ESPN.com columnist Pearlman (Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero, 2007, etc.) offers a behind-the-scenes look at the on-field excellence and off-field shenanigans of “America’s Team” during its 1990s heyday.
It’s a poorly kept secret that some superstar athletes have a soft spot for hard drugs, strong drinks and loose women. By some random chance of fate—or the hand of an unscrupulous owner—many of those athletes ended up on the Cowboys during the mid-’90s, players whose talent was surpassed only by their love of debauchery. When maverick oil magnate Jerry Jones purchased the team in 1989, he promptly and unceremoniously fired the franchise’s legendary—and legendarily conservative—coach, Tom Landry. A firestorm of criticism ensued and intensified when University of Miami coach—and Jones’s former teammate at the University of Arkansas—Jimmy Johnson, a man with no NFL experience, was tabbed as Landry’s replacement. Though the players Jones and Johnson drafted and signed banded together to win a then-unprecedented three Super Bowl titles in four years, Pearlman’s chronicle reveals a collection of sexual deviants (hulking defensive lineman Charles Haley was notorious for pleasuring himself in full view of his teammates during film sessions), drug abusers (hall-of-fame wide receiver Michael Irvin often snorted cocaine before sleeping with multiple prostitutes), heavy drinkers (including Johnson’s successor as coach, Barry Switzer) and power-hungry egomaniacs (primarily Jones). The author doesn’t delve too deeply into the on-field strategy behind the Cowboys’ winning ways, but he makes up for it with countless salacious stories of late-night strip-club hijinks, backstabbing gossip and sordid legal affairs, including an attempt to cover up an incident in which Irvin slashed the throat of a teammate with a pair of scissors.
A lurid yet riveting account of an undeniably charismatic, and often loathed, championship team. Readers may want to shower after reading.