There is joy in Dallas again. The Cowboys are playing as well as ever and the apple of the city's eye. Tony Dorsett, is back in favor.

For a time this season the defending Super Bowl champions appeared to be sefl-destructing. They played badly and argued among themselves.

Dorsett was in the doghouse, and even Coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach had it out over who would call the plays.

But the Cowboys here given their faithful a lot to cheer about lately. They are coming off their two best games of the season and are tied with the slumping Washington Redskins for first place in the NFC East with 8-4 records.

The Cowboy's desire to get back to the top means, some Cowboys say, that they not only want to avenge their 9-5 loss to Washington when the teams meet Thanksgiving Day at Texas Stadium, but they want to bury the Redskins.

The Dallas slide may have started right after the Super Bowl.

"I could see it happening to everyone in our organization," said Gil Brandt, Cowboys director of personnel development. "What happens when you win a Super Bowl is that everybody in your organization becomes a hot commodity. More people call you to play golf, to speak at a luncheon and everything, what happens is that you don't prepare as much for football as you did before. The demand on your time takes you away from your preparation.

"The second thing that hurt us was beating baltimore, 38-0, our first game, and everyone saying we were so great. When you keep hearing and reading how great you are all of the time, you don't think you have to work as hard or hustle as much. You say you'll work hard tomorrow and you keep putting things off," brandt said.

"It happened in our entire organization, but we just weren't aware of it at the time. The Minnesota game may have been the rude awakening. We thought we were going to walk out onto the field and they would play dead, but they didn't."

The Cowboys lost to the Vikings, 21-10, and the next week, lost to Miami, 23-16. Since then, the Cowboys have been a different team.

"A lot of guys on this team never went through losing before and it shook them," said wide receiver Drew Pearson. "They were used to always getting patted on the back. When we started losing and the media got on us, and the fans got on us, and people started looking at us like they didn't want anything to do with us, we panicked. We couldn't understand why people were turning on us and we ended up getting mad at everyone. We just hadn't experienced that before and it brought a lot of people right down."

Dorsett was the one who came down hardest.

Because he is handsome, young, articulate, wealthy and thrilling to watch, Dorsett has become the most visible Cowboy. It is around him that much of the controversy and intrigue centers.

Dorsett is the symbol of a new type of Cowboy. He is a hero to middle America, as are Landry and Staubacj. But he appeals to a far broader scoper of people.

Dorsett and many other Cowboys, such as Harvey Martin and Tony Hill, like the night life. They goals, motivations and life styles differ from those espoused by Landry and from what the Cowboys like to project.

On a team that thrives on machinelike efficiency, with wach player quietly and anonymously doing his part to win, Dorsett stand out. He is a star.

"There has never been a player come into our team with the fanfare and charisma Dorsett had," said Tex Schramm, Cowboys' president and general manager. "When Staubach came to us, the bloom was off the rose because he had spent the last four or five years in Navy. Dorsett is the first glamour-type person to come here and he has to realize that with him people love him when he is doing well, but their emotions will turn on him when he doesn't do well."

"I really get a cross section of people because I travel so much," said Brandt. "And it's amazing that when you lay down a Cowboys credit and in Auburn, Ala., of [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] the first thing people want to know is, did Tony really do this, or did Tony really do that. He is a national news item. There's more interest in him right now than in any other foolball player."

In four games, straight dreadful games, culminating in the losses to Minnesota and Miami, Dorsett gained 24, 24, 38 and 49 yeards.

But in the last two games, lopsided victories over Green Bay and New Orleans, Dorsett gained 149 and 152 yards, and now has 1,020 yards this season.

The Cowboy' problems started crystalizing against Philadelphia Oct. 22, a week before the Minnesota game.

Dorsett missed practice the day before the game and said he overslept. Landry, exhausted with Dorsett's way of doing things, fined and brenched him.

Dorsett was humiliated and said so.

Dorsett became th prime target for the Cowboy's critics. The local media attacked him and he lashed back at those who said he was a trouble spot.

"I've gotten more than my share of publicity," Dorsett said. "What I want is the respect of my teammates. I try not to let what people say or write about me bother me. Most of the information they get is second hand anyway. I've heard it's cold, cold world. I just accept the bitter with the sweet. I just try not to let it affect me.

"People were expecting me to gain 100 yards every game which isn't realistic. I wasn't playing bad football when we weren't winning. You can't point the finger at the individual. We were all to blame."

Now, the Cowboys have relaxed.

"We're probably a looser team now than ever before," Brandt said. "That's because of the younger players. Guys coming up today in football, just like in business, are a more relaxed group.

"Except for guys like Jethro Pugh and Rayfield Wright, we've just about run out of one era of football players. It's a whole new breed now. We're seeing players getting out and circulating more. They are associating more with people outside of the football community, so the players are having different outlooks on life. Their horizons are broadened."

"Things are different here now, because we've gone through the transition." Pearson said. "When you get a lot of young people you have to get rid of some of the old traditions. The younger guys don't want to hear the old stuff. What got over when we had Mel Renfro, Calvin Hill and Bob Lilly won't get over now. I think everyone realizes that. It took time, though."