Culture Map Q and A

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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

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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,

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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.
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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.

Joe Nick Patoski
Moderated By: Bill Minutaglio

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

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

Linking History and Fortunes of a City and a Team
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.”
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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.”

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Express-News report on the big Book and Author luncheon for the CTRC

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Authors share wit, wisdom at luncheon
by Hector Saldana, San Antonio Express-News

Whether sharing stories about a lost cat in King William, the forgotten Armenian genocide, the outrageous history of the Dallas Cowboys, the science of cooking, Ulysses Grant or reintroducing a domesticated owl to the wild, the common goal was cancer research awareness.

Authors Sandra Cisneros, Chris Bohjalian, Joe Nick Patoski, Jack Bishop, H.W. Brands and Gijsbert “Nick” van Frankenhuyzen were the star attractions at the 21st annual San Antonio Express-News Book & Author Luncheon on Monday.

The long-running literary event benefits the Phase I Clinical Research Program of the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

About 1,000 attended Monday’s sold-out luncheon at the Marriott Riverwalk. To date, the event has raised more than $2.8 million.

Trinity University professor Coleen Grissom reprised her role as the sardonic “Ms. Of Ceremonies,” as she has done since the program’s inception.

“If every day was like this for authors, everyone would want to be writing,” said Patoski, praising the “well-oiled event” that offers book fans face-to-face time with guest authors.

Rowena Lopez waited in line for Cisneros’ signature and inscription.

“I’ve read all of her books. It hits home for me,” Lopez said. “And this is such a wonderful way to donate to charity.”

Cisneros, whose animated readings fall into the category of performance art, was happy to oblige. Offstage, the author lovingly called “La Sandra” revealed a vulnerable side.

“You get an affirmation,” she said about meeting readers.

“Writers are basically introverts. Most of us are very shy. This is our performance.”

Brands agreed.

“Writing is purely a solitary undertaking,” Brands said. “You get no feedback. So (meeting readers), it’s very helpful. It gives you the encouragement to write again.”

Kristina Hanley weighed her purchase options, glancing at a table of books.

“The appeal is seeing the author in person,” she said. “It makes it much more personal than ordering it from Amazon.”

“It’s a big thing to see the author in person,” added Anoop Warrier, “especially when you’re gifting.”

As in years past, the audience was overwhelmingly women. Tom Payton, associate director/director of marketing and sales at Trinity University Press, says there’s a simple reason.

“Guys read books,” Payton said. “But from a publisher’s point of view, women are the absolute Energizer Bunny consumers of books.”

This year’s lineup was among the most memorable and engaging. The eight-minute time limit per author often passed too quickly and presented one of the funnier moments of the day as Nick van Frankenhuyzen watched the seconds count down as he wrapped up.

“Thirteen seconds! This is like Cape Canaveral,” he said.

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The Wall Street Journal reviews The Book

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When the Cowboys Battled for Dallas
Early on, “America’s Team” weren’t even the best squad in their home town.


For years now “America’s Team” has been stuck in an unholy funk. The Dallas Cowboys’ record since its last Super Bowl victory in January 1996 has been barely better than .500: 132 wins and 128 losses. In the past 15 years, the team has won just a single playoff game. Neither the top payroll in the National Football League nor the construction of the billion-dollar pleasure palace known as Cowboys Stadium has helped produce a rebound. Yet it would be difficult to claim that owner Jerry Jones isn’t at the top of his game.

Since he bought the team in 1989, Mr. Jones has built the franchise into a cash machine: The Cowboys’ $227 million in operating income last year was almost twice as much as any other NFL franchise and more than all the combined teams of either the NBA or NHL. He has done it, as Joe Patoski notes in his exhaustive history, “The Dallas Cowboys,” by ruthlessly, shamelessly and brilliantly exploiting the possibilities of merchandise (Dallas distributes its own) and sponsorship. Mr. Jones’s nose for such opportunities reached sublime heights when he persuaded Kraft Foods to sponsor the demolition of old Texas Stadium as part of a “Kraft Cheddar Explosion.”
The Dallas Cowboys

By Joe Nick Patoski
Little, Brown, 805 pages, $29.99

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Sports Illustrated Classic

Don Meredith quarterbacking the Cowboys in 1962, when the team went 5-8-1. Founded in 1960, the team did not enjoy a winning season until 1966.

