The Dallas Morning News Likes The Book

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from the Dallas Morning News, Sunday, September 30, 2012
by Allen Barra

….One wonders that if Hunt had driven Murchison’s Cowboys out of Dallas, would the AFL team had merited a book as massive as Joe Nick Patoski’s The Dallas Cowboys? That the book is a feast for Cowboys fans should come as no surprise — every big game from the famous “Ice Bowl” with the Green Bay Packers in 1967 to the Super Bowl triumphs of the 1990s are recounted in loving detail.

The surprise, perhaps, is how invigorating a read it is for those — such as myself — who usually root for the team not wearing a blue star on their silver helmets. (Disclosure: In the early 1980s, I lived in Houston and met Patoski while I wrote for various rock magazines and he was manager of one of my favorite bands, Joe King Carrasco and the Crowns.)

Even we skeptics have to admit that, if not for the Cowboys, the NFL might still be in the Stone Age in terms of scouting players, game preparation and offensive sophistication. And fans who get tired of reading about the Cowboys’ successes can revel in the team’s history of excesses, particularly a cocaine scandal when, Patoski says, “America’s Team had become South America’s team.”

There are other, more detailed accounts of the careers of Cowboys luminaries such as Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, but none that places their accomplishments so firmly within the framework of America’s Team.

And that’s what the Cowboys ultimately are, whether people like it or not. (After all, as Patoski points out, early in the Staubach era “more bootleg, knockoff merchandise was manufactured for the Cowboys than for any other club.”)

“What began as an idea,” writes Patoski, “and is now the premier franchise in American sports could have flourished only in the fertile blackland prairie of North Central Texas. … The city made the team possible. In exchange, the team gave the city its identity and a sense of pride and glory.”

For better or worse, Patoski is right, and The Dallas Cowboys stands as the definitive biography of a city and a football team.

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Joe Nick Patoski Slam-Dunks Dallas Cowboys Tome (Houston Press)

William Michael Smith, Houston Press writer and Odessa Permian grad, weighs in on the book here:

Joe Nick Patoski Slam-Dunks Dallas Cowboys Tome
By William Michael Smith Fri., Sep. 21 2012 at 12:30 PM
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Categories: Football

The dust jacket from Joe Nick Patoski’s new tome on America’s Team
If there is one reason Joe Nick Patoski’s books — biographies of Selena, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Willie Nelson — are so good, it is his ability as a storyteller. Any decent reporter can sift news clippings and videos or interview the participants, but Patoski’s style and organization turn what could have been dry, pedantic history into a page-turner. You can actually picture him whittling on a piece of pecan while, with a knowing huckster twinkle in his eye, he wheedles you into something you didn’t bargain for. It’s the Texas way.

It doesn’t hurt that his subject matter in the thorough-to-a-fault 816 page tome Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America is the self-proclaimed America’s Team, that garish, gauche agglomeration of rich nut jobs, rigid Christian automatons, true-believer underpaid players like Lee Roy Jordan, Bob Lilly, Dave Manders, and Don Perkins, and too-highly-paid thugs like Pac-Man Jones and Michael Irvin known as the Dallas Cowboys.

Ever since the ultra-kooky Dallas zillionaire Clint Murchison founded the franchise with his twisted brain trust of carnival barker Tex Schramm and rigid Jesus-nut coach Tom Landry, the Cowboys have been a three-ring larger-than-life circus.

Federico Fellini couldn’t make this shit up.

For people of a certain age — those of us who still remember the team in its infancy, when Sunday NFL football was changing Sunday viewing habits forever and who have been sucked in by the Cowboys media juggernaut for the past fifty years — the book is the key to forgotten personalities and events, a history closely paralleling our own lives.

“If there is a goal to this book, it’s to trigger memories in readers,” Patoski told me recently. We were discussing short term head coach Chan Gailey, whom I had completely forgotten. “Chan the Man was not that bad a coach, he just had a very tough act to follow, the Cowboys still being in thrall of Jimmy Johnson’s aura.”

While Patoski has gathered a smattering of information firsthand via interviews — mostly from innocent bystanders like center Dave Manders’ wife Betty who add color and validity — he did not interview any of the major principals in the story, although he did request an interview with current owner Jerry Jones three times.

According to Patoski, seeking an interview with Jones was something any good journalist would do, but Jones ignoring his requests didn’t really alter the book in any way.

“The security guy told me he wouldn’t respond, there wasn’t anything he’d gain from that,” says Patoski. “Listen, the written record on this subject is so huge, I didn’t need to talk to him or anyone, really. My goal was figuring out the bigger story.”

