The blessing of superstitious athletes is their openness to ridiculous antics.
When Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy started smashing watermelons with a sledgehammer Saturday night in front of his team, players could have viewed it as a desperate move for a group that at that point was 2-7. But because of the pervasive belief in the power of charades in sports, they apparently bought in to what McCarthy was selling them.
Dallas defeated the Vikings on Sunday, and it now has a moment players can convince themselves was a turning point in the season. Because of the struggles of NFC East rivals, the team still has a chance to make the playoffs.
“I’ve always tried to be creative throughout my time and I’ve been doing it a long time, so you are looking for new ideas, keeping it fresh,” McCarthy told reporters. “This is our first year together — we’re getting later in the season. It’s just once again, it all fits together.”
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy on smashing watermelons to motivate the team Saturday night: “It’s important to have fun. We were just using the approach, honoring the great comedian Gallagher. The players were into it. We had some fun.”
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 23, 2020
McCarthy, in his first year in charge of the Cowboys, is trying to guide an improbable midseason turnaround following quarterback Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury.
He actually has experience leading a team with high expectations that has lost its top passer — in Green Bay, he was asked to salvage the 2013 and 2017 campaigns following Aaron Rodgers injuries. The Packers played just well enough in 2013 to give Rodgers a win-and-in opportunity when he returned for Week 17; Rodgers capitalized with an epic 48-yard winner to beat the Bears. Things didn’t work out as well in 2017.
McCarthy doesn’t have the same defensive talent he had in Green Bay seven years ago, which will add to the difficulty of being competitive late this season.
Perhaps what the Cowboys lack in tackling ability they can make for with the power of fruit destruction. The sledgehammer approach worked well in Week 11 against Minnesota. Its next test is Thanksgiving against the Washington Football Team, when cranberries might be a more seasonally appropriate choice.