Super Bowl: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, but not his team, is at the center of it all

The Washington Post's LaVar Arrington, Liz Clarke, Paul Tenorio and Jonathan Forsythe offer their Super Bowl XLV predictions.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2011; 11:51 PM

DALLAS - When Super Bowl XLV kicks off Sunday evening, there will be more than 75 people in the most important suite at Cowboys Stadium. Former president George W. Bush, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jamie Foxx, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Harrison Ford - they're all just extras.

The man in the middle of it all - the middle of the stadium, the middle of the nation's biggest sporting event, the middle of everything - is a larger-than-life character who created this stage and, as always, is eager to please his captive audience.

Jerry Jones knows exactly where he gets it from. His father, Pat, did a variety of things over the years, among them: selling insurance, opening Exotic Animal Paradise in Missouri and running a grocery store in Arkansas.

"I came from a combination sports and promotional background. My family were promoters, really in the grocery business," says Jones, 68. "They made it fun. My dad used to wear guns and put a hat on, walking down the middle of the store where people were buying his lettuce and his beans."

And out in front of that store, a young Jerry Jones, barely taller than his dad's Stetson, would wear a bow tie and greet customers. Six decades later, the venue is different and the tie more expensive, but Jones is still out front, still hoping everyone enjoys themselves. He lured the Super Bowl to Dallas with his mammoth $1.2 billion stadium and he's hoping for a game - no, an experience - that is bigger than anything the American sporting world has seen.

"He goes out of his way to make everything memorable and special for everyone," said Barry Switzer, who coached Jones in college and coached for him in Dallas. "And that's the same if we're talking about a football game or you're just sitting across from him having dinner. He wants everyone to have a special experience."

Still, the week leading up to the game has been marred by bad weather, and all of Jones's friends and associates are quick to note that there's one thing missing from the party.

"Knowing Jerry, this week means everything," says Gil Brandt, the Cowboys' long-time vice president of player personnel. "Jerry's a guy who thinks big. He's pleased to show off his facility, which is great and will never be duplicated. The flip side is, he'd love to have the Cowboys here."

Indeed, when Jones started dreaming about hosting a Super Bowl in Dallas, the hope was that his team would play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. But his Cowboys finished the season 6-10 and fired Coach Wade Phillips in November.

"We had our league meeting with all of the owners, and I told them early in the fall, I said, boy, I hope that each and every one of you can be here, be a part of it," Jones says, "and certainly I don't know the two teams that are going to be participating in it, but the way we're stinking it up there now on the football field, the idea of being the first team to have ever played in its own Super Bowl has passed me by."

'It's just who he is'

Perhaps no other sports owner is as recognizable as Jones. He's in pizza advertisements, popped up on HBO's "Entourage," and is as associated with his franchise as the star on the side of the helmet.

"I have yet to ever encounter Jerry when he is not representing or selling the Cowboys. He never disconnects," Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner, said in an e-mail. "It's amazing. . . . What separates him [from other owners] is that he eats, sleeps , breathes the Cowboys. I haven't met another owner with the level of commitment that he has."

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