Emotion may offset Cowboys' superiority

January 28, 1994|By John Steadman

ATLANTA -- All the physical advantages, plus the skills and techniques, belong to the richly endowed Dallas Cowboys. They also talk a better game. The only thing they don't have in the Super Bowl equation is the psychological edge.

But since they overwhelmed the same Super Bowl rival by a 52-17 score a year ago, they'll take center stage Sunday knowing that on the genuine premise of measuring ability they should prevail again. The odds-board supports the contention, listing the Cowboys as a 10 1/2 -point favorite.

Yet, when men are ridiculed, told they're inferior and a professional disgrace it can provide an incentive that often -- but not always -- transcends natural talent. The Buffalo Bills are in just such a position.

They have been to the Super Bowl prom three previous times and have yet to dance. To the contrary, the Bills have fumbled and stumbled. They also have been spurned and humiliated by the Washington Redskins and Cowboys while coming close the first time, failing by a mere 20-19 to the New York Giants.

The strongest motivational element the Bills have going for them is a desire to regain their personal and professional pride. To do that they must establish respect for their achievement in being good enough to qualify for the Super Bowl four straight years.

That should add up to something but in America, as epitomized by the Super Bowl, second place doesn't count. They have had not only to take beatings on the field but hear themselves tagged unfairly as a collection of chronic losers.

If the Bills have any character, and they certainly do, this should provide impetus enough for them to play the game of their lives against the Cowboys. There's no reason for Marv Levy, the Bills' erudite coach, who likes to pontificate in locker room dissertations, to say a word in the pre-kickoff assembly.

If he wants to be effective and dramatic while making a talk it only needs to be two words. End of speech. All Levy need do is stand before them, look into the faces of his players, pause and merely say, "Let's go."

Let's now defer to a profound essay contributed by one of America's illustrious journalists of the past. His name was Paul Gallico. In this instance, he would grant what he called the Fifth Factor to Buffalo. It's nebulous yet important.

The Fifth Factor, as described by Gallico, was how public opinion often softens a team, or an individual, to a confident mind-set that can become fatal, regardless of how many times they are made aware of the qualifications of a so-called lesser opponent.

This is the genesis toward the creation of upsets, going back to Biblical times when David and Goliath had a pre-Super Bowl shootout.

The Bills have far more to prove than the Cowboys. And, prematurely, the owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones, is proclaiming that if his team wins a second successive Super Bowl, it must be regarded as one of the best in NFL history.

He obviously never heard of such awesome teams as the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins.

Jones further suggests Troy Aikman, a gifted talent, also will be included among the great quarterbacks of all-time.

Again, he needs to be told about John Unitas, Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Sid Luckman and Terry Bradshaw. It could be that Mr. Jones is being somewhat presumptuous in his evaluation of the Cowboys and their quarterback.

"Any way you slice it, we'd be considered one of the top four or five teams of all time," added Jones, the self-professed historian. Can such an assumption be regarded as realism or just another fanciful Texas brag?

Aikman's opposite number, the Bills' Jim Kelly, has gone 0-for-3 in Super Bowl appearances. There are accusations he's regressing but don't minimize the results that got him this far. He has directed the Bills to the ultimate game again, which means he is not exactly shooting blanks when he pulls the trigger.

The worst scenario for the Bills is if they fall behind in the early going. Dallas is more explosive and capable of playing "firehouse" football.

If the Bills stay away from self-incriminating mistakes and the score is close when the teams reach intermission, it will be a momentous second half. The Bills could even somehow win, like 23-17, despite playing against a superior force.

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