For the early '90s Dallas Cowboys, winning three Super Bowls in four years excused a multitude of sins, ranging from rape accusations to a near-fatal assault on a teammate with a pair of scissors. Emotionally stunted players like Michael Irvin and coaches like Jimmy Johnson put football (and the fast-lane lifestyle that went with it) above their wives, children, and mental health, but that doesn't make them unique in professional sports. What makes them different, judging by Jeff Pearlman's salacious page-turner Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days And Party Nights Of The Dallas Cowboys Dynasty, is how successful they were at reconciling a steely-eyed commitment to gridiron perfection with an insatiable hunger for hookers and blow.
Pearlman, who chronicled the similarly depraved '86 New York Mets in the bestseller The Bad Guys Won!, suggests that off-the-field insanity was an essential part of the team's winning makeup, even if hard living and lax discipline finally finished off the Cowboys' run of championships by the decade's end. The player who personified the Cowboys' "work hard, play harder" ethos was Irvin, a complicated man who routinely cheated on his wife but was fiercely loyal to his teammates, who in turn respected him for his tireless work ethic almost as much for his ability to bed up to a dozen women at once. For a team that bonded by going to strip clubs and doing bong rips with dancers in the champagne room, Irvin was a role model.
Pearlman occasionally adopts an overly jokey tone when describing the utter lunacy of the Cowboys locker room, which is unnecessary considering how outrageous the stories are by themselves. He's better off when he lets his reporting—he interviewed nearly 150 players and coaches—vividly flesh out the team's generous collection of larger-than-life characters. There's Jerry Jones, the megalomaniacal owner who saw his team go from 1-15 to the top of the NFL, and used his status to chase the same big-breasted groupies his players enjoyed. There's Nate Newton, a massively overweight Pro Bowl offensive lineman who went to prison after getting caught with more than 200 pounds of marijuana. And most memorably, there's Charles Haley, a seemingly psychotic defensive end who livened up team meetings by masturbating while discussing other players' wives, and who once cut open the roof of a teammate's convertible in order to piss into it.
It's no wonder Pearlman compares the Cowboys to Aerosmith, Kiss, and The Rolling Stones all rolled into one. Boys Will Be Boys has the classic Behind The Music structure: a group of misfits comes from nothing, hits it big, and loses it all after success goes to their heads. It's an old story, but as told by Pearlman, it's still incredibly entertaining.