Think you’re a football superfan? Test your mettle against some of the biggest football superfans we found from college football and the NFL. We dig those Cleveland Browns dance moves here on WSJ Off Duty.

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For all Mr. Jones’s notoriety, he is just the latest in a line of hardheaded businessmen who shaped Dallas football. John Eisenberg’s “Ten-Gallon War” tells the rough-and-tumble tale of how the Cowboys got their start and their short, heated rivalry with the AFL’s crosstown Texans (today’s Kansas City Chiefs), which lasted from 1960 to 1963. Neither franchise might have existed without the efforts of a young Texas oil heir whose self-effacing modesty masked a determination to bring pro football to his hometown: Lamar Hunt.

Hunt’s problem was that, in the 1950s, no one in the NFL shared his interest. His push to found a Dallas expansion team was thwarted by Chicago Bears owner George “Papa Bear” Halas, who spoke for an NFL ownership corps that had little interest in pushing pro ball beyond its roots in the Northeast and Midwest. Unable to sway Halas, Hunt struck out on his own, gathering seven other would-be franchise owners to form the American Football League. At the age of 28, Hunt was its guiding intelligence and its chief spokesman, proclaiming that “the American Football League stands as a group, not wanted by anyone except the American public, ready to play in 1960, and interested only in furthering the game of football.”

Papa Bear’s retaliation was swift: The NFL announced that it would bring an expansion team to Dallas in 1960, under the ownership of another oil heir, Clint Murchison Jr. Where Hunt “almost seemed embarrassed by his money,” Mr. Eisenberg writes, Murchison was “a whip-smart risk-taker who, though shy, relished the excessive life of a Texas oil millionaire.” The battle for Dallas (along with the ploy to strangle the AFL in its crib) was on.
Ten-Gallon War

By John Eisenberg
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 308 pages, $27

From the beginning, most of Dallas’s business establishment rallied around the Cowboys and the imprimatur of legitimacy bestowed by the NFL. Both teams played in the Cotton Bowl, but the scrappier Texans offered up a better show. “When it came to football and sports in general,” Mr. Patoski writes in his epic history of the Cowboys, “Lamar out-innovated Clint.” Hunt devised outlandish marketing schemes to draw crowds to Texans games, stuffing free tickets into bags of Fritos and in balloons lofted over the city. But he also orchestrated a foresighted league-wide television contract with ABC, splitting revenues among the teams—an arrangement later mimicked by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.

On the field, Hunt put together a franchise that could keep up with its AFL competitors: Texans running back Abner Haynes wowed crowds and led the fledgling league in rushing yardage and touchdowns while the Cowboys plodded far behind storied NFL squads, going 0-11-1 their first season. In the 1962 season, the Texans broke through and captured the AFL championship with a 20-17 double-overtime win against the Houston Oilers. But Murchison had already made clear that he was prepared to suffer as much red ink as was needed to see the team to success and run the Texans out of town. Hunt announced less than two months after winning the AFL title that his team was leaving Dallas: Eager to turn a profit and frustrated with lagging community support, he had been tempted by a sweetheart deal from Kansas City mayor Harold “Chief” Bartle.

Years of low turnout and bumpy performances had not broken the resolve of the Cowboys’ leading troika, which consisted of Murchison, general manager Tex Schramm and coach Tom Landry. Landry had been anointed one of the nation’s best coaches during his years as defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, where he pioneered the 4-3 defense. When Murchison invited the Dallas sports-writing corps out to his private Bahamian island, Spanish Cay, in the spring of 1962 for a weekend of hedonistic fun, his guests looked on in awe as Landry detached himself from the party to sit and work on his playbook under the shade of a palm tree.

