Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Jones: There's no question Cowboys are still America's Team

America's Team.

When you think of that phrase, you think of snapshots.

That big blue star on the 50-yard line. The silhouette of coach Tom Landry in his fedora. Roger "The Dodger'' Staubach in the shotgun.

Jerry Jones talkin'. Troy Aikman throwin'. Tony Romo hurtin'.

America's Team.

It's a nickname that has thrived for nearly 40 years for the Dallas Cowboys, and it is as strong now as when it first became part of the NFL's vocabulary.

When was that? And how did it happen?

Bob Ryan, an editor at NFL Films, was putting together the team's 1978 season highlight film. His original proposal was Champions Die Hard. The Cowboys didn't like that title. So Ryan, seeing their legion of fans, came up with something better.

America's Team.

The name has stuck.

How do we know?

Because the Cowboys are television gold. No team draws more viewers than Dallas. Four of the top-five-rated games this season have featured the Cowboys. That includes the 35.1 million who watched Dallas and Washington on Thanksgiving Day, making it the most-watched NFL regular-season game since Thanksgiving 1995, when the Chiefs played — guess who? — the Cowboys.

Tonight against the Bucs, they will play in prime time for the third consecutive week and for the fifth time this season. They also have another Monday night game left.

Meantime, of the top 15 jersey sales in the past eight months, four — more than any other team — belong to the Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

"I really never felt there was a question who really should be America's Team," Fox analyst and former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I really don't see anything different now. They're No. 1 in almost every measurable category. For all those teams that think they're America's Team, if you were America's Team, you'd be No. 1.''

But it's more than TV ratings and jersey sales. It's a state of mind, an attitude, a belief. Not just among those who love the Cowboys, but those who hate them.

"I think the Cowboys engender more emotions among fans around the country, period,'' NBC announcer Al Michaels said. "You can be a fan of whatever team and yet for some reason, no one seems to be neutral about the Cowboys. You either love them or you can't stand them. They engender emotion.''

Michaels said that each week, friends will ask him what the Sunday night game is. Whenever he says "Cowboys,'' his friends get excited.

"That's my litmus test,'' Michael said. "They obviously have a great history. There's something about them. Everything surrounding the Cowboys involves Jerry Jones. And the tradition. And the legacy. And Texas.''

And then there's the nickname.

Camille Pagilia, the author, professor and social commentator, points to the word "Cowboys.'' She asks: Is there anything more Americana than the cowboy?

"Certainly not a Jaguar,'' Michaels said.

There are other theories.

Over the years, the Cowboys have held training camp in Oregon, Michigan, Minnesota, California and, of course, all over Texas. They play in a division that has them travel yearly to New York, Philadelphia and Washington. They've appeared in eight Super Bowls. No team has appeared in more.

So, from the beginning of each season until the end, and over their history, they've left more footprints across the country than any other team.

They are not just America's Team. They're Mexico's team, too, a result of Cowboys games being televised in Mexico for years.

"The Cowboys are such a big team,'' said Bucs receiver Russell Shepard, who grew up in Houston. "They're the Yankees of football, like the Lakers in the basketball world. For us to get an opportunity to play (them) on such a national stage is a huge deal, especially for a Texas kid."

The game tonight between the Bucs and Cowboys will be played in the swankiest stadium in the NFL.

It's a home only fitting for America's Team.

Heck, even their cheerleaders have their own reality show.

"So there's no doubt they're still America's Team,'' Hall of Famer and former wide receiver Michael Irvin told the Star-Telegram. "It's not even a question."

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