DALLAS -- Like moths to a flame, the geeks file in three, four, five at a time, some chanting "C-O-W-B-O-Y-S!" others talking loudly of the inevitability of a sixth Super Bowl title.
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"Whoooooooooo!" adds Mike, a plumber. "Cowboys in '07!"
On this night of NFL openers, similar scenes take place all over the city of Dallas. In sports bars, fans go crazy. In the Texas Stadium parking lot, patrons excitedly file out after their team's 45-35 victory over the Giants. But it is here, at the famed Men's Club of Dallas, where the instant elation over a strong start for America's Team can best be measured.
"If you come here and the Cowboys are on a roll," one dancer says, "you'll know it."
Indeed. When the Cowboys lose and the city is, well, blah over its football team, the Men's Club's dancers often find themselves strutting topless before bartenders, waitresses and far too many empty seats. But when hope fills the air and the Cowboys are the talk of the town, the Men's Club turns into a living, breathing, oozing ode to breasts, beers and football.
"As the Cowboys go, we go," says Apple, a 19-year-old dancer. "When they win and the fans are psyched, tips are higher, customers come more often everything is great."
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Dallas fans were riding high in Miami as Tony Romo and the 'Boys improved to 2-0.
It is, in many ways, a flashback to the halcyon days of the 1990s, when the Cowboys of Michael Irvin ruled the league and the Cowboys of Michael Irvin ruled the Men's Club. Back then, the Dallas secondary was known to occasionally hold its weekly positional meeting at a Men's Club table; Barry Switzer, the team's coach from 1994 to '97, raved about the club on his radio program; a wide receiver was even banned from the club for having multiple sexual escapades with strippers in one of the phone booths (free tip from your good friends at ESPN.com: Bring a cell).
Perhaps the establishment's greatest fame came March 4, 1996, when a police officer knocked on the door of room 624 of the Residence Inn in Irving, Texas, and found Irvin, cocaine and a former Men's Club dancer named Angela Beck.
Good pub, bad pub, it mattered not. The Cowboys were hot and, hence, so was the Men's Club. Now, after more than decade of mediocre play, fruitless drafts (Where art thou, Kavika Pittman?), mounting fan indifference and one too many Chad Hutchinson sightings, the Cowboys -- and, by association, the Cowboys' favorite strip club -- are back. On this night, the Men's Club goes so far as to charter a bus to carry fans from the establishment to the game and, come fourth quarter, back to the club for some more T and A.
"For us, the best thing is when the Cowboys win," Apple says. "That means they're willing to spend the dollars."
Will the Cowboys, indeed, win? With a 2-0 start, there's reason for optimism.
"I think we've turned the franchise around," says one fan who sports a Julius Jones jersey but won't reveal his name. "A lot of people got sick of Bill Parcells and his strict ways. But with Romo, TO, the young defense, I think we're on to something. At least I'm excited."
He sure is. Moments after finding a seat, the fan's face is smothered between a stripper's breasts. Nearby his pals grin wickedly. Are they thrilled their 24-year-old chum has finally touched a woman? Are they elated by the sight of the strategically placed blue-and-red tattoo above the dancer's rear end? Are they intrigued by the unlimited possibilities the Men's Club seems to afford?
Nope, nope and nope.
They are watching TV and the Cowboys have scored yet again.
Jeff Pearlman is a former Sports Illustrated senior writer and the author of "Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero," now available in paperback. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NFL OVERREACTION NATION
We've seen two weeks of football, and for most NFL fans, that's more than enough to either jump on the bandwagon ... or jump ship.
Overview• Jackson: Welcome to Overreaction Nation
• ESPN experts: Should you be overreacting?
• Vote: What do we know after two weeks?
In Chicago ...• Wojciechowski: Even a win is too much to Bear
In New York ...• Darcy: Apple of their eye is the backup QB
In Dallas ...• Pearlman: Cowboys fans letting it all hang out
In Cleveland ...• Gallo: Net gain or loss for roller-coaster Browns?
In San Diego ...• Buckheit: Pats pull the plug on Bolts fans
In Los Angeles ...• Neel: Who says no one in L.A. loves the NFL?