Gonzo: Gonzo chats with - Troy Aikman

Troy Aikman, formerly of the Cowboys and now of Fox Sports, has warm feelings for Philly.
Troy Aikman, formerly of the Cowboys and now of Fox Sports, has warm feelings for Philly.
Posted: January 11, 2009

Like a lot of Philadelphians, I spent a good portion of my youth (and my adulthood), actively despising the Cowboys. Michael Irvin. Emmitt Smith. Jimmy Johnson. They were villains in black hats.

I hated Troy Aikman, too, just not as much. It's harder to loathe someone who doesn't return the venom.

Today, Aikman and Joe Buck will call the Eagles-Giants clash on Fox. In advance of the game, Aikman and I talked about his surprisingly warm feelings for Philly, how dangerous this Birds team is, and why Eagles fans are feared.

Until the Eagles made the playoffs, I think a lot of people here were frustrated.

(Cuts me off with a laugh.) In Philly?

Yeah, it's our default position. Regardless of what happens against the Giants, have the Eagles had a successful season?

I would say they would tell you no. Circumstances matter. New England lost their quarterback and won 11 games. That's successful. But for the Eagles, even though they didn't make playoffs last year, they had high expectations this year. I think they want more than just one playoff win. The standard is higher in Philly than it is in Baltimore.

Sports Illustrated called the Birds "dangerous." How dangerous are they?

Extremely. I felt that if Philadelphia got in, they'd have to play pretty well down the stretch to do it. That's the good thing. The bad thing: How does that wear on you? They've been in playoff mode for six weeks. They had the hiccup in Washington, but they've had to keep winning. How long can you sustain that and do it on the road? That's hard. But I think they've got as good a chance to go to the Super Bowl as any team in the NFC.

Whenever someone in sports gets caught with a gun - Plaxico included - I think about Barry Switzer trying to take his through the airport. That's a special kind of stupid.

After that happened, one of the big columnists here in Dallas stopped calling him Barry Switzer and started calling him Coach Gunsmoke.

Jeff Pearlman's book Boys Will Be Boys opens with Michael Irvin trying to stab a teammate with a pair of scissors. I'm disappointed there wasn't a chapter where you tried to lance someone with a letter opener. How can you call yourself a Cowboy?

Apparently I didn't earn my stripes. I didn't do anything sensational. I got through that relatively unscathed.

I grew up watching the Buddy Ryan teams and always wondered if you hated the Eagles as much as the Eagles and Philly despised you.

Whatever hatred you had for us, it wasn't shared. We had great respect for Philadelphia. Eagles fans definitely get worked up. Dallas people don't get that worked up about anybody. That's one of the things that made it tough to play in Philly. From the time you went on the field to when you got on the bus to go home, you had to be yelling to be heard. The fans made it tough. They're as much a part of beating the Eagles as the players on the field. They're feared.

What happened to the Cowboys this season? And if you would, please tell Tony Romo and Terrell Owens that Philly says thanks.

I'm sure they'll appreciate hearing from you folks. What it takes to win in this league goes beyond talent. Every team I was a part of, no matter how good, always hit bumps in the road. It's how you endure. Philly had it. Cincinnati. Baltimore. Washington. How do you deal with that? Can you bounce back? If you don't have character and heart, you can't weather those things. That's been the Cowboys' problem the last few years. When they've met adversity, they haven't handled it well.

There was a recent ESPN report that said Jerry Jones is "growing angrier by the minute." If you snap a photo of a throbbing vein in his forehead, The Inquirer will pay good money.

ESPN is like Entertainment Tonight now. I think Jerry has gone underground. But I don't know how you couldn't be upset. When you spend the money he spends, and you don't make the playoffs, you can only imagine how angry someone would get.

How have you been treated by the Philly fans since retiring? Any better?

Not at first. But I think they've learned over the years that I have no bias toward the Eagles, and I respect the organization. I can appreciate that there's a reluctance to accept anyone who wore a star on his helmet. But they don't throw snowballs into the broadcast booth anymore.

Hey, that's progress.

Oh yeah.

Last one. The Joe Buck/Troy Aikman/Tim McCarver triangle seems dicey. Do you and McCarver get jealous when you have to share Buck with the other guy?

The only time is during the World Series. Joe does a good job of massaging the situation. He's good at stroking our egos.

Bodog now has the Eagles at 8-3 to win the NFC championship and 6-1 to win the whole thing. . ...Good luck to Tonight Show band leader Kevin Eubanks. If the Eagles lose today, he's vowed to shave his mustache. . .


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

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