talking on Prairie Home Companion

. Watching the broadcast from backstage was fascinating. Being part of it was beyond fun.

So I was in Houston Friday night, talking the Dallas Cowboys at Brazos Bookstore and spinning vinyl at Leon’s Lounge, as well as hanging with my friends William Michael Smith of the Houston Press and Jack Massing of The Art Guys and sword-fighting with Max Massing. I’d noticed my old player-coach of the Jack’s Auto Repair All-Stars of the Twin Cities Cultural Arts Softball League, Garrison Keillor, was hosting A Prairie Home Companion at the Wortham Opera House in Houston on Saturday. I sent an email to the show and Friday afternoon received an email from Garrison. Long and short of it, and unbeknown to me until about 10 minutes before airtime, I had the pleasure of enjoying a few minutes of conversation with Garrison on his show, which is during the third segment.

I love radio and this program is the best of what radio is

Here’s a link to the broadcast.
prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2012/11/17

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Glenn Dromgoole weighs in on Cowboys book

Link here:

from the San Angelo Standard-Times:

A comprehensive history of the Dallas Cowboys and a coffee table book on legendary Panhandle rancher Charles Goodnight are two books that should be popular in Texas this fall.

Veteran Texas author Joe Nick Patoski tells the story of “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America” (Little, Brown, $29.99 hardcover).

This isn’t for the faint-hearted fan. It requires a little heavy lifting, as in 800 pages of text, pictures, notes and index. But if you like football, and particularly the Cowboys, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better storyteller than Patoski, whose most recent epic was an award-winning biography of music icon Willie Nelson.

“The Statue of Liberty could fit inside Cowboys Stadium standing up,” Patoski writes. “Laid down on its side, the Empire State Building could too. It was only fitting that football’s finest showcase was the home of the Dallas Cowboys.”

Patoski traces the team decade by decade, beginning before the Cowboys were even a dent in Clint Murchison’s pocketbook.

Even though the team plays in Arlington, the vitality of Dallas made the team possible, says Patoski, and “the team gave the city its identity and a sense of pride and glory.”

Goodnight: Noted Texas photographer Wyman Meinzer teamed with museum director and author B. Byron Price to tell the story of Charles Goodnight in a beautiful and well-written 150-page oversized book, “Charles Goodnight: A Man for All Ages” (Badlands Design & Production, $45).

“Born in Illinois in 1836,” Price begins, “Goodnight rose from obscurity and relative poverty to become a celebrated frontiersman, drover and rancher in the years immediately following the Civil War. A renowned cattle trail would eventually bear his name.” He would become “arguably the best-known cattleman in the American West” by the 1880s, Price says.

Price tracks Goodnight’s life and personality through chapters on his ranching, his help saving the buffalo from extinction, his support of higher education, and his influence on Panhandle history — accompanied by Meinzer’s color photographs and historic black-and-white pictures.

Goodnight’s first wife, the beloved Mary Ann, or Molly, died in 1926. The next year, at age 91, he married his 26-year-old caregiver, Corrine. The cattle king of the Panhandle died Dec. 12, 1929.

Poetry Calendar: The 2013 edition of the Texas Poetry Calendar features 96 new poems by poets from all over Texas (Does Gatos Press, $13.95 spiral-bound).

Each week on the calendar includes one or two poems with a Texas theme or connection. Here’s a great gift for the accomplished or aspiring poet on your holiday list or those who simply appreciate good verse. At the back of the book are guidelines for submissions for the 2014 calendar.

The calendar was edited by Scott Wiggerman and Cindy Huyser of Austin. More details at dosgatospress.org.

Glenn Dromgoole, who writes about Texas books and authors, has two new books out himself this fall — a collection of stories set in the fictional town of “Coleman Springs, USA” and a bedtime book for young children, “Good Night Little Texan.”

