Celebrating America and the 4th of July: How the Dallas Cowboys Became “America’s Team”
As we celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, it’s time once again to for the re-telling of how the Dallas Cowboys earned the nickname “America’s Team”. If you’re a Cowboys’ fan who has never heard the story, we hope you enjoy this piece of American sports history.
The nickname “America’s Team” is one of the few strokes of marketing genius that cannot be credited to the late, great Hall of Famer Tex Schramm, the former Cowboys president & general manager. Sure, he loved the moniker and got as much mileage out of it as possible, but the credit for coining the phrase “America’s Team” belongs to NFL Films.
NFL Films has produced end-of-season highlight videos for each team for decades. In 1979 when NFL Films editor-in-chief Bob Ryan was working on the Cowboys’ highlights from their 1978 season, he needed to write some extra copy for the video’s narration. While editing video he noticed that, during road games, there were people in the stands with Cowboys jerseys and hats.
That led Ryan to pen the following words which were voiced by legendary NFL narrator John Facenda:
“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.”
Ryan also included “America’s Team” in the title of the highlight video. The term was then picked up by broadcasters and used on game day telecasts early in the 1979 season. The nickname stuck, much to the delight of Cowboys fans and management.
Not all the Cowboys players or coaches were delighted, however. Head coach Tom Landry never liked the nickname. And star quarterback Roger Staubach said the nickname added extra fuel-to-the-fire when the Cowboys would play road games against rivals.
“I don’t think as players we were crazy about it,” recalled 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’.
“I like it today because I was proud to be part of America’s Team. But when we were playing…they thought we were kind of shoving it in their face with America’s Team.”
As a Cowboys broadcaster, I find it ironic that the moniker originated just a few miles from the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the Cowboys’ arch rivals. You see, NFL Films’ headquarters is in Mt Laurel, New Jersey…just across the river from downtown Philadelphia and right in the heart of Eagles territory. Seriously, it’s a Philly suburb
Ryan’s clever copy point remains a polarizing topic for football fans. There’s not much middle ground when it comes to the Cowboys who engender love ‘em or hate ‘em emotions.
“It’s probably one of the most high-profile nicknames for a team in history,” said Ryan, now retired from NFL Films. “Whenever the Cowboys are playing, the nickname comes up again. I’m fine with it, really. I love the name.”