DALLAS -- More and more topics in these polarizing times can bring an otherwise pleasant conversation to a jarring halt.
Simply raising the subject can turn a rational discussion into a confrontation. The list is long. Here's an abbreviated version of what to avoid at your next Zoom dinner party.
Supreme Court nominees.
Might as well tackle the most divisive topic first.
The Cowboys enter this week's game against Cleveland with a 1-2 record. Based on where you reside on the Prescott scale, the record is either an indictment of everyone in the organization except the quarterback or an indication that Prescott doesn't have the right stuff.
Middle ground is virtually impossible to find. If you suggest that Prescott's three turnovers played a role in the Cowboys' close loss to Seattle, Friends of Dak (FOD) deride you as a hater, an out-of-touch tool who doesn't understand the game or his brilliance.
If you suggest that disappointing performances by the defense and special teams are to blame for the loss to the Seahawks, Haters of Dak (HOD) dismiss you as a quarterback apologist who doesn't acknowledge this team will never win big with Prescott. Oh, by the way, the club would be foolish to sign him to a long-term deal that averages more than $40 million.
And there you have it, the emotional context that enflames every discussion about Prescott.
This is about much more than the quarterback's performance on the field from one week to the next. It's a referendum on Prescott's worth.
FODs are incensed that he hasn't been paid in line with the NFL's top quarterbacks. HODs are indignant that option is even on the table.
This dynamic was put in place before the start of last season when the two sides were unable to agree on an extension. It was taken to the next level when the Cowboys applied the exclusive franchise tag heading into this season. It won't change any time soon.
A toxic environment exists. What Jerry Jones did or didn't say about Prescott on radio quickly trends on social media. If one of Prescott's brothers tweets something unflattering about the organization, there's an assumption it actually came from the quarterback.
Opinions formed or stances taken outside of the organization are largely irrelevant to the relationship. But the principals must be careful with what they say publicly over the next 14 weeks. Every word will be dissected, every phrase replayed to uncover a potential slight or criticism of the other side.
The Cowboys can continue to profess their undying love for Prescott all they want. Until the two sides formalize their relationship with a long-term deal -- something that can't happen until the season is done -- questions remain.
FODs reject the premise that Prescott's performance this season should be taken into account, believing he's already earned a big-money deal. They view any criticism of his performance as moving the goal posts.
The goal posts can't be moved when they've never been anchored in the ground.
A long-term deal sets the goal posts. It's naive or unreasonable to maintain that Prescott's performance this season has absolutely no bearing on what he eventually receives. He can improve his stock, watch it go down or stay the same.
And let's not pretend that Prescott had no choice in the path taken. That's insulting. The quarterback knew this could give him more leverage going forward. He bet on his health and his performance.
He bet on leading the Cowboys deeper into the playoffs than they've been in 25 years.
Prescott and the Cowboys have a lot at stake. FODs and HODs can check their reason at the door. The principals can't.
How Prescott performs this season matters. How many games the team wins, how far they do -- or don't -- go in the playoffs matters. The Cowboys quarterback is open to praise and criticism the remainder of the way just like everyone else.
Now, back to masks and Amy Coney Barrett.