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Culture Map Q and A

Link here austin.culturemap.com

SPORTS INSIDER
Joe Nick Patoski on The Dallas Cowboys: Uncovering the history of “America’s Team”
By Arden Ward
10.26.12 | 11:29 am

“The Cowboys play the same game, but on a whole other level. No organization comes close to what they created and the image that has been burnished and maintained since 1960,” author Joe Nick Patoski says of what is arguably the most loved — and hated — football team in history.

“No team does storylines or drama like the Cowboys,” he continues of the team that is the subject of his latest book, The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America.

As the Cowboys embark on their 53rd season of professional football, Patoski’s book is exposing the history of “America’s Team” — from its birth as a Dallas icon, through its victorious Super Bowl years in the ‘90s, and onto its current iteration housed in the infamous, larger-than-life JerryWorld.

Ahead of his engagement at this weekend’s Texas Book Festival, CultureMap talked to Patoski (former writer for Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman and Rolling Stone) about digging into the twisted past of the legendary team, how he did it, and what Jerry Jones will say.

CultureMap: In 2008, it was Willie Nelson, in 2012 — The Dallas Cowboys. How was the jump from writing about Texas’ biggest music phenom to the world’s biggest football dynasty?

Joe Nick Patoski: The jump from storied musician biography to storied football franchise history was no way seamless. It was more like a leap; the tie between the two subjects was Texas and culture. Willie was in many respects a history of Texas since the Great Depression, as well as the history of popular music from then to now.

The Dallas Cowboys book uses the national sport of Texas as a means of understanding a place (Dallas) and its people. Both Willie and the Cowboys are pegged to the Texas brag Ours Is Bigger, but in very different ways. Both Willie and Cowboys are forms of entertainment when you boil them down to their respective essences. And they are both about place.

CM: You’re a lover of football — but especially interested in Texas high school football — what led you to pursue an in-depth look at an NFL franchise?

JNP: I’d been asked to apply for, then was awarded, the role of guest curator for a Texas High School football exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in early 2009. Curating a museum exhibit got me out of my comfort zone and into a whole new way of storytelling.

I figured since I was going to be spending two years researching and preparing a museum exhibit on high school football, I might as well dive down deep and try to tell the big story of the organization that created and has maintained the biggest football team in Texas, and really, of all pro football. The Cowboys story is the story of the modern National Football League.

CM: The introduction to the book is a detailed account of JerryWorld. How did JerryWorld influence your interest on covering the Cowboys?

JNP: JerryWorld was my entree to the Dallas Cowboys franchise in the here and now. It is the source of most of the conversation about the team, besides their erratic performance, and the ultimate expression of the incredible ego of the owner.

No stadium is nicknamed in honor of the team owner, except the Palace in Dallas at Arlington, aka the Death Star. No stadium in the modern era has created the kind of buzz it has since… Texas Stadium opened in Irving in 1971. Stadium-building is a key element of the book showing how the venues have elevated the team’s profile, transcending their won-loss record.

CM: How did you begin to dig into the history of the Cowboys?

JNP: I went back to 1841, when John Neely Bryan came from Arkansas to set up a trading post near a ford crossing the Trinity River. I wanted to find out about how Dallas historically operated, and who its leaders were. For pro football, I went back to 1952 when there was a National Football League franchise in Dallas called the Texans. They drew so poorly that the team folded before the end of the season and became the Baltimore Colts. High school football and Southwest Conference college football were too strong to compete against.

Eight years later though, not one, but two, pro teams were established in Dallas. Lamar Hunt’s Texans of the startup American Football League, which Hunt created; and Clint Murchison’s Cowboys of the National Football League, an expansion franchise awarded by the league basically to put the Texans and the AFL out of business.

CM: Was the research process similar to how you worked on other projects?

JNP: No two stories are alike. My research for this book focused on the written record. No subject has been so extensively covered by North Texas media as the Cowboys have, and that includes the Kennedy assassination. So I spent a lot of time reading at the city historical section of the Dallas Public Library, then, at the invitation of the Cowboys organization, I invested about three months at Valley Ranch, reading newspaper clippings from 1959 to 1980, to see the story unfold on a day-to-day basis.

