Campo unhappy with Japan Effort

Monday, August 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Maybe it was sometime in the third quarter, probably after one of the Cowboys' rookie cornerbacks had been flagged or burned or run over, that Dave Campo suddenly reminded you of Chevy Chase.

Not since the Griswalds set out in a station wagon for WallyWorld has anyone gone so far for so little.

Campo's nature is similar to Clark Griswald's. No matter what happens, he keeps telling you how great it is, even if the money's all gone and Aunt Edna's lashed to the luggage rack.

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Jean-Jacques Taylor

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Campo is aggressively upbeat. Never saw a player who wasn't "great," that he didn't "love" or who isn't really "impressive."

He didn't get this way overnight, like the little fashion makeover he underwent since becoming head coach of the Cowboys. He proved his optimism beyond any reasonable doubt to at least one observer in last year's training camp.

Campo, then the defensive coordinator, went on and on about cornerback Kevin Mathis. Second-fastest player on the team. Maybe the strongest, pound for pound.

And so the story went out. Of course, Mathis couldn't cover a twin bed, which is why he is now one of the fastest and strongest players on the New Orleans Saints' roster.

But the experience provided a valuable insight into the man's mindset, which is why it was so enlightening to watch Campo simmer on the sideline of the Tokyo Dome.

The Cowboys aren't very good at this international football thing. They are now 0-7-1 in the American Bowl, not that it really means anything. The last time they lost in Japan, they went on to win a Super Bowl that season.

But it does beg the question: Is this really worth it?

The experience here is that athletes really aren't in it for the cultural experience. Most football players find it difficult to appreciate the horizons of the Oriental mind when they've been sleeping on a bed the size of an army cot.

Neither is it clear about the impact on the locals. Everyone likes to make big claims. Patrick Steenberge, president of something called Global Football, says he has been to several of the 15 American Bowls, which have been played in such far-flung places as London, Berlin, Barcelona, Mexico City and Sydney.

"There's definitely a lot more awareness of the sport in these countries," Steenberge says. "A lot of that's due to the NFL, and that's partly because of these American Bowls."

Maybe. But that's a little like saying the Rangers are in last place in the AL West, and that's partly because of Scarborough Green.

The point is, the NFL is televised in 178 countries. Not counties.


From the looks of it, Japanese fans would rather watch an NFL game on television than go to one. The American Bowl has been averaging 60,000 fans, but they announced a crowd of 42,178 for the Cowboys' 20-9 loss to Atlanta, and it looked like even less than that.

You have to wonder how much Japanese fans really like American football. Back in 1983, SMU and Houston played in Tokyo. The game was in an outdoor stadium where the grass was the color of wheat, and the yard lines apparently were marked with talcum powder. The first time the teams went down the field, the powder lifted in a soft white cloud around them, and from then on you needed a hurricane tracking chart to determine where anyone was on the field.

Anyway, it hardly seemed to matter to the Japanese fans. They reacted to the Mustang and Cougar football players with polite indifference.

But when the bands and drill teams marched out at halftime, you'd have thought Godzilla was leading them.

They liked the pomp and sex appeal, and apparently still do. Fans hung out in the hotel lobby last week to get player autographs, but a lot of them were just waiting for cheerleaders. They had flip cards with a picture of Cowboys cheerleaders on one side and Atlanta cheerleaders on the other, and they begged for autographs of both.

For that matter, who'd want the autograph of any Cowboys they saw play against Atlanta?

Better point: Is this really in the best interests of the NFL, exposing Paul Justin to unsuspecting fans abroad?

It was a good thing the Cowboys were playing in front of Japanese fans, who are notoriously kind. No matter how bad it got, they mostly just smiled and waved their blue-and-white party favors.

And it couldn't have been easy to be so nice. The Cowboys were penalized 10 times for 50 yards, lost three fumbles and turned the ball over four times on six second-half possessions.

Even Dave Campo's glossy veneer appeared to be cracking in the second half. The scene reminded you a little of Clark Griswald as he stood outside the gates of WallyWorld with a gun on John Candy.

"We just drove 2,460 miles for a little Roy Wally entertainment," Clark tells him. "The moose says you're closed. I say you're open."

Campo didn't threaten anybody the other day. He mostly just boiled and fumed. After one screw-up, he mouthed what appeared to be an expletive, but nothing in his native tongue.

Maybe it was something he picked up while out of town.