The nickname “America’s Team” is one of the few strokes of marketing genius that cannot be attributed to Tex Schramm, the late, great Cowboys team president and general manager for 30 seasons (1960-1989). It was actually NFL Films that coined the term.
NFL Films has produced the end-of-season highlight videos for many years. In 1979 when NFL Films editor-in-chief Bob Ryan was working on the Cowboys’ highlights from their 1978 season, he needed to write extra copy for the video’s narration. While editing video, he noticed that during road games there were many people in the stands with Cowboys jerseys and hats. Ryan included “America’s Team” in the title of the highlight video. The term was used on game day telecasts early in the 1979 season. The nickname stuck, much to the delight of Cowboys fans and Tex Schramm. But the Cowboys franchise itself never was the first to call itself “America’s Team”.
As a Cowboys employee (who also grew up a huge fan of the team…I lived only two miles away from the old practice facility and would hang out in the parking lot get player autographs) I find it ironic that the “America’s Team” moniker originated just a few miles away from the home of the rival Philadelphia Eagles. You see, NFL Films is located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey which is just across the river from downtown Philadelphia. It’s basically a Philly suburb…and right in the heart of Eagles territory.
Ryan’s clever copy point remains a polarizing topic for NFL fans. There’s not much middle ground: Cowboys fans love it and non-Cowboys fans hate it.
“It’s probably one of the most high profile nicknames for a team in history,” says Ryan. “Whenever the Cowboys are playing, the nickname comes up again. I’m fine with it really. I love the name.”