Joe Nick Patoski Slam-Dunks Dallas Cowboys Tome
If there is one reason Joe Nick Patoski's books -- biographies of Selena, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson -- are so good, it is his ability as a storyteller. Any decent reporter can sift news clippings and videos or interview the participants, but Patoski's style and organization turn what could have been dry, pedantic history into a page-turner. You can actually picture him whittling on a piece of pecan while, with a knowing huckster twinkle in his eye, he wheedles you into something you didn't bargain for. It's the Texas way.
The dust jacket from Joe Nick Patoski's new tome on America's Team.
It doesn't hurt that his subject matter in the thorough-to-a-fault 816-page tome Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America is the self-proclaimed America's Team, that garish, gauche agglomeration of rich nut jobs, rigid Christian automatons, true-believer underpaid players like Lee Roy Jordan, Bob Lilly, Dave Manders and Don Perkins, and too-highly-paid thugs like Pac-Man Jones and Michael Irvin known as the Dallas Cowboys.
Ever since the ultra-kooky Dallas zillionaire Clint Murchison founded the franchise with his twisted brain trust of carnival barker Tex Schramm and rigid Jesus-nut coach Tom Landry, the Cowboys have been a three-ring larger-than-life circus.
Federico Fellini couldn't make this shit up.
For people of a certain age -- those of us who still remember the team in its infancy, when NFL football was changing Sunday viewing habits forever, and who have been sucked in by the Cowboys media juggernaut for the past 50 years -- the book is the key to forgotten personalities and events, a history closely paralleling our own lives.
The author with his thinking cap on.
"If there is a goal to this book, it's to trigger memories in readers," Patoski told me recently. We were discussing short-term head coach Chan Gailey, whom I had completely forgotten. "Chan the Man was not that bad a coach, he just had a very tough act to follow, the Cowboys still being in thrall of Jimmy Johnson's aura."
While Patoski has gathered a smattering of information firsthand via interviews -- mostly from innocent bystanders like center Dave Manders's wife Betty who add color and validity -- he did not interview any of the major principals in the story, although he did request an interview with current owner Jerry Jones three times.
According to Patoski, seeking an interview with Jones was something any good journalist would do, but Jones ignoring his requests didn't really alter the book in any way.
"The security guy told me he wouldn't respond, there wasn't anything he'd gain from that," says Patoski. "Listen, the written record on this subject is so huge, I didn't need to talk to him or anyone, really. My goal was figuring out the bigger story."