It’s July 4th, so that can only mean one thing - Happy Birthday America! When it comes to holidays, July 4th is the one that most definitely screams “America!” And when it comes to football, only one team screams “America” - America’s Team. The Dallas Cowboys.
One of the best all-time nicknames for a team was bestowed upon the franchise by NFL Films. Long before YouTube, ESPN, or other places where you could see sports any time you wanted, there was the annual tradition of each team’s end-of-season highlight film, a wrap up of the previous year’s highs and... well, it was mostly highs as the teams themselves had final editorial approval so objectivity was right out the window. Still, in a time when finding stuff available to watch about your team, especially if you were out-of-market, was rare, these end-of-season packages created by NFL Films were manna from heaven.
After the Cowboys lost Super Bowl XIII to the Steelers and failed to repeat as champions (1978 season), NFL Films was trying to decide how to frame the past year in a way that the Cowboys franchise would accept. In this great five-minute video section examining the creation of that particular highlight package, one of the first ideas was “Champions Die Hard.” The idea of the team dying, even metaphorically, wasn’t really appealing to the Cowboys, so NFL Films producer Bob Ryan had to come up with something else.
After looking at some pennants of teams that he described as “national” teams, like the New York Yankees and Notre Dame, he thought of the Cowboys, the most popular franchise in the NFL, as a national team. Even though they had lost the Super Bowl, their popularity was as strong as ever. So somewhere along the line the idea of the Dallas Cowboys, a national team, became America’s Team and an enduring nickname was born.
Once Ryan wrote the script, he turned it over to the legendary John Facenda who uttered the words that birthed a moniker.
They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team”.
The nickname wasn’t cemented into history until others followed suit and used it. Sure enough, that happened right away.
During the Cowboys’ first game of the 1979 season, a nationally televised game against the St. Louis Cardinals (Dallas won 22-21), the television announcer for CBS introduced the Cowboys as America’s Team and the name stuck.
From there, it’s never gone away. Cowboys fans embrace it, while fans of 31 other franchises can’t stand it. It is what it is.
On America’s birthday, be sure to also toast America’s Team as we edge closer and closer to training camp.