The print journalists in the early and mid-sixties in particularly did a stellar job covering the team and the organization. Then again, it isn’t everyday or every place when you have folks like Blackie Sherrod, Gary Cartwright, Bud Shrake, Dan Jenkins, Sam Blair, Carleton Stowers, Steve Perkins, and Bob St. John covering your team. These journalists were as storied as the team they covered.

CM: Did you interact at all with Jerry Jones?

JNP: I made three requests to Rich Dalrymple, the head of Cowboys publicity, to interview Jerry Jones, not that there wasn’t an abundance of coverage to cherry pick from. Never heard back, although a couple folks close to the organization said I wouldn’t be accommodated because Jones had nothing to gain by talking to me. As I said earlier though, the written record is quite extensive, and Jones is hardly a retiring wallflower. I had plenty to work with.

CM: Your introduction offers a firm stance on the cultural significance of the Cowboys being built by Murchison and capitalized on by “sumbtich” Jones. Does that thread build in the book?

JNP: Throughout the book, I try to make the case that no professional football team reflects its city like the Dallas Cowboys do; similarly, no city has been influenced by its team like Dallas has been. Dallas’ Can-Do business attitude, its significant marketing, advertising, and media sectors, and its sense of style have all contributed to the football team’s image and look. No sports logo resonates like that blue star, and Dallas had cool-looking uniforms long before any other team paid attention to that element.

Conversely, the Cowboys got Dallas over the Kennedy assassination, and then got the rest of America to forget Dallas as the City of Hate. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and America’s Team signified the shiny new Dallas that emerged on the national stage in the 1970s. It was no coincidence that the opening shot of the television series Dallas, which became the most-viewed drama in the world, included a flyover above Texas Stadium where the Cowboys’ logo was prominently displayed.

CM: Have you heard any reactions from Jones on the book or your depiction of him?

JNP: Nope, I hope he’d read it and learn some history about the team he owns. In that respect, I wrote the book for fans of the First Regime, when the team was owned by Clint Murchison, and who will never forgive Jones for the way he fired Coach Tom Landry in 1989, but also to show those old fans how Jones, for all the failures of the team on the field since 1997, has managed to raise the team’s profile and keep them part of the national conversation despite their lousy record.

I also wrote the book for newer fans who have traveled Interstate 30 that runs through Arlington and wondered who was the guy that the Tom Landry Highway was named for.

CM: What do you see as the future of this team?

JNP: Same ol’, same ol’ until the owner fires the general manager, which he won’t because he’s the same person. Jones came in and cleaned house, installing Jimmy Johnson as coach, after seven lousy years. Well, it’s been 16 lousy years since the last Super Bowl win and there’s no new Jones to come in and clean house because the owner has made the team a family business.

Big changes won’t come until Jerry Jones steps down and yields power to his son Stephen, who is already very involved in the team ownership. Stephen Jones doesn’t have his daddy’s ego or lust for the spotlight, which makes me hope he’s wise enough to hire a football person to be general manager so Stephen can focus on ownership. This is a terribly complicated sport and business to try and run everything like Jerry Jones does.

CM: Before we go, what gives this little team from Texas the ability to be the “most hated, best loved” team all at once?

JNP: It ain’t bragging if it’s true. It’s that old Texas thing. We stand out in a crowd. Lots of people are attracted to this; lots of people are repulsed by this. We’re lightning rods. You can’t ignore us.

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Michael Corcoran: Cowboys get full treatment in new history

Michael Corcoran reviews the Cowboys book for the Austin Statesman’s Texas Book Festival special

Link here: statesman.com

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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012

By Michael Corcoran

Fort Worth native Joe Nick Patoski has wrapped himself around some of the state’s biggest icons: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Selena, Willie Nelson. But his latest book tackles an institution almost bigger than Texas itself: the Dallas Cowboys.