And figure out the bigger story he did. Not only does Patoski leave no stone unturned in relation to the Cowboys on- and off-the-field actions, he also masterfully ties in the history, politics, business environment, and culture of Dallas and the DFW area. He even draws a subtle comparison with Houston, using Molly Ivins’ insightful line, “Houston is degenerate, Dallas is perverse.”

The overarching highlight is Patoski’s cinematic Technicolor evocation of the circus the Cowboys are and have always been. Sex, drugs, rock and roll have never looked so salacious, except in Pete Gent’s great fictionalization of the Cowboys, North Dallas Forty.

“That’s the outrageous part,” Patoski explains. “It wasn’t anything I said, it’s what the written record said.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the book is how well the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders come off. In spite of their hyper sexed-up public image, up beside all the macho crazoid stuff going down with the team and its management the cheerleaders come off as one of the few true positives, mainly due to the careful management and civic foresight of the various managers of the organization over its history. Few realize the economic impact the cheerleaders have made; they frequently add more than a $1,000,000 in profits to the Cowboys’ bottom line annually.

Patoski paints dynamic, carefully researched portraits of all the main players in the drama, neither diminishing the accomplishments nor exaggerating the freak-show events. But it is his timely, unblinking portrait of current owner Jerry Jones that stands out.

A megalomaniac of epic proportions, Jones is rightfully portrayed as a marketing genius who took both the Cowboys and the NFL to almost unimaginable financial heights, yet for all his financial success and a brief return to glory during the Jimmy Johnson regime, Jones’s football club has been barely above mediocre on the field over the long haul. Patoski lays the blame for Dallas’s .500 record over the past decade squarely at Jones’s feet.

Patoski makes the case — as have others — that the problem is Jones’ insistence on functioning not only as owner but as general manager, the only owner in the league to do so. For every stroke of genius comes another incident where Jones comes off like a spoiled, redneck brat who puts his celebrity above winning by continually meddling with coaches and football decisions.

Patoski labels the fact that Jones and the Cowboys continue to be thought of by the public — and by ticket buyers — as a great football team in spite of their lackluster record over the past decade as “Jerry’s con.” Never in the history of the NFL has such a mediocre team demanded so much rabid loyalty or had such astronomical television ratings.

The author also makes plain that in spite of all the smoke and mirrors, Jones and his revolving cast of head coaches haven’t come close to matching the success of the original owner and coach. Patoski does offer hope to the faithful that the Cowboys may right themselves when Jones steps down in favor of his son Steve Jones, who has been in the family business since day one and is apparently less of an egomaniac than his flamboyant father.

Don’t be intimidated by this five-pound monster. Because of Patoski’s feel for Texanspeak and Texanthink plus his highly trained reporter’s instincts, the book can be cruised through in a week. Well written, informative, and entertaining, it stands every chance of being a true blockbuster, just like its subject.

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Publishers Weekly weighs in on the new Dallas Cowboys book

The Dallas Cowboys book, out October 9

Publishers Weekly weighed in on my new book THE DALLAS COWBOYS: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America by Joe Nick Patoski (Little, Brown)
It’s the first review and it’s a good ‘un.
from Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2012

The Dallas Cowboys:
The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America
Joe Nick Patoski. Little, Brown, $29.99 (816p) ISBN 978-0-316-07755-2
In this superbly detailed, obsessively researched, and equal parts serious sports scholarship and outrageous laugh-out-loud reporting about the Dallas Cowboys, Patoski (Willie Nelson: An Epic Life) focuses in part on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who spent $1.2 million on a new stadium (“aka Jerry World; aka the Death Star”) into which the Statue of Liberty could fit standing up, as well as the Empire State Building laid on its side. Patoski starts with the Death Star as a way into viewing the ups and downs of the 50-plus–year history of professional football in Dallas, from its inception as a popular amateur team sport in the 19th century, speaking to “Texas’s legacy as a republic that had won its independence from Mexico by fighting hard and using whatever means necessary,” through the team’s professional start under the direction of businessman Clint Murchison and coach Tex Schramm, to its various championships and its controversial sale to Jerry Jones, who brought in the equally controversial head coach Jimmy Johnson. But Patoski’s supreme ability to capture the intricacies of the team’s history doesn’t get in the way of his equally impressive and cleverly sly portrayals of the many wacky players throughout Cowboys history, from quarterback Don Meredith to the players living and partying in “the White House” in the Dallas suburbs, about which offensive lineman Nate Newton famously said, “We’ve got a little place over here where we’re running some whores in and out, trying to be responsible.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012

Other Formats
Ebook – 978-0-316-13271-8

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