How the Dallas Cowboys became America's Team

(Photo: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys being America's Team is completely ingrained into the consciousness of football fans. At this point it is just part of the sport's lexicon. The Cowboys have the widest reach of any team in the league. Their fans populate stadiums around the league whenever the Cowboys come to town. Most of their games are on national television. They are the most popular team in perhaps all of professional sports.

But most young fans don't know the story of how the Cowboys earned that nickname. It was not a Cowboys player or executive who came up with it, but rather, NFL Films. The full story was explained on 5 Points Blue, but as NFL Films editor-in-chief was writing copy for a video on the Cowboys, he noticed that many of their fans found their way to road games. He coined the term "America's Team" in the voiceover for that video.

“Cowboy goals are lofty: win the National Football Conference title, then the Super Bowl. This is usually attainable. For as their fans well know, the sum total of their stars make-up a galaxy. Their record is envied. And their innovations are copied down to the last glamorous detail. 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 itself became an iconic part of Cowboys lore. It is as much a part of the team's history as the star on their helmet and the hole in Texas Stadium's roof. And ironically, not everyone was on board with it when it first became a popular phrase.

“I don’t think as players we were crazy about it,” recalled quarterback Roger Staubach. “Wherever we went, like Philadelphia, there would be a columnist say, ‘Hey, America’s Team is in town’. We were playing the Eagles right after (the video) came out and I was scrambling around. (Eagles linebacker) Bill Bergey grabbed me and somebody else grabbed me. I kind of got the wind knocked out of me. I’m laying there. Bergey comes over and grabs my hand to pull me up and he says, ‘Take that, America’s quarterback!’. I said, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re not too happy with us being called America’s Team’.

The notion of a bullseye being on the Cowboys' back because of their fame as an organization is something that has held true even into modern times. Players want to play for the Cowboys, and when they can't, they want to beat them. But the notion of the Cowboys as America's Team has never been a superiority complex. It is a welcoming idea. Cowboys fans can come from anywhere. They have such widespread appeal that fans from all over the country go out of their way to root for the team. Nothing could be more American than that.

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