Crises come in bunches. The Dallas Cowboys - who have survived drug suspensions, a flawed fourth-and-1 call and the grand entrance of Deion Sanders - were greeted Thursday with one more adventure.
A column in Thursday morning's issue of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram - which examined Troy Aikman's strained relationship with coach Barry Switzer - insinuated that Aikman has alienated his black teammates this season by screaming at them.The column reported, and Aikman told associates last month, that John Blake, then the defensive line coach, made the accusations to Switzer at midseason.
So the team that is always defending itself had to spend its final pre-Super Bowl media session defending its quarterback.
"I'm the blackest man around here, and I love the man," said Dallas wide receiver Michael Irvin.
"Listen," defensive end Charles Haley said, "Troy's been known to jump on guys for jumping offsides. Sometimes, I'll even joke around and kick a ball 100 yards and say, `I'm pulling a Troy Aikman.' The thing is, this team is about 90 percent black, so if Troy yells at somebody, chances are it'll be a black guy. So, no, I don't think Troy's a racist. He's just very emotional. I told guys, `If you don't want Troy to be Troy, our team will lose something.' "
At the core of the flap is Aikman's perfectionism.
At about the time the team was enduring a midseason slump, Blake - who recently left the team to become head coach at the University of Oklahoma - went to Switzer complaining about what he felt was Aikman's tendency to angrily single out black players.
Switzer, who relates well to his black players, believed Blake, who is black, and gave credence to the complaint. Aikman, according to some associates, was livid. He and Switzer had already had a cool relationship, but now it was thoroughly frozen.
The quarterback went to a number of black players - including cornerback Deion Sanders and safety Darren Woodson - and asked if they had a problem. They said absolutely not.