I'm not a big believer in the Dallas Cowboys. They send a message of excess. They throw money around on players and a stadium, have an attention-seeking owner who is more prominent than any of the players, and they tend to choke and fizzle in major moments.
Until this year. Maybe all the despair is finally getting to them. Perhaps they've been so hardened by disappointment that they're suddenly feeling invincible.
Their overtime win Sunday against the Steelers was gutty and resilient. But so was their effort the week before against the Bengals, and the week before that against the Eagles. They're not just showing signs of life, but of determination and perseverance.
They also had to deal with the recent death of a teammate. Jerry Brown was killed in a car accident in which his friend Josh Brent was driving. Brent has been charged with intoxication manslaughter, yet he was allowed to stand on the Cowboys' sideline Sunday, and has been embraced by Brown's family. It's impossible to gauge just what all that means to the Cowboys, other that it suggest strength in the face of real adversity.
The Cowboys have two contests left - Sunday, at home, against New Orleans, and a week later on the road against the Redskins. Dallas is 8-6, and so are the Redskins and Giants in the NFC East. It's a muddled division, and who knows which teams will be playing in the postseason and which will be on holiday.
But I do know this: These don't seem to be the same old Cowboys. That's got to be a big relief in Dallas.
Now that's a deal!
Over the weekend, the New York Mets accelerated the process of trading away their aging breakout star, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, to Toronto for - in part - two young players: Travis d'Arnaud, considered the top catching prospect in baseball; and 6-7 righthander Noah Syndergaard, the No. 1 prize on the Jays' pitching farm.
The deal makes sense, because the Mets need a lot of help, and Dickey was their only real trading card. But it does create the perception that the Mets - once willing to throw money around to entice free agents and attract fans - have gone uber-frugal.
Yet the Dickey move is not as bargain-basement as Groupon.
Right around the time the Dickey trade was happening, Groupon sent out a blast advertising Mets tickets at a discount. Among the options, tickets normally priced at $12 are now $9. In other words, you save $3. So far, 100 such ducats have been purchased. Groupon warns that there is a limited quantity available, although I suspect they're limited to the number they can sell.
There are 20 options available, with single game and four-game packs to choose from. It doesn't say anything about whether the offer extends to playoff tickets, but I think I can guess why.
Now I love Groupon. But when I get a Groupon e-mail, I expect to see offers for half-off hang-gliding lessons, or Thai massage, or hyperallergenic pillows. I don't expect to see deals for New York Mets tickets. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. But it leaves me with the same impression I used to get when I would go to a bookstore and see a Rick Pitino book on leadership and success selling for a buck.
What's next, Mets? Ticket booths at flea markets?
Center of attention
Andrew Bynum made some comments this past weekend, and if he were anyone else he'd be skewered and ridiculed. After all, the former Laker hasn't yet played for his new team, the Philadelphia 76ers. And he has an eye-catching new hair style sure to bring him added scrutiny.
But Bynum has no filter. And in his case, that's a good thing.
Then Bynum referred to the Lakers' current center, Dwight Howard, and said L.A. traded No. 1 for No. 2. In other words, Bynum feels that he, and not Howard, is the best center in the game.
That notion is a tad ludicrous coming from someone who has spent more time in doctor's offices than Howard has on the court. But it isn't that far-fetched. In the rare stretches when Bynum was healthy for the Lakers, he played some dominant basketball. He offered glimpses of what he could be - and it was at least possible that he could develop into the game's top center.
Even if you laugh upon hearing a man in street clothes claiming he's better than a man in uniform, you have to give Bynum points for confidence. He believes he's better. That sort of gumption comes in handy on the hardwood.
Now . if he can only get back to the hardwood .
A game of pepper
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Michael Ventre is a regular contributor to NBCSports.com. Follow him on Twitter.