Boys Will Be Boys: Yet Another Tabloidy Read by Jeff Pearlman

Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys DynastyBoys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman

If you’ve read one Jeff Pearlman book, maybe you’ve read them all. That might sound like a weird statement for a sports journalist, but I couldn’t help but think I’ve heard this story before: a team is built up by a talented front office, with a core made of players cast offs or homegrown superstars, and as they start succeeding, they grow arrogant and party harder than Andrew WK and eventually they pull off an upset and a memorable championship before imploding in their own success. That’s the storyline here, it was the same story in Pearlman’s earlier book The Bad Guys Won! and idea of arrogance rising above talent was prominent in Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero. And I think it’s easy to guess what his upcoming book on the 1980s Lakers will be about, too.

Not to say that makes this a bad book. Pearlman’s chasing a story too drenched in controversy to be dull: this was a boozing, womanizing asshole superstar-driven team. They drove motorcycles into nightclubs, ran a whorehouse and did enough blow to make Tony Montana blush. It’s a wonder nobody on the team died. The 1990-95 period is one giant sensational story and Pearlman laps it up, recounting these excesses with a strange sort of dissonance: he’ll repeatedly report about all the awful stuff they did, but it almost feels like it’s supposed to be funny. Maybe I’m weird for not laughing at those stories of people behaving like idiots.

But if you’re interested in what made these teams so successful, there’s not a lot here: between stories of excess, he recaps games like a newspaper columnist. He never touches on coaching strategies, only on stories about how hard Jimmy Johnson pushed his players (or how lax Barry Switzer was). I’d have appreciated a little more about this angle: what made Troy Aikman click so well with Jay Novacek? Surely it was more than accurate pass running or a shared love of country music. And what about the assistant coaches: their names come and go but what did they bring to the table? Pearlman’s more concerned with telling us about how they didn’t get along with Aikman or whatever.

He also has a tendency to fall back on cliches and odd metaphors:

“it was as clear as Governor Ann Richard’s white mane that this was Jimmy Johnson’s team – no ifs, ands, or buts.”

My favourite comes pretty early in the book:

“Watching the Cowboys of 1990 was akin to sitting through a sixteen-week Days of Our Lives Marathon – while drunk.”

You’d know, Pearlman.

All this said, it’s clear Pearlman did his homework. There’s a lengthy section of endnotes, sourcing where he got quotes from, and a bibliography, too. And that’s maybe my biggest problem with the book: he was able to speak to so many people, references so many printed reports and books and seems like he knows this team well. So why did I never feel like I was seeing how things actually worked?

Rating: 3/10. I suppose there’s worse books about this era of Dallas Cowboy football. Skip Bayless wrote three of them alone. But there’s better ones, too. Thankfully, this book’s bibliography is stuffed with them. Start there and keep working forward.




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