Romo's Mexico trip overblown
By Michael Silver, Yahoo! Sports
January 11, 2008
A dude named Romo was playing the ninth hole at a Dallas-area golf course when I caught up to him by cell phone Thursday afternoon. Upon being asked about the distractions facing the Dallas Cowboys before Sunday's divisional-round playoff game against the New York Giants, he immediately started laughing.
"All this stuff people talk about, it's kind of just – I don't know how else to put it – media driven," Romo said between practice swings with his seven-iron. "It's designed to sell papers and get hits on the Internet, but it doesn't mean a thing. At the end of the day, it's about what you do on the field."
Before you go bemoaning this seemingly cavalier approach to preparation by the Dallas quarterback, realize that this was Ramiro Romo, the man who, some tabloids and gossipy websites would have you believe, will be Jessica Simpson's future father-in-law. Son Tony was still at the Cowboys' facility in Valley Ranch, getting ready for the biggest game of his young life.
Trust me, the younger Romo is a lot less stressed about whether he'll rise to the occasion than most observers. From listening to some of the ominous comments critiquing the Pro Bowl quarterback's quick getaway last week with teammates and a certain high-profile celebrity, you'd have thought he fled to Mexico with O.J. Simpson.
If you're waiting for a harsh rebuke of Jess and Tony's excellente Los Cabos adventure, you had best look elsewhere. I've covered enough football to know that winning quarterbacks and hot chicks go together like armchair QBs and cold beers. For example, it didn't seem to hurt Tom Brady's focus a year ago when he led the Patriots to a fourth-quarter comeback victory in San Diego with supermodel Gisele as his guest. Even more, had Romo just gone to Mexico with his parents, this would be a non-issue.
Ultimately, anyone who has spent time around Romo understands that he'll be about as rattled by his south-of-the-border escape as he was when he threw five interceptions in Buffalo last September and still managed to pull out a come-from-behind, last-second triumph over the Bills.
And if you're wondering whether all this talk of Simpson as a distraction has, in and of itself, evolved into a distraction, rest assured that Romo won't be fazed by the hoopla, either. But don't take it from me; take it from the man who has watched him thrive under pressure at all levels, ascending from scrub duty as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois to become the aw-shucks face of America's Team.
"Tony's pretty comfortable in his own skin," Ramiro Romo says. "He's never worried about what other people perceive him to be or what they think is happening in his life. He knows the truth. And trust me, he'll be focused when he steps on that field."
Of course, focus doesn't guarantee that Romo will play well – or that he'll lead the Cowboys, the top seed in the NFC, to their first postseason victory since the 1996 season. Should the Giants pull the upset, Romo will take the fall, whether he deserves it or not.
Never mind that there have been plenty of other distractions at Valley Ranch in the 12 days since the Cowboys officially entered postseason mode.
Last week, assistant coaches Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano each hit the road to interview for NFL head coaching opportunities. Depending upon whether you believe media reports, Sparano may already be the clandestine coach of the Miami Dolphins. Garrett, the team's first-year offensive coordinator, is so hot that there has been media speculation Dallas owner Jerry Jones would consider firing coach Wade Phillips and putting Garrett in charge to avoid losing him – especially if the Cowboys lose. Jones did his best to squash that notion Thursday.
Then there is Terrell Owens' ankle injury and the suspense about whether the star wideout will be limited in Sunday's game or, even worse, unable to play at all.
When T.O. is reduced to sidebar status, you know the circus is in town.
As for Romo dealing with distractions and hurdles, he's been down this road before. He was in the process of leading Dallas to a dramatic playoff victory over the Seahawks on a rainy night in Seattle last year when the fairy tale took a slippery turn: Romo, still the holder for field goals (a remnant of his days as the backup), let a snap squirt through his hands, depriving the Cowboys of a potential game-winning kick with just over a minute remaining.
Romo nearly redeemed himself, picking up the ball and racing forward but falling just inches short of a first down and a couple of yards shy of the end zone. It was one of the more infamous gaffes in NFL playoff history, and many people wondered if the kid would recover.
The answer: He was even better in '07, completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 4,211 yards, with 36 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. In late October he agreed to a reported six-year, $67.5-million contract extension.
When Ramiro thinks back on his son's special season, he recalls so many stirring snapshots: the season opener, when Tony shook off all the doubts from the playoff defeat and threw for 345 yards in a 45-35 victory over the Giants; the big victories on the road, including the crazy one in Buffalo; the spectacular play against the Rams on which Romo ran back to recover a snap that had flown over his head, fielded it 33 yards behind the line of scrimmage and sprinted forward for a four-yard gain and a first down.
There was also a private moment the Romos shared with their son as they dined together the night before the Nov. 29 game against Brett Favre and the Packers that essentially determined home-field advantage in the NFC.
"We were really nervous, and his mother and I tried not to let on as to how nervous we were," Ramiro recalls. "But Tony just had this calm about him; it was almost eerie. And after the game (a 37-27 Dallas victory), she and I said to one another, 'He knew.'"
Earlier this week, Ramiro found out something even more fulfilling. Diagnosed in September with prostate cancer at the age of 50, Ramiro underwent surgery two months later and waited to hear from doctors what the next course of treatment would be. On Tuesday, he says, "I just got news that I'm cancer free. No radiation, no chemotherapy. It's a blessing."
Now ask yourself this question: What's more distracting to an athlete – a parent battling cancer or a couple of days by the pool with a singer and actress?
Here's how I look at it: The quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys just learned that his dad is going to be OK. Come Sunday, whatever goes down and whoever's passing judgment, the younger Romo will be just fine.