Cowboys turn a blind eye toward trouble   

Updated: October 17, 2008, 12:58 PM ET

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This all smells familiar, doesn't it?

The cover-up. The faux dismay. The shock -- shock! -- that something like this could happen to America's Team. Even the lame measured quotations; phrasings akin to, "We still believe in blah blah blah" and "This doesn't diminish what the Dallas Cowboys blah blah blah."

As John McCain might say, "My friends, we have heard this all before."

Indeed, we have.

Jerry Jones

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Once again, Jerry Jones tried to sweep an off-the-field incident under the rug.

For those three of you who still can't believe the way the Dallas Cowboys have mangled the latest Pacman Jones fiasco -- first, in the team's effort to pretend nothing happened, then by failing to immediately release a player who was down to his last strike five innings ago -- consider the wise words of one George Santayana, who famously stated "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Enter Jerrel Wayne Jones.

It was 10 years ago that the Cowboys owner found himself in a similarly awkward predicament. During a training-camp melee within the team's facility at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, wide receiver Michael Irvin stabbed a teammate in the neck with a pair of scissors. The victim, an offensive lineman named Everett McIver, had refused Irvin's demand to rise from the barber's chair during a haircut. Following an exchange of shoves and punches, McIver found himself grasping his neck, blood shooting from a two-inch gash. "The whole scene was crazy," said Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I mean, we were on the same team."

Having already been on probation for an incident involving a motel room, drugs and strippers, Irvin was all but guaranteed jail time after this episode. So instead of letting the legal system run its course, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys' front office stepped in. McIver was paid handsomely to never report the stabbing, and when everyone involved later spoke of "horseplay" gone awry, McIver nodded and moved on with his life. (A word of wisdom for the kiddies: Don't get into an argument when the other guy is holding scissors. It rarely ends well).

Shortly thereafter, when The Dallas Morning News reported the stabbing and the payoff, Jerry Jones was reduced to looking like a lawless, reckless buffoon. It hardly helped matters when he threatened to remove team advertising from the newspaper.

Adam Jones

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Adam Jones didn't have to face a team suspension, but the NFL has since suspended him indefinitely.

So now, here we sit again, watching Jerry Jones reap what he sowed. On a recent episode of ESPN's "Outside the Lines," Cowboys great Emmitt Smith referred to Pacman by noting that, "This is America, and America provides second chances to all people. And whether we like it or not, that's just the system that we live up under." While Smith's words have merit, they come from the vantage point of a man who, throughout his life, has lived in the spotlight. The truth is, were Pacman, say, a gangly, unathletic banker or Carvel server or UPS delivery man, he would have been fired after that first infraction long ago. But in Jerry Jones' world, where winning ranks in importance only after winning, winning and winning, Pacman is not a repeat offender, but a repeat offender with 4.3 speed. There's a huge difference.

The saddest part of the entire ordeal is that lost within the headlines and soundbites of PACMAN! PACMAN! PACMAN! lies an obviously confused, troubled 25-year-old man who seems all but certain to join Lawrence Phillips, Maurice Clarett and myriad others in the Society of Wayward Athletic Souls Gone Bad. Were Jerry Jones truly concerned for Pacman's welfare from day one, the last thing he would have done is rush him back to the football field. Instead, he would have paid Pacman not to play for a while; to attend classes and meet regularly with a psychiatrist and learn to deal with the constant temptations and rigors that are life as we know it. Patience, my son. Patience.

Nowadays, when I watch Pacman Jones on TV, those scared eyes peeking out from a seemingly confident body, I see not an Irvin or Emmitt or Troy Aikman or Deion Sanders, but a Clayton Holmes. "Who?" you might ask.

Holmes, like Pacman, was a Dallas cornerback who rose from jarring poverty and lackluster educational efforts to play on football's biggest stage. He purchased a sweet house, multiple cars, every fancy doodad one could imagine.

When I saw Holmes while researching my book "Boys Will Be Boys," he was destitute in his hometown of Florence, S.C. His Super Bowl rings had been pawned, his car repossessed, his pride extinguished.

"I thought I knew what I was doing," Holmes told me. "But I had no clue. No clue whatsoever."

Jeff Pearlman is a former Sports Illustrated senior writer and the author of "Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty," which is on sale now. You can reach him at


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