Though not a few players and fans in Dallas snickered at Landry’s evangelical piety, they couldn’t help admiring his mastery of the sport. Murchison extended an unprecedented 10-year contract to Landry in 1964, at a time when many Dallas sports writers were calling for his head. The owner’s faith was rewarded in 1966 season when quarterback Don Meredith led the team to the NFL championship game opposite Green Bay. Though the Cowboys lost by a touchdown, Landry took home the league’s “coach of the year” award, and Dallas established itself as a force within the NFL. The Cowboys would win their first Super Bowl in 1972, two years after the Kansas City Chiefs trounced the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

Mr. Eisenberg tackles the early histories of the two teams with enthusiasm, but it’s hard to match the thoroughness of the account presented by Mr. Patoski, a Texas institution in his own right whose previous works include biographies of Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan. “The Dallas Cowboys” adroitly traces the ascendancy of the team while shedding light on its unique position today as an athletic, commercial and cultural powerhouse.

Most of the credit for the Cowboys’ renown, Mr. Patoski shows, belongs to the irrepressible Tex Schramm, a PR genius who conceived of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and was painstaking in his management of the Cowboys’ image in the press. Behind the scenes—when he wasn’t negotiating the NFL-AFL merger with Hunt—Schramm was a hard-nosed executive who kept a tight lid on players’ salaries. Decades before Oakland’s Billy Beane imposed the rigors of statistical analysis on player selection in baseball, the Cowboys ventured out to San Jose in 1962 to recruit an IBM statistician who knew nothing about American football—Uttar Pradesh native Salam Qureishi—to discover a reliable quantitative tool to assist head scout Gil Brandt in drafting and keeping the best players. Qureishi’s computer stole undervalued late-round picks—among them, Roger Staubach and “Bullet Bob” Hayes —who would go on to lead the team to its five Super Bowl appearances over the course of the 1970s.

Mr. Patoski takes as much care to recount those halcyon days as he does to narrate the downfall: Murchison’s sale of the ‘Boys to H.R. “Bum” Bright in 1984; off-field problems with the law among headline players such as Harvey Martin and Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson; and a string of bad seasons that led to the collapse of what Mr. Patoski calls the “First Regime.” When Jerry Jones swooped into Dallas to oust the poorly performing Schramm, Landry & Co., the sense of violation for some Texans was on a par with the Fourth Crusade’s sacking of Constantinople.

Foes of the NFL’s most polarizing owner will find much to cheer in Mr. Patoski’s account. The author, who gives Mr. Jones due credit for the team’s three Super Bowl wins in the early 1990s, nevertheless lets you know exactly where he stands: “Murchison was the one who created the mystique and prestige out of nothing. Jones just bought it.”

Be that as it may, the mystique has never been more valuable. Mr. Jones, like his predecessors, knew a good investment when he saw one.
—Mr. Dameron is a student at Yale Law School.

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The FW Star-Telegram Outs The Author

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Here’s a revelation that we found surprising: Joe Nick Patoski — author of The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America — does not bleed blue and silver.

He grew up in Fort Worth and has a lifelong love of Texas football. But when it comes to the Cowboys, whose history he explores in a book that’s more than 800 pages, Patoski is no Crazy Ray.

In fact, his first favorite team as a kid in the early 1960s was the Dallas Texans. “I was an Abner Haynes fan,” Patoski says.

Today, he sees himself as just an “interested bystander” when it comes to Cowboys football.

That said, Patoski has always found the “America’s Team” mystique and the story behind it to be thoroughly fascinating. That’s the real reason he wrote the book, which arrives in stores Tuesday.

He’ll be at Barnes & Noble at the Hulen Shopping Center (4801 Overton Ridge Blvd., Fort Worth) at 7 p.m. Wednesday to talk football and to sign copies.

— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram

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