Several histories have been written about “America’s Team,” but none has covered as much ground as Patoski’s, which takes the reader from John Neely Bryan to Dez Bryant, the founder of Dallas to the most recent team “trouble man.”

Reading this epic, exhaustive biography is like driving across the entire state of Texas or eating a large pizza by yourself. At first your appetite is so strong you think you’ll get through this with no problem. And this trip doesn’t stay on the freeways, but often ventures into the backroads, where the real adventure is. But as much of a Texas historian as Patoski is, he’s not above dishing dirt, and this book tells you who stashed away secret families and bottles of office whiskey, among other peccadilloes.

Still, about halfway through, you’re completely full. You can’t take another mile, another slice, another chapter.

But then along comes Jones. When things start to drag a bit, like the Tom Landry Cowboys of the late ’80s, Jerry Jones comes aboard like an overconfident Arkie on a seniors cruise ship. He’s a fascinating huckster, the Colonel Tom Parker of sports, who paid too much for a team in 1989 that’s worth 10 times that amount today. Perhaps there’s one too many references to Jones’ “lizardlike” looks and personality, but Patoski backs the eccentricity with numbers that show Jones as a genius of marketing. The team’s $220 million-plus operating income last year was almost twice as much as any other NFL team.

The 700-plus-page book opens with an awestruck description of the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium, “Jerry’s World,” to show how the team and its trappings played a role in the adage that everything’s bigger in Texas. But then the book quickly gets into its best stuff, the early years. We meet a couple of oil baron heirs, Clint Murchison Jr. and Lamar Hunt, who went head-to-head in the early 1960s with two professional football teams: Murchison’s Dallas Rangers, who would become the Cowboys of the National Football League, and Hunt’s Dallas Texans of the American Football League. Losing money with the AFL champions, Hunt moved his team to Kansas City and it became the Chiefs, named after KC mayor Harold “Chief” Bartle, of the super-sweetheart offer Hunt couldn’t refuse.

The rivalry between the NFL and the upstart AFL — and Hunt’s role in the merger — is just one of the topics here that deserves a book of its own. Several, in fact have been written on the subject. Patoski’s challenge was to be a completest, fitting so much history, so many players and personalities, into a book that weighs less than a lineman’s helmet. He breezes past much of it, and the pace picks up in the chapters on the past 15 years, during which Dallas has won only one playoff game, which feels tacked on as punishment, for both the author and fans. (Full disclosure: Having covered the periphery of Troy Aikman’s first two Super Bowls for the Dallas Morning News in 1993 and 1994, I was interviewed for the book and provide an anecdote concerning Cowboys legend Lee Roy Jordan and brash defensive end Charles Haley.)

You’ll hear football coaches recite that the three phases of football are offense, defense and, the one you might not think about if they didn’t keep drilling it in, special teams. The “special teams” of writing are the transitions between paragraphs, and if there’s a knock on “The Dallas Cowboys,” it’s a lack of smoothness between sections at times. It seems Patoski had to decide between making this writerly or full of anecdotes and observations that sometimes collide like linebackers, and he chose the latter.

Patoski’s a natural storyteller — as I’ve known since I first met him in 1984 — and his best trait here in that regard is providing context. This is not just the story of “America’s Team,” it’s sexy cheerleaders and larger-than-life owners and the functional monuments they built to themselves and their teams. “The Dallas Cowboys” succeeds in framing the bigger picture that gave birth to it all. Dallas is a city, Patoski writes, that has no real reason, no ports or navigable rivers, for existing in the mid-1800s. It’s a metropolis of its own invention, fueled by crazy oil money, and along the way it created “the biggest, loudest, most hated, best loved football team in America.” The Cowboys, Patoski writes in the book’s last sentence, “couldn’t have happened anywhere else.”

