Tony Romo was sports fans' misunderstood delight

Love-hating the Cowboys QB was the gift that kept on giving

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The bartender at your favorite establishment must have loved Tony Romo.

Think about it: He was an array of endless fodder without personally ever saying very much over the course of his 15-year NFL career.

He gifted us with entertainment, incredible TV ratings, hot takes, pretty good football, a team to root for or (most likely) against, and most importantly — that bit of mystique and misunderstanding that kept us coming back for more. We, sports media and fans alike, always thought we had Romo figured out until we realized we didn’t. He was an enigma who wasn’t bad enough to be easily forgotten but never great enough to be universally hailed either.

Is that why he could never win when it mattered most?

For over 10 years, all you had to do was turn on the TV during football season and there he was — the beautiful Tony Romo with his notorious half-grin smile and five o’clock shadow gracing your screen.

His literal presence was almost never there, but his dreamy one was constantly staring you in the face.

“Is Tony Romo an elite quarterback,” Moderator X would say almost every day.

“Tony Romo is the second coming of the Messiah for the Dallas Cowboys!” Hot Taker Y would scream shamelessly.

“How the hell can you call him the Messiah when this guy isn’t even a savior of one playoff game?!” Hot Taker Z would shout back.

On and on and on this went until you could practically hear the producers screaming into the Hot Takers’ ears. And in between, countless other debates — some nuanced and others not so much — about his personality, demeanor, resilience and every other blanket term used in “sports media lingo” raged on throughout the ecosystem. It was Romo heaven (Or hell depending on how you viewed the world).

But just as he became the gift of endless conversation, he just as quickly became the numbing headache that could never go away.

Statistically, he was a fantasy sports fan’s dream come true. But when none of that mattered — like when he botched the snap on the go-ahead field goal in the 2007 NFC Wild Card Game — he became a fan’s darkest demon.

While many people might see that as the anatomy of an unfulfilled destiny, it quickly became social media’s darling. For all the good Romo did for TV ratings and broken hearts, he might’ve done even more for Twitter and hashtags. Romo blowing leads and screen shots of Jerry Jones sighing in his press box after playoff losses became instant memes and viral tweets.

But for all the pettiness about the connotation of “greatness,” or at least the kind they yell about on TV, Romo is one of the few athletes of this generation who legitimately didn’t provide us with a concrete answer to that question.

Unlike his counterpart Tom Brady, who’s quest to always prove his GOAT status has become a boring storyline in itself, it never felt like the national crowd — those outside the Cowboys fan base — could ever come to grips with what Romo was or what he wanted his legacy to be.

Here’s probably the best answer we’ll ever get to to that question, courtesy of his 2008 comments following a 38-point loss to the Eagles in Week 17 that knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs: “If this is the worst thing that will ever happen to me, then I’ve lived a pretty good life.”

Bartenders everywhere must’ve rejoiced in those words. Here’s to another year of Romo hot takes!

So cheers to the end of an excellent career. No, a marvelous one. Better yet, a stupendous run.

Actually, I’ll even call it Hall of Fame caliber — not because his play was that of GOAT status, but because the entertainment value Romo provided was so consistently good for so long that there may be no perfect meme to describe it. Yet.

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