Last night, Cowboys Twitter was gifted with a welcomed distraction from the ongoing debate about what to expect during tonight's Wild Card playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The official Dallas Cowboys Twitter account shared travel day photos of the team as is typical prior to road games.
One set of pictures, even without a descriptive caption, immediately captured the attention of Cowboys fans familiar with a certain era of the team's recent history.
The tweet pictured members of the Cowboys' defense, including Micah Parsons, wearing “HotBoyz” t-shirts and pendants.
Who or what are the HotBoyz?
According to the HotBoyz official website, “The “HotBoyz” were born out of the 2018 Dallas Cowboys defense. HotBoyz is about brotherhood & passing along that mentality to help our youth break out of the “Athlete” box we are put in everyday.”
Seems wholesome enough.
Why, then, were Twitter replies filled with discouraged fans who mentioned “curses” and claimed these accessories would ruin tonight's game for the team? What about this “brotherhood” was so upsetting?
Some fans simply did not like the aesthetic or the connotations of the HotBoyz moniker. It was a turnoff to them.
Other fans have come to associate the HotBoyz with a disappointing playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 NFL postseason.
Members of the Cowboys' defense had spent all season flaunting the HotBoyz sobriquet, but when they faced that season's NFC West champions, they let fans down in an embarrassing fashion.
“The “Hot Boyz” was anything but,” wrote C.C. Boorman, “as the Rams trampled them for a horrific 273 rushing yards for the game. Nobody on the line had any answer for the Rams' brand of aggressive football as they passively took a physical whipping and never gave their team a chance.”
The HotBoyz became associated with a version of the Cowboys' defense that talked a big game but did not show up when it counted.
Naturally, fans with this recollection were not excited to see a reprisal of the chains and apparel — especially not around the neck of star 2x Pro-Bowl Edge Rusher Micah Parsons.
Is this HotBoyz 2.0 or…..?
Before this month, the most recent searchable mention of the HotBoyz from the Dallas Cowboys' official Twitter account occurred on December 31, 2021. At the time, they were referred to as “Hot Boyz” as opposed to “HotBoyz.” More on that momentarily.
According to the sparsely documented history of the HotBoyz, it was the brainchild of Taco Charlton (another name that generates polarizing reactions among Cowboys fans).
The group has become more closely associated with DeMarcus Lawrence since then. He was the one whose pride was most on display. The Dallas Cowboys even credited him with the responsibility of adding new members to the HotBoyz.
The Dallas Cowboys seemed to support the popularization of HotBoyz as a brand during that 2018 season. After the playoff loss to the Rams, however, mention of them occurred much less frequently.
Although the genesis occurred relatively recently, the group was formed several years before the arrival of Micah Parsons. Hence, some people were confused to see him donning the mantra.
So, is this a revival of the HotBoyz? Were they ever truly “dead?”
As it turns out, even though the crowd had dispersed from the bandwagon, the concept itself never went anywhere.
It seems Tank Lawrence has continued to stoke the embers of the HotBoyz just enough to prevent them from completely ashing over.
Many fans considered them to be a short-lived social subgroup, but they've maintained an official website, built an online merch store, and acquired legal ownership of the HotBoyz nom de guerre.
Earlier this month, the Dallas Cowboys even featured HotBoyz DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong, Jr. in a promotional video. They were promoting Wing Stop.
This could mean that fans are up in arms over something that might be little more than a marketing move.
Hot Boyz, Hot Boyzz, and HotBoyz
Outside of the popularity of the group in 2018, the biggest splash the HotBoyz made in the media occurred in 2020.
That January, the San Francisco 49ers promoted digital wallpapers featuring the phrase “Hot Boyzz University.” Kwon Alexander, a 49ers linebacker at the time, had filed a trademark application for the name “Hot Boyzz.”
He used it as a nickname for the 49ers' linebacker unit, and the 49ers promoted it to fans. Alexander also referred to himself as a graduate of Hot Boyzz University.
Long story short, for about a week, there were a few tweets about trademark infringement and legal threats made via interview.
Shortly after that, Tank started using HotBoyz as opposed to Hot Boyz when referencing the Cowboys' defensive group.
Will the HotBoyz help or hurt the Cowboys' defense?
I haven't exactly done a thorough search, but there don't seem to be many Cowboys fans who reference the HotBoyz with any sense of pride or respect. However, as much as fans claim the name is cursed, the truth is things like this are just symbols.
Luckily, the meanings of symbols can change.
Like the fan above, I also enjoy Micah's animalistic descriptions of his teammates. I'm more familiar with them than with any reference to the HotBoyz. Micah's comparisons always give insight into the strengths and characters of other Cowboys team members.
Something else we can learn from Micah's interviews is that he takes his performance seriously. So, if he's displaying support for the HotBoyz, maybe we should consider what it symbolizes to him.
Perhaps we shouldn't view this situation as Micah Parsons being tainted by induction into the HotBoyz. Maybe we can look at it as Micah Parsons improving the reputation of the group.
It's unclear whether or not the use of the name and symbol has come along with any attempt at indoctrination of a particular mindset or attitude. Last night, BJ Nix of Pick 6 Sports led an enlightening discussion on this topic during a scheduled Twitter Space.
Several participants in last night's Space, including myself, were current or former athletes.
We adopted the perspective that while the reappearance of the HotBoyz chains was confusing for fans, it might help someone who will be on the field tonight. They might need this to give them the motivation, camaraderie, and sense of cohesion that they need to be at their best when the Cowboys face the Bucs.
Sometimes, team rituals might have no tangible significance. Still, they can impact the moods and minds of team members to improve performance.
Leadership experts Bolman and Deal refer to this as motivating group members through the “symbolic frame.” It is a tactic used to improve motivation and commitment while quelling uncertainty or anxiety.
Uniting under the HotBoyz logo could be exactly what key members of the Cowboys' defense need. Until proven otherwise, that is the idea that I and several other fans are choosing to support.
So, technically, it's not the “new” HotBoyz, but not everything needs to be new in order to be improved.