Cowboys lack their Hollywood luster of bygone days

07/29/2014 9:55 PM

11/12/2014 7:16 PM

They used to be the “Hollywood” Cowboys.

Their training camp address, after all, was right down the freeway from the big sign.

Troy Aikman. Emmitt Smith. Michael Irvin. Roger Staubach. Tony Dorsett. Tom Landry.

If you couldn’t make it to Canton for vacation, no worries — you could still see plenty of Pro Football Hall of Famers at the Dallas Cowboys camp.

But times are changing. The Cowboys’ star power has dimmed.

Through the first four days of practice, the Cowboys drew 11,002 to their makeshift camp on the lawn adjoining a Marriott hotel. The same days last year attracted a crowd of 13,230.

The traditional “opening ceremonies,” in which Owner Jones thanks the mayor of “Ox-nerd” for his hospitality, drew 6,614 a year ago. This year’s ceremonies and opening practice mustered only 4,279, a drop of nearly 35 percent.

The word, alas, is out. The Cowboys are no longer A-list celebrities.

DeMarcus Ware is gone. Even Miles Austin is no longer around.

Jerry Jones is the owner who once intrepidly signed Deion Sanders and Terrell Owens. This year he was too scared to draft Johnny Manziel.

A record crowd, by the way, showed up to watch Manziel and the Cleveland Browns open camp last weekend.

Meanwhile, Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ executive vice president, shrugged off his team’s diminished audiences, saying, “Those things take care of themselves.”

Ah, the 8-8 thing, I suppose.

Besides, Stephen added, there was a festival over the weekend that conflicted with the Cowboys’ opening.

How the mighty have fallen. The Cowboys’ crowd dropped by 35 percent because of the Oxnard Salsa Festival?

Think about it, though. Who are the true box office stars on this Ware-less Cowboys team?

Jason Witten, no doubt he’s worth watching.

Tony Romo, I can understand. But how do you know these days if he’s going to show up for practice?

And Dez Bryant rightly should attract an audience.

But who else? The club’s few young offensive linemen?

At Sunday afternoon’s workout, the paparazzi did spring into action and there were squeals among the crowd. But it was all for Irvin, who was there as a commentator for the NFL Network.

Admittedly, by definition 8-8 teams are generally not overflowing with shining stars. The Cowboys are in transition, and who wants to stand around in the afternoon sun and watch a construction site?

According to the Cowboys, their previous two seasons in Oxnard attracted 58,522 and 51,477. No one seems to remember whether there was a salsa festival in town.

A front-page story in the local Ventura County Star said that Cowboys officials expect a “big boost” when the Oakland Raiders come to town for joint practices on Aug. 12-13.

But hold your spurs. Before Saturday’s Cowboys workout, two Raiders fans were seen staging a two-vehicle, silver-and-black motorcade up and down the same street that the Dallas camp is on. There are still a lot of Raiders fans in Ventura County.

The Cowboys first came to California to train in 1963. Their first official Oxnard camp was in 2004.

But the cast has changed. The job that Landry and Bill Parcells once had now belongs to Jason Garrett. The only marquee name in camp belongs to Jerry Jones.

Salsa, anyone?

About Gil LeBreton

Gil LeBreton


Gil LeBreton has been entertaining and informing Star-Telegram readers for more than 34 years. He worked for newspapers in his hometown of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Kansas City and Baltimore before finding his true home in Texas. Over the years he's covered 25 Super Bowls, 16 Olympic Games (9 summer, 7 winter), soccer's World Cup, the Masters, the Tour de France, saw Muhammad Ali box, Paul Newman drive a race car and Prince Albert try to steer a bobsled.

A Vietnam veteran, Gil and his wife Gail have two children -- J.P., a computer game designer in San Francisco, and Elise, an actress living in New York. Gil also once briefly held the WBC Junior Welterweight title belt -- he had to, because the guy he was interviewing, champ Bruce Curry, had to suddenly step into the men's room.

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