I grew up hating the Cowboys. My favorite NFL team was always the one playing against the self-important jerks with the blue stars on their helmets. But after I moved to Dallas in 1992, something strange happened. Something I could not really put in to words, but Patoski does. The Cowboys are to Dallas what the beach is to a island resort.

As a born-again Cowboys fanatic, I couldn’t wait to read about the team that converted me, with Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin on the field and Jimmy Johnson on the sidelines. But the part of the book I just couldn’t put down told of the building of the franchise. I’ve always heard the name Gil Brandt, but didn’t before know the depth of his scouting abilities and the role it played in the team’s rise. He’s one of the many reasons this team from the city wheere Kennedy was killed became such a national phenomenon. It’s all in there, often peppered with brusque commentary and corny Texanisms.

That Patoski was able to write this book so soon after finishing his authoritative biography of Willie Nelson attests that this was a story that the author grew up with and added to during his two decades at Texas Monthly. Although more than 70 books and hundreds of articles are cited as sources, portions of the book read written first and researched later. He knew most of the story going in.

He has lived in the Austin area, currently Wimberley, since college, but Patoski’s heart has never left the black prairie land of North Central Texas, where a team of football players gave it an identity, a sense of pride and community.

This book couldn’t have been written by anyone else.

“The Dallas Cowboys”

Joe Nick Patoski

Little Brown, $29.99

The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America

with Joe Nick Patoski

2:30 p.m. Saturday, Lone Star Tent

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Steve Crawford’s book review, Rocknycliveandrecorded.com

link here
www.rocknycliveandrecorded.com

Joe Nick Patoski has been writing about popular culture in Texas for decades. His work includes biographies on Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Selena. He has been a scribe for Texas Monthly magazine and freelanced for Creem, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. Whether the subject is western swing music, barbeque, or water conservation, Patoski has the Lone Star State covered like a blanket. His latest work, as lengthy as a presidential memoir, is about how a football team and a city grew together, have somewhat grown apart, yet are inextricably linked.

Professional football started in Dallas as the play toys for the sons of oil tycoons. Lamar Hunt, unhappy with his inability to purchase his own team, established the American Football League in 1959. His franchise, the Dallas Texans, began competing with the Dallas Cowboys for the hearts and wallets of DFW football fans in 1960. The Cowboys, founded by Clint Murchison, Jr., won the battle when the Texans moved to Kansas City in 1963 and were rechristened as the Chiefs.

For decades, the operations of the organization were handled by Tex Schramm, the General Manager, and Gil Brandt, the Vice President of Player Personnel. The Cowboys were innovators in their use of computer statistical models to evaluate players and creating the eye candy known as the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders as a marketing tool. Tom Landry, the stoic, aloof coach, focused on game planning, substitution X’s and O’s for motivation. In the ‘60s, quarterback Don Meredith was as comfortable throwing touchdowns as he was chasing skirts in Texas honky-tonks or appearing on The Tonight Show. Meredith’s irreverence and Landry’s seriousness were never a comfortable pairing.

As the book progresses, Patoski reflects on the growth and changes in Dallas. A segregated city with the dishonor of being where John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Dallas has always had a strange polytheism where capitalism, Christianity, and football are all equally worshipped and revered. The true sin in Dallas doesn’t involve who winds up someone’s bed or what goes up somebody’s nose – the only true sin in Dallas is losing.

As the 1970s progresses, Roger Staubach became not only a two-time winning Super Bowl quarterback , but with his clean cut image also became a poster child for the National Football League. The Cowboys were branded “America’s Team,” as they were the squad that everyone either loved or hated. You could be apathetic toward the New York Jets, but everybody had an opinion about the Cowboys. The glory days of the team coincided with the expansion of the “Metroplex,” as DFW built a huge airport hub and became the headquarters for a number of business operations. The team had also moved to Irving and opened the iconic Cowboys Stadium. General Manager Schramm developed a reputation as a ruthless negotiator that was able to pay bottom dollar for top talent. He was more generous with the funds when it came to parties for management officials.

