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Cowboys ill-timed $55,000 dinner tab ...

OK, I’ll concede up front that I’ve always been fascinated by the restaurant business, and indeed, I was in it in a wide range of capacities from age 16 to nearly 30, with time out for the U.S. Navy and later college, even though I worked full time in various restaurants through the whole undergrad bit.

And I worked at some pretty swanky places, though not quite in the rarefied air of the Dallas steakhouse where the Cowboys ran up a $55,000 tab the other day. I guess I know how fewer than 100 people could run up a bill like that, but it ends up making me a bit squeamish because the level of excess is so wretched.

I know something about the dynamics in a restaurant where the elite like to flash their dough, but I can’t help but feel that the timing by the Cowboys in piling up that kind of bill in these current economic times was simply dumb.

I went to the Pappas Brothers Steakhouse website, and saw that the prices of entrees aren’t really any different than any of the other top-tier steak joints, which is to say that it wouldn’t be that hard to run up a $200-$300 check average even with the basic steaks mostly ala carte at under $50 or so. And I am allowing for what I hope would be a 25 percent gratuity, which is the part I am completely in favor of. There is no harder working group of people in the country than those who labor in the restaurant business, most commonly without the kind of stable hours and traditional health care and time-off benefits that most American workers enjoy.

But it still means the check average, assuming 100 people, which is probably high, comes out to $400 plus. Turns out, this bit of sophisticated rookie hazing – new millionaire wide receiver Dez Bryant was handed the tab, reportedly because he had failed to take part in some of the more conventional but technically more demeaning sophomoric rituals that professional football players embrace – included players taking home bottles of wine, etc., in an apparently perfectly conceived game plan to run up the bill.

That ball club is going to need more perfectly conceived game plans, especially in the realm of public relations. If they are indeed America’s Team – flamboyant gibberish that is typically not well received here in Wisconsin – they ought to keep in mind that these are hard times for millions of our citizens.

And I had to chuckle at the quote in attributed to Bryant’s adviser: “They got the young fella,” said David Wells. “What could he say? He had to pay it unless he wanted to wash dishes for a month.”

See, that’s the kind of disconnect that gets the obscenely wealthy and politicians into trouble. By my quick calculations, one month of dish washing won’t quite get you up to settling a $55,000 tab, unless the wages of dishwashers have jumped rather dramatically in the 30 years that I’ve been away from the business.

As I recall it, you might actually find yourself scrubbing away for two or more years, and that’s if you don’t pay any taxes, which isn’t usually a very sound game plan, either.