CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22: Ken Hamlin #26 of the Dallas Cowboys gestures towards the bench during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 22, 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Like anyone from Dallas, the Cowboys .500 record is cause for abject sorrow on my part. It makes me uneasy; I lash out at friends and co-workers with no provocation; I wake up sobbing at night, clutching a picture of the '95 Cowboys in one hand, and a half-empty bottle of whiskey in the other. Make no mistake, the optimism of mid-September is unaffected by any rationale, any thought that the Cowboys just might not be very good. It's in my blood.
Hence the sting of mediocrity come mid-October, as Dallas dropped yet another winnable game, this time to the Denver Broncos, once again sending the team to a .500 record, an incontrovertible state of sports-mediocrity; at least, I thought that's what it meant.
Ken Hamlin refuses to label this edition of the Cowboys as mediocre, which is good; it's also a stance that's kind of indefensible.
"Who says we're mediocre?" Hamlin said on Monday. "Who says it though? The media? I don't concern myself with media--being 2-2 doesn't mean you're mediocre."
I like the sentiment; but for outsiders, there's little getting around the semantics of the situation. Merriam-Webster defines mediocrity, in this context, as "moderate ability or value;" M-W defines "moderate" as "tending toward the mean or average amount or dimension."
Mean, or average; kind of like a .500 record. Not good, not bad; just, well, mediocre.
"I can go back in the past and we can sit here and go through teams who were 1-3, 2-2, or whatever at this point in time and still went to the Super Bowl," Hamlin continued. "Just because the media says we're mediocre, I don't concern myself with that. If I wasn't convinced, I'd snatch my name off that locker and go home."
Again, this is a stance that is crucial to the Cowboys, within the context of the locker room, if they hope for anything better than an 8-8, playoff-less season. And, as Hamlin infers, it would be ridiculous to think that anyone in the locker room would concede such a point. But we are without the benefit of self-belief, and team spirit and all the other lessons we learned from Remember The Titans. (As a point of comparison, the Titans were anything but mediocre.)
But one would be hard-pressed (Cowboys fan or not) to offer a convincing argument of Dallas being any more than mediocre; the team probably has above-average talent, and they have a visibility that would point to anything but a middle-of-the-road football team.
These things do not an above-average football team make, though, necessarily; this is particularly true of one that has not yet beaten a team with a win, and sits tied for fourth in the East with the chaotic and struggling Redskins.
Make no mistake: The Cowboys are mediocre, and they will be until they prove definitively that they're more than that.