Ownership changed hands twice in the 1980s, with the cultural implosion arriving with Arkansas oil and nature gas tycoon Jerry Jones. Jones dropped Cowboy legend Tom Landry and the internal management team like a pair of dirty underwear, creating howls of disapproval. The thought of an obnoxious Arky owning the hallowed Dallas Cowboys was an unthinkable heresy, until they started winning again. Jones hired his University of Arkansas college football teammate Jimmy Johnson as coach and they quickly landed the best quarterback (Troy Aikman), running back (Emmitt Smith), and receiver (Michael Irvin) in the league. Johnson won two Super Bowls, but there was an inevitable ego clash between the perfectionist coach and the solipsistic owner. The workaholic Johnson was replaced by the hard partying, back slapping yahoo Barry Switzer, who had so much talent on hand that he even won a Super Bowl with the team.

On the field, it’s been mediocrity or worse for the past fifteen seasons, but Jerry Jones has developed a new measuring stick for success. After opening a mega-stadium in Arlington, Texas, which can hold over 100,000 fans, and by taking corporate sponsorship deals to previously unimagined levels, the team is making more money than ever. The franchise is worth at least ten times more than the wildcat oil speculator paid for his vanity project. He has so thoroughly embodied the “Bigger is Better” Texas spirit that what happens on the field has almost become a secondary thought in the equation.

In this book, Patoski has covered over fifty years of Dallas Cowboy’s football while deftly interweaving the history of the city and the popular culture of the area. It’s a compelling story that could only be properly told by someone as entrenched in Texas history as Patoski. Highly recommended.

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Texas Book Festival, Saturday October 27

Join me at the 15th annual Texas Book Festival in Austin, October 27-8.
link here texasbookfestival.org

On Saturday, October 27 at 2:30 pm moderator Bill Minutaglio will be quizzing me about my new book, The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America (Little, Brown) and I’ll be signing books in the signing tent immediately afterwards, ’round about 3:15 pm

Here’s the scoop: The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America
with Joe Nick Patoski

Date: Saturday, October 27, 2012
Time: 2:30 – 3:15
Location: Lone Star Tent

The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America is Joe Nick Patoski’s tribute to the team that has delighted its fans and infuriated its rivals since 1960. Cowboys’ stories abound, bringing us a book that is not just an account of the team, but a very rich portrait of a time, a place, and a culture. Patoski is the author of the award-winning Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, along with several other books. He has written for Texas Monthly, Rolling Stone, TV Guide, and the Austin American-Statesman.

Moderator Bill Minutaglio has written several books including ones about George W. Bush, Molly Ivins, Alberto Gonzales, blues music in America, and the greatest man-made disaster in American history. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Newsweek, Outside, Texas Monthly, The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientist and other publications. He is a columnist for The Texas Observer and a professor of journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.

Authors:
Joe Nick Patoski
Moderated By: Bill Minutaglio

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Linking History and Fortunes of a City and A Team (New York Times)

link here

from the Sunday October 13 2012 New York Times:
Texas Monthly

Linking History and Fortunes of a City and a Team
By CHRISTOPHER KELLY
Published: October 13, 2012


photo by Tim Sharp/AP

The rapid-fire, ultra-glitzy, superstar-driven nature of professional football as it is played on any given Sunday does not always lend itself to serious literary contemplation. For every nonfiction classic like George Plimpton’s “Paper Lion” or Michael MacCambridge’s “America’s Game,” the shelves are cluttered with dozens of adoring biographies, glossy chapbooks and quickie novelty items like “100 Things Steelers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.”
Enlarge This Image
Tim Sharp/Associated Press

Joe Nick Patoski’s book reaches back to the mid-20th century, when the groundwork for the Dallas Cowboys franchise was laid, and beyond.

Which makes the arrival of Joe Nick Patoski’s new book, “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America” decidedly unexpected. A doorstop-size 800-plus pages, the book is less a sports story than a mixture of history and cultural analysis. In Mr. Patoski’s interpretation, the city and the sports franchise are inextricable; each allowed the other to grow and capture the national consciousness.

