hits get to him. Because he had the audacity to consistently dig into his teammates for their mistakes, and yet at the same time had the presence of mind to talk them up on the sidelines. Because, after years of being the fun-loving, good-looking guy who just happened to play quarterback for America’s Team, he decided that America’s Team was his team.
In summation, he wouldn’t LET them lose.
And that’s where I feel we’re at with Romo. He’s undergoing that transformation between a guy who puts up numbers into a guy who can win when it counts… keyword “undergoing”, but it’s very clear that it’s happening before our eyes.
Will he ever get there?
Probably not, because Dirk Nowitzki never did. Oh, wait…