Stephen A. Smith knows you’re coming for him.
And that’s just fine with him. “Bring it,” he says to you, Dallas Cowboys fan.
The ESPN personality, whose morning show First Take broadcasts live on location from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday morning at Texas Live! has been vocal about his disdain for Cowboys’ fans over the years. His specific beef is the America’s Team label the Cowboys have and, in his view, the misguided pride many Cowboys’ fans walk around showing.
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Perhaps he needs to spend more time hanging around DFW or listening to some of our local radio shows to get another, less enthusiastic view of Cowboys’ fans. Maybe he’ll get a sense of that Monday morning.
Smith sat down with the Star-Telegram before the Cowboys hosted the Tennessee Titans for Monday Night Football at AT&T Stadium and here are excerpts from the interview, which has been edited for clarity:
You’ve told a story that your annoyance with Cowboys’ fans began when your were dumped by a Cowboys-loving, former girlfriend?
That was a true story, it actually happened. But I’ve been running across Dallas Cowboys fans all my life, including some members of my family. I just can’t stand them. It’s all fun-loving, but it’s what I say all the time. Y’all could go 1-15 and lose on a Sunday in January at 7 0’clock and by 7:15 y’all will be like, ‘You know, we’re going to win the Super Bowl next year, right? Nothing annoys me more than Cowboys fans.
What is it about the franchise that annoys you?
It’s not even about the Cowboys themselves. I love Michael Irvin, I love Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith and Prime Time and Nate Newton. I’ve liked them since the days of Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett. It’s never been about the team, it’s the fan base. I truly mean what I say about the Dallas Cowboys’ fans. They are the most nauseating fan base in American history. I can’t stand them. You walk around bragging about the fact you’re America’s Team. Like it’s something for you to be proud of when you have two playoff victories in 23 years. You got a lot of damn nerves.
Do they come at you? Do you hear from them?
Now they do, because they see me on TV going off on them. I definitely instigated it. Whatever heat they bring my way I deserve it. I understand. I don’t give a damn, but I understand exactly where it comes from. That’s just how I feel about Cowboys fans. Yeah, the ex [girlfriend] dumped me and she was a Cowboys fan. It’s true. But even before, Cowboys fans were annoying me. That was just icing on the cake for me.
What do you make of the Amari Cooper trade and changing the offensive line coach during the bye week?
The offensive line coaching change is a joke because it’s a scapegoat. We all know Jason Garrett should be the one gone. It’s a classic case of Jerry Jones’ ‘that’s my man, I’m tight with Jason Garrett.’ He’s comfortable with who he’s comfortable with. In the end, anybody with two eyes knows that Jason Garrett should have been gone years ago.
Why so down on Jason Garrett?
First of all, he shouldn’t have been a head coach, one could easily argue. What has he done? Usually you’re pretty much gone when you have his kind of production. But that’s not the case with Jerry Jones because Jerry Jones has people he likes.
Do you think these bye-week moves will put more pressure on Garrett to win or else?
I think it might be getting to that point because the heat has been brewing in Dallas for them to do something. Because you’ve got a lot of talent. You’ve actually got a lot of talent on both sides of the ball where you should be able to do some damage. If you don’t do it how many times are you going to look past the head coach and give him a pass while you’re holding everyone else accountable? When’s it going to be about him?
Do you take sports as seriously as it appears you do on First Take?
Do I recognize that it’s just sports when there’s a tragedy that takes place or there’s an election on Tuesday? Of course I recognize that there are things more important than games. But there’s no excuse to not care about what you’re doing. Is that passion fake? No, it isn’t. Now, in the grand scheme of things, once you reflect on it does it mean as much as other things going on in the real world? Of course not. But at the time you’re talking about it and engaging in dialogue about it and you’re feeling whatever it is that you’re feeling, it matters to you.
Not to suggest you don’t believe what you’re saying, but the intensity of some of your arguments?
I don’t fake my emotions. You can’t do what I do to the level I do it, two hours every single day, five days a week, 46 to 48 weeks a year. You can’t do what I do if you don’t mean what you say. I would challenge anybody to sit in my chair for a week, for two hours each day for five straight days and tell me if you could fake your way through that. Try to pull it off, everybody would see right through it. When am I not Stephen A.? Sometimes I’m more demonstrative than others but in terms of me being me, I’m always me because you can’t sustain fakeness. Not in my world.
Do you see Skip Bayless as the same way?
What did you think of Jerry Jones’ stance on the national anthem protest?
First of all, I agree with Colin Kaepernick. I support Colin Kaepernick. But I understand white folks who don’t, particularly in the south. I totally get it. If you are a white individual you’re not going to feel the same about racial oppression and racial inequality and police brutality as black folks do. And I think one of the mistakes we make sometimes as black people is we expect somebody who looks differently than us, who comes from different cultures than us, who can’t possibly comprehend where we’re coming from to actually comprehend where we’re coming from. Some people have a heightened level of sensitivity to our issues, more so than others, but to fully absorb and embrace and comprehend and feel and understand where we’re coming from? That’s a lot to ask of somebody who has never had to experience that. When you couple that with you being from the south, white, a billionaire who, by the way, has historically prioritized his money, it is entirely comprehensible to me how somebody in his position could be a bit reticent to join in the fray, per se, on an issue like that when his penchant is to automatically look towards his bottom line. I may not agree with it, but I totally understand it.
What did you make of how Dak Prescott handled the topic during training camp?
So many people were so quick to call him out and I was even uncomfortable with what he said. It was the timing. It wasn’t the position he took, it’s that he spoke out immediately following something Jerry had said, which made him look like a puppet. I wasn’t calling him that and I’m not calling him that now but if you had taken that position from jump street that would be different. It made you look like you were going along with what the boss said. That’s why some people had a problem with Dak Prescott. But what about all the other players? What did all of these other guys do? Jerry Jones called a business meeting last year, according to my sources, and said this is a business meeting, this is not a football meeting. He basically let those players know, ‘listen, this could potentially affect my bottom line. And if this affects my bottom line, I’m gonna make sure it affects yours.’ But we don’t talk enough about that. He told them to their face. And what did they do about it?
Back to your anti-Cowboys campaign. Why shouldn’t the Dallas Cowboys be called America’s Team? Doesn’t their worldwide popularity despite a lack of recent success prove they’re America’s Team?
We brag all the time about America being the greatest country in the world. We call our president the leader of the free world. Greatest country on God’s green earth, blah, blah, blah ... and America’s Team is the Cowboys? Not the Patriots? Not the Yankees? The Cowboys? Really? In what world? What have they done to be America’s Team? I’m a dad. My daughters have never heard of the Cowboys. My nephews and nieces, they know nothing about the Cowboys other than they lose. Isn’t that supposed to personify excellence? I think it does. But there’s nothing excellent about the modern-day Cowboys. Nothing. I take that back. The cheerleaders, they’re excellent.
How do you then explain the Cowboys being worth $4.8 billion?
I applaud them being worth that much because Jerry Jones is a brilliant marketer and I respect that. I truly do. But America’s Team intimates greatness and I have found nothing great. I have looked in all the archives and I’ve found no evidence of anything great about the Cowboys since 1995. AT&T Stadium, that is special. That, to me, is going to be the Roman Coliseum when all of us are dead and gone. That is a special venue, no doubt about it. But the team he has put before us for many years, has come up short. All of you know it.