“Growing up in Fort Worth, you experience that second-city syndrome, that no matter how good your city is, what is going on in Dallas is shinier and better,” said Mr. Patoski, who now lives near Wimberley. “That question has been there throughout my life. What’s the deal with Dallas?”

“The Dallas Cowboys,” which was published by Little, Brown and Company last week, reaches back to 1841, when John Neely Bryan founded Dallas. It then fast-forwards to the mid-20th century when the oil scions Clint Murchison Jr. and Lamar Hunt laid the groundwork for the football franchise. Mr. Patoski creates a vivid portrait of that era in Dallas, a city where “success seemed to be a matter of simply wanting it badly enough and being willing to work hard enough to get it.” (A second newly published book about the Cowboys, “Ten-Gallon War: The N.F.L.’s Cowboys, the A.F.L.’s Texans and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future,” by the sportswriter John Eisenberg, takes a similar, if narrower look at the team’s earliest years.)

Mr. Patoski goes on to illustrate how clever iconography (the Cowboys’ silver star logo); intriguing, elusive personalities (the quarterback Roger Staubach, Coach Tom Landry) and happy coincidence (the television show “Dallas” went on the air in the late 1970s, just as the Cowboys’ on-field fortunes were soaring) combined to make Dallas — team and city — into internationally recognized brands.

Mr. Patoski, a former Texas Monthly staff writer best known for biographies of musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Selena, had almost no previous experience writing about sports. He first began working on the Dallas book in 2009, after “Willie Nelson: An Epic Life” was published. Though he planned to compose a book of historical record, the sports franchise greeted his Cowboys project with a fair measure of indifference. Mr. Patoski’s multiple requests to interview Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner, were never answered, and the author said he was denied a press pass to cover the 2011-12 season because the Cowboys media office determined he was not “working press.”

The franchise, which was first established in 1960 as part of the National Football League, did give him access to historical scrapbooks at the team’s headquarters in Valley Ranch, documents he pored over and supplemented with the day-to-day newspaper coverage of the team.

As thoughtful and well researched as “The Dallas Cowboys” is, one question remains unanswered: does the mythology of “America’s team” still resonate 16 years after the Cowboys won their last Super Bowl?

According to John Parsley, who acquired and edited the book for Little, Brown, the publisher thought an audience would be drawn to this ambitious project.

“Every team is buffeted by its great glories,” Mr. Parsley said in an e-mail. “If a team is thriving, it’s said to be returning to greatness, and if it’s struggling, nostalgia can bring about the joy a fan clings to. But some teams are so integral to a sport, to the way it’s viewed and celebrated and even played, that their full history is always fascinating.”

Although books like Mr. Patoski’s and Mr. Eisenberg’s are being published, and the television networks continue to see big ratings for Cowboys games, some long-term observers wonder if the franchise is simply running on the fumes of nostalgia.

“It continues to be an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ narrative,” said Bob Sturm, one of the hosts of The “Bad Radio” show on 1310 AM, Dallas’s sports talk radio station. Mr. Sturm added: “It’s really a great study on the optimism of fans and media alike about certain brands. The Cowboys enjoy this brand name benefit of the doubt.”

Mr. Patoski sees the issue in even grander terms. He thinks both the city of Dallas and the football team are at a crossroads, poised to do great things, but perhaps paralyzed by trying to live up to past glories. What cannot be denied, he says, is that both Dallas and its Cowboys still know how to think big. Consider the new Cowboys Stadium, which opened in Arlington in 2010, at a reported price north of $1 billion. “It may be the last big gasp of Dallas’s ‘ours is bigger’ syndrome,” Mr. Patoski said. “That’s Jerry Jones’s brilliance. He’s kept the Cowboys part of the conversation.”

For stories, reviews, news and more, go to: texasmonthly.com.
The Texas Tribune

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