Trying To Turn 'Next Year' Into This Year

average weekly gasoline prices were like $1.30 a gallon.

A goal to win the Super Bowl? You bet.

But abject failure if you don't? Let me ask you this: Would you bet a year's salary, for real now, on the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl, and give me the other 31 teams in the NFL field? Them is some long odds you'd face dealing in such obscene absolutes.

Come on, that's like saying you wouldn't go out with Miss Texas if she didn't win the Miss America contest. Please.

And none of this becomes easier after the Cowboys were featured on the five-week series of "Hard Knocks" this summer, and especially when Episode Five was coming to a close and the narrator states something to the affect, "Thirty-one other teams hope to win the Super Bowl. The Cowboys expect it."

Expect it?

I'm guessing that played real well in Cleveland, even if it wasn't the Cowboys themselves sounding so cocky. We all know how perception becomes reality, and you can hear them muttering up North, those &%$#@ Cowboys.

But a sobering note here is how the Cowboys are handling all this adulation, at least now when their record is 0-0. Check with me in a month or two.

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips mocks all the predictions.

"You mean preseason guesses?" he says, correcting his inquisitor. "That's what predictions are."

And then when asked if he's afraid of his players "buying into the preseason hype," Phillips retorted, "We're not afraid, no. We're into the hype of this game, and playing this game as good as we can play. That's as far as we go.

"It is the present right now, not the future."

Evidently, his guys have been listening, and that's a good thing, because the magnitude of the big picture certainly can become overwhelming when you are wearing that damning label of Next year's Champions.

"We have to erase what people want us to be and go out and be who we want to be," linebacker Kevin Burnett said excitedly. "You keep the outside, outside and the inside, inside."

Most of all, though, you gotta love Tony Romo's perspective on all this pressure seemingly being dumped on the Cowboys to win or else. He's heard the talk. He knows there are people out there saying if the Cowboys don't win the Super Bowl this will have been a wasted season.

For real?

Now maybe you might think that about not finally winning that playoff game? But not winning it all? Wasted? Some way to live your life, everything either black or everything either white.

Romo was talking about himself, about how he will be viewed ultimately if he doesn't win a Super Bowl this year. But in doing so, he dusted off some fine perspective for this entire team.

Please take note:

"If you are lucky enough to win one or two Super Bowls at quarterback, and say you play 10 years in the league, then you've had a pretty successful career, I think. So you are going to be disappointed for eight or nine of those years then each year it doesn't happen. So to live and die all the time on strictly winning the Super Bowl is just going to make people go nuts.

"So I feel like each season you go out to get better, and you hope to one day be good enough to win a Super Bowl. But the only thing we can take care of right now is today, the only thing we can do right now is have a good practice today, and hopefully that will help us be a better team tomorrow, be a better team on Sunday, and then over the course of 17 or 20 weeks, whatever it is, you hope to be that much better then.

"I think it will be a real fun thing this year to go out and see how good we can be."

Fun? Did Romo say fun? Can this possibly be fun if you buy into these predicted ultimatums? These great expectations?

"I don't think guys are looking at it like, 'let's get the regular season over with and get to the playoffs,'" Witten says.

And it will be so important for the Cowboys to stay this course, to believe in what Romo said that last episode Wednesday night on "Hard Knocks" that this is all "about the

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