An extra ticket might be available for tonight's game because a passenger on US Airways Flight 1273 this afternoon couldn't control his nicotine urge. The passenger, an Eagles fan flying from Philadelphia International to Dallas-Fort Worth, disregarded the pre-flight warning about smoking and lit up in the lavatory.
Yes, of course, he got caught and was told by flight attendants that he was to remain on the airplane and that he'd be arrested when it landed. While everyone else deplaned -- deplaned, what a word -- the smoking Eagles fan remained behind.
According to federal law, a person can be fined up to $3,300 for smoking in airplane lavatory. It's a big game between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys tomorrow night, but the passenger probably can't get that much for his ticket.
The flight also included a Cowboys fan in a white No. 81 jersey who was 100 times more annoying than Terrell Owens. Apparently no one ever told the guy about quiet time.
THE REST OF THE STORY.
Excerpts from my Sunday interview with former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman appeared in today's newspaper. Aikman, now a color commentator for Fox's NFL games, was terrific talking about a number of different subjects, but most of them didn't make it into the newspaper or into cyberspace today.
So here's the full version of the story. Hope you enjoy it.
By Bob Brookover
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
It’s just another game.
That’s essentially what quarterback Donovan McNabb told us as the Eagles prepared for tomorrow night’s Monday Night Football showdown with the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium.
“This is just a normal game for us,” McNabb said. “You get excited … to play on Monday night, but that’s about it.”
Just another game?
Oh, sure, and Sarah Palin is just another governor.
That’s probably the last thing Eagles fans wanted to hear from the franchise quarterback days before a game against a hated NFC East rival that won 13 games and a division title a year ago.
McNabb, however, is absolutely correct.
History is a great teacher and today’s lesson is about another Monday night football game between these same two teams 16 years ago.
Professor Troy Aikman will serve as the guest lector.
Aikman, the Cowboys’ quarterback in 1992, remembers well the Monday night game at Veterans Stadium that year. He remembers how the 3-0 Eagles pummeled the 3-0 Cowboys, 31-7. He remembers how the world, especially the part of the planet that is known for cheesesteaks, was ready to declare the Eagles and their dominant defense the next Super Bowl champion.
Oddly enough, Aikman remembers it as a positive turning point for the Cowboys.
“I remember the morning after the game I was talking to Jimmy Johnson and he told me he was encouraged by what happened,” Aikman said. “I looked at him and said, ‘Me, too.’ We actually moved the football against those guys. It was the only moral victory I ever remember having.”
More history is required to explain the optimism of Aikman and his head coach.
“My first game against the Eagles was on Thanksgiving Day in 1989 and I literally thought when it was over that they were going to put me in a body cast,” Aikman said. “They X-rayed both my shoulders, both my knees and my elbow. Two weeks later, we played them again and it was much of the same – an absolute beating. We didn’t move the football.”
Two more beatings and two more losses followed for the Cowboys in 1990. Defensive end Clyde Simmons separated Aikman’s shoulder in the second game, marking the sixth time in eight games that a quarterback who started against the Eagles failed to finish.
Aikman was sacked 11 times against the Eagles during the team’s first meeting in 1991 and even when the Cowboys won at the Vet late in that same season, it was a punt return for a touchdown that made the difference. Aikman didn’t play in that game.
By 1992, however, the Cowboys knew they were good and they still felt that way even after their lopsided loss at the Vet. By the times the teams met four weeks later at Texas Stadium, the Eagles’ offense was a mess and the Cowboys won easily, 20-10.
Coach Rich Kotite benched Randall Cunningham for the next game against the Raiders and the Eagles were never better than they were on that Monday night in the fourth game of the season.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, went on to win their first of three Super Bowls during the Aikman era, pinning a postseason rout on the Eagles along the way.
The point here is that so much can happen over the course of a football season that it would be foolish to think whatever happens tomorrow night between the Eagles and Cowboys is a barometer of things to come.
“I’ve witnessed it so many times,” Aikman said. “I was on a team in 1999 that started 3-0 under Chan Gailey and we finished 8-8. In 1995 when we won the Super Bowl, everybody said that we had this great team, but we went through a stretch where the season hung in the balance.
“We had a fourth-and-10 play at home against the Giants that we converted and went on to win the game. That propelled us to the Super Bowl that year.”
Other examples can be found in just about every football season, but those defining moments tend to come later rather than sooner.
The Giants, for example, probably didn’t know they were a Super Bowl contender until they discovered they could play with the unbeaten New England Patriots in their regular-season finale last year.
The Eagles, five years ago, lost a game in Dallas and left Texas Stadium with a 2-3 record and a sore-thumbed quarterback. The Cowboys, in coach Bill Parcells’ first season, were 4-1.
A week later, Brian Westbrook returned a punt for a touchdown late in a seemingly lost game against the Giants. That one play triggered a nine-game Eagles winning streak and a third straight NFC East title.
Aikman said every good team will encounter turbulence during the season and the ones that are equipped to handle it have the best chance of winning the Super Bowl.
“I think part of it is knowing that you’re good and part of it is having the right type of people on your team,” Aikman said. “I really think it’s important to be around people who see the glass as half full and always think that things will be fine. When you have people who dwell on the negative and dwell on the past, it’s bound to become a fight.”
Go back and research how Kotite, Cunningham and the Eagles handled adversity, then compare it to how Johnson, Aikman and the Cowboys confronted turbulent times and you’ll begin to understand why Dallas won three Super Bowls and the Eagles never won much more than a big game on Monday night.