In the meantime, though, he needs that $40.5 million for bonuses. And that is why Jones has targeted the soft underbelly of the revenue-sharing formula to land Pepsi, Nike and deal No. 3 without clearly violating league rules. Notably excluded from the communal pie are the proceeds from stadium "amenities," such as luxury boxes, which owners lucky enough to own their own playground do not have to share with visiting teams. Since Jones's new deals are technically with his stadium, not with his team, he may have found the multimillion-dollar loophole that will force other owners to either jump on his bandwagon, close the loophole (though probably not fast enough to kill any current deal) or sue.
Jones insists that he is simply trying to show his fellow owners the way. But others sense something darker in Jones's game plan: the creation of a slowly elevating salary cap that benefits him alone. Say that Jones has an extraordinarily successful year and closes marketing deals worth $150 million for 1996. Even though he would keep most of the money (giving some, he promises, to teams that simply can't get their own deals), all of it would count toward the figure that the league uses to calculate the salary cap. In this scenario the cap would rise by $3 million per team. But only Dallas, with its lucrative outside contracts, and a few other wealthy teams would actually be able to afford to increase their payrolls. The cap goes up, while everybody's income but the fat cats' remains mostly flat.
Still, is this really what frightens all the owners? They are correct to be, let's say, curious any time a fellow owner gains a competitive edge. But are last week's Cowboy shenanigans really worth this fuss? Is the above salary-cap scenario really all that likely? Or should we go back to last Thursday to see why Jones really scares the other owners?
As the Sanders negotiations proceed, Jones knows that he will have to do some massaging of Aikman. His contract counts for $4.15 million against the cap, which Jones is under by less than $200,000. Aikman will need to agree to a massive restructuring to make room for Sanders. Aikman, of course, is agreeable.
That night Jones invites Aikman's agent, Leigh Steinberg, to the Cowboy compound to work on the details. Meanwhile, Sanders's agent, Eugene Parker, is phoning in amendments to his client's complicated contract. Jones's daughter, director of marketing Charlotte Anderson, breaks in to say, "Dad, I've got the stadium all swooshed up. There are swooshes as far as the eye can see."
At 10:45 Thursday night—Jones has been up for at least 36 hours—the Sanders contract is nearly finished. The business with Steinberg is also done, and the Super Bowl is once more Jones's to lose. He walks over to a shelf and withdraws a Cuban cigar. "I don't really smoke these," he says, "but this is quite a night."
This, when you get right down to it, is what's so frightening about Jones. It's not the money he's making, not the money he's spending. It's all this...zest, as he calls it. There's way too much zest. There's no telling what a man with this kind of zest will do next. Seeing it with your own eyes makes you suddenly sympathetic toward these stick-in-the-mud owners. You want to get on a conference call with them as soon as you can leave Valley Ranch and tell them, Be afraid. Be very afraid.