Aikman has every right to hold out for just the right gal. To start, he's rich beyond practical measure. Two years ago he signed an eight-year, $50 million contract that made him the highest-paid player in pro football history. He's also tall, blond and blue-eyed: the kind of dreamboat who used to star in horse and tank pictures. He is, moreover, the leader of the most valuable franchise in all of sports, placing it year after year in a position to compete for the Super Bowl.
Although the Cowboys were hardly themselves in December, losing to both Washington and Philadelphia, they rallied to win their last two games and finished the season at 12-4, the best record in the NFC. Aikman limped into the playoffs with a bum left knee and an aching lower back. And according to one published report, he has grown so disenchanted with coach Barry Switzer that he plans to meet with Cowboy owner Jerry Jones at the end of the season to discuss Switzer's future. "That isn't true," Aikman says when asked about the report. "Basically, I got set up by a writer. I told him, 'I don't know if I have any clout with the organization, and if I did I certainly wouldn't use it to get somebody fired or get somebody hired.' [The reporter] wrote it in a manner that seemed to say I'd insisted on changes being made." As to his alleged rift with Switzer, Aikman says, "It's just not an issue at all."
Aikman admits, however, to having groused that he has had less fun this season than in previous ones. But that, he argues, does not mean he's miserable and considering retirement. "Hey," he says, "for 60 minutes every Sunday I get to go out and do what I love—and I still do love it. There are a lot of things beyond my control that I don't find enjoyable, but playing the game isn't one of them."
Brett Favre's dream season in Green Bay gave him the highest rating among NFC quarterbacks, but Aikman wasn't far behind. And no player in the league means more to his team than Aikman does. Dallas isn't Dallas when he isn't on the field, and nobody is more aware of this than the Cowboy players themselves.
During a recent film session at Valley Ranch, receiver Michael Irvin watched in stunned silence as Aikman fired off one perfect pass after another, his delivery as quick and sharp as anybody's. Unable to contain himself any longer, Irvin beat his hands together and shouted in something of a singsong voice, "I love you, 'Roy." It was spontaneous and beautiful, and everyone in the room laughed, but Irvin meant it. "I attribute my success to him," Irvin says. "The greatest things, the greatest times—Troy is 100 percent responsible, and even then I'm understating it."
And yet, despite his sense of kinship with Aikman, Irvin rarely ribs him about women or about the quarterback's status as the game's latest, greatest heartthrob. Here is a situation that requires sensitivity. One day Cosmopolitan magazine calls to quiz Aikman about his love life, the next a national newspaper does the same. Aikman entertains the queries with a mixture of curiosity and exasperation, wondering how his image ever came to this.
"Not long ago," he says, "every time I did a picture shoot for a magazine, the photographer would ask me to show up wearing jeans and cowboy boots. They seemed to think I was a hillbilly. Now it's different. Now they're not quite sure what to make of me. And I show up wearing whatever I want."
Back in the old days when Namath played for the New York Jets, he would cruise Manhattan nightspots looking for women to pick up. He once boasted to a sportswriter that he didn't like to date so much as "to run into somethin'." That was almost 30 years ago, when a $400,000 contract, a penthouse and a pair of sideburns made you the hippest cat around. Aikman lacks Namath's nose for the hunt, and if anything, money has made him that much more careful about his evenings out. He says that when he goes out it's with the same three or four women—"friends, nothing serious." And though published reports have linked him romantically to any number of starlets, he says he hasn't even met most of them. Tabloids, he has learned the hard way, are quick to turn handshakes into long, wet kisses. And the truth is, the only after-hours carousing he has done lately has been in cyberspace. Aikman might not hang out in nightclubs, rating the talent, but he is a frequent visitor to America Online.
"I like to go into the Texas Room and chat with people," he says. "It puts us on the same level. It's nice, too, having a normal conversation with somebody without them knowing who I am."
"In the last few years Troy's become so big, he's almost like a prisoner," says former Cowboy quarterback Babe Laufenberg, a close friend of Aikman's. "People get weird when they see him. And every time you go out with him something totally unexpected happens. Every time. As a result, he can't do much anymore. 'Where do you want to go?' you ask him. 'I don't know,' he says. 'Pick a place.' 'O.K., [here].' 'That place is going to be so crowded, it's not going to be any fun. Too many people. I'll just get hassled.' 'Fine. What about [here]?' 'Oh, no. There's nothing going on there.' So you end up going back to his house and watching TV. That's your big night out with Troy."