Six games into this season, who woulda thunk-it?
Who would’ve dreamed –given their horrible start– that the Dallas Cowboys would be atop the NFC East; with a record of 8-4, and a two game lead over the nearest competition?
Who could’ve imagined that this coming Sunday they’d be playing another 8-4 NFC team; and that the name of that team would be the New Orleans Saints?
Are you kidding me?!
And, most amazing of all, who even thought, just a few weeks back, that the guy who would lead them is this would be an undrafted quarterback who had never started in the NFL?
Although there are many factors that have led to the Cowboy’s mid-season turnaround, there is no single factor touted more by the sport-punditocracy (feel free to use this fine new word) than the leadership of Tony Romo.
The Cowboys are 5-1 since Romo took over. And the “1” was the freakiest last-second loss you’ll ever see. The punditocracy has gone from proclaiming the Cowboys’ season over, to seriously suggesting they might end up in the Super Bowl.
Are you kidding me?!
Look around the NFC, and you’d be hard pressed to rule that out. In fact, just today, ESPN has released their “Power Rankings” for the NFL for Week 14. The first two teams are from the AFC. The top-rated NFC team?
The Dallas Cowboys.
Here in Big D, we’re still pinching ourselves and rubbing our eyes about all this. We’re knocking the side of our head, checking our ears for wax, and reading the sport pages twice, just to be sure. But it’s all there, and it’s all real. This team is hot. This team is on a roll.
And all eyes are on Romo.
What’s been fun is to hear the old Cowboys–the wise, retired, generation– talk about this young kid. I have now heard Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Charlie Waters all say that they think Romo is the real deal. During the radio broadcast of the last game, Waters said Romo’s confidence reminded him a lot of Staubach.
And he said something else that I’ve felt while watching the last few games: even if the Cowboys are down, even if it’s late in the game, with Romo in there you have the feeling that they still might come back and they still might have a shot. That’s what we fans remember about the Aikman and Staubach years.
Romo is able to scramble in the pocket; which, overnight, has made the offensive line look like they’re playing better. But it seems to me they are playing better. It seems to me that Romo’s attitude has made the team want to play better. Heck, even T.O. is giving him compliments. And I don’t remember T.O. ever being real happy with his quarterbacks. Romo’s Quarterback Rating is a stunningly high 102.4. In addition to the talk of the Cowboys making the Super Bowl, the puditocracy is seriously mentioning his name in connection with the Pro Bowl too. It’s a lot to take in.
So as you might imagine would be the case, there have been numerous stories written about Tony Romo the past two months. Lot’s has been made of the fact that he was undrafted out of college. (Where is Eastern Illinois?!) Lot’s has been written about his confidence as a player. There’s even been the rumor that he’s dating Richardson-native, Jessica Simpson. (Seems she could’ve used his confidence at the Kennedy Center Honors last two nights ago…)
But of all the factoids put out there in the past two months, the one that caught my eye was a story about his heritage. Setting aside the awkward jokes of Michael Irvin, the real truth is actually pretty interesting: Tony Romo is the grandson of Mexican immigrants.
Baptized “Antonio Ramiro Romo,” raised in California and Wisconsin, and like many other Dallasites, Romo’s family roots trace back through Texas and into Mexico. The best story on this is from the San Antonio Express-News, and ran just after Romo’s first start a few weeks back. Here’s some of what it said:
“Tony Romo’s paternal grandparents sat in front of their TV alone Sunday night, holding hands.
Ramiro and Felicita Romo knew watching their grandson make his debut as the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback would be emotional, and they wanted to share the moment in solitude.
“There were some tears,” Felicita Romo said. “No, a lot of tears.”
It was a like a sueño, a dream, for the Romos, who lived in San Antonio for three years before moving to the East Texas town of Crockett in 1989.
But the image of No. 9 walking up to the line of scrimmage to take his first snap confirmed what they had known for days: Their nieto, grandson, was quarterbacking the team with the star on the helmet.
“I thought of how far we’ve come, not only as a family, but as a people,” Ramiro, 73, said in Spanish this week via phone. “I remembered the hard times in Mexico and how I struggled when I first got here. It’s like coming from zero to where we are today. All of that went through my mind.” “
Romo’s grandfather was born in Mexico in 1933 and came to Texas as a teenager. After five years in San Antonio, he ended up in Racine, Wisconsin. It was there that he met and married Tony’s grandmother. Like many other grandsons/daughters of Mexican immigrants, the story points out that “Tony” has become quite assimilated into American life. It says:
“Although Tony speaks very little Spanish — he can sing “La Bamba” with his grandfather accompanying him on the guitar — his abuelos and father said he takes pride in his ethnicity.
“That’s a topic we’ve talked about a number of times,” Ramiro Jr. said. “I’ve told Tony that there are some bad people out there who sometimes judge you, or get a certain perspective of you, by your name. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are.
“Tony is fiercely proud of being an Hispanic and carrying the Romo name. I’ve always told him, ‘Be who you are and be proud of it.'”
So, in a year when a Dallas suburb passed laws against undocumented immigrants, in a year of Dallas’ (and Texas’) single largest protest ever —a protest of immigration policies that drew half a million people— it’s at least worth musing on how the new Cowboys’ QB is a second-generation Mexican-American.
To me, it speaks to the enduring legacy of the American dream. To others, I hope knowing this might help them see the truth of what myself and many others often say: that immigrants always assimilate into America. It may take a generation. Sometimes it takes two. But, given a level…ahem….playing field, the children and grandchildren of Mexican immigrants can grow to do great things.
They can even grow up to quarterback “America’s Team.”
As you might imagine, Tony’s grandparents –who now live back here in Texas– are truly moved by their grandson’s achievements:
“That a Mexican immigrant would someday have a grandson quarterbacking one of the most glamorous teams in pro sports, Ramiro and Felicita said, is a testament to the power of the American dream.
“I’ve always said this is a country of opportunities,” Ramiro said. “If you don’t get a job or an education, it’s because you don’t want to.”
His parents’ humble background, Ramiro Romo Jr. said, has made Tony’s success more gratifying.
“Only in America,” he said.””
Yes, only in America.