Austin-area Cowboys fans, I’ll be selling and signing Dallas Cowboys books at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar at the Palmer Events Center on Saturday, from 11 am to 5:30 pm. Come and visit, and pick up a few gifts for your favorite Cowboys fans. I’ll be bringing some Texas High School Football and some Willie Nelson books too. Drop by and say Hidy.
By Gene Wang, Published: November 30
The Dallas Cowboys recently topped Forbes magazine’s annual list of most valuable franchises in the National Football League, weighing in at an estimated $2.1 billion. That astronomical figure represents about $1 billion for each of the Cowboys’ two playoff victories since the 1996-97 season, underscoring the chasm between winning and cash flow for professional football’s most recognized brand.
In “The Dallas Cowboys,” Joe Nick Patoski views the franchise against the political and socioeconomic backdrop of its home town and examines its tradition of championships mixed with the often boorish behavior of its owners, coaches and players. Patoski, who has written for Texas Monthly, Rolling Stone and other publications, portrays not only the central figures responsible for the birth and evolution of the most polarizing team in American professional sports but also the many journalists who covered the exploits. He relives the accomplishments of Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, indispensable members the 1990s Cowboys, which became the first team in league history to win three Super Bowls in four seasons. While Aikman became the disciplined quarterback who was as unlikely to engage in self-promotion as he was to throw an interception, Irvin embraced the excesses of victory that in many ways typified “America’s Team.”
(Little, Brown) – ’The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America’ by Joe Nick Patosk
Few wide receivers can claim as many clutch receptions as Irvin, but no other player in team history generated as many headlines for off-field escapades. In one infamous drug bust in March 1996, a little more than a month after winning a third Super Bowl ring, Irvin asked the arresting officer, “Can I tell you who I am?”
Narcissism also seems to be hard-wired in Jerry Jones, the current Cowboys owner, who purchased the franchise for $140 million from H.R. “Bum” Bright in 1989, installed himself as general manager and in later years flirted with coaching. The season before Jones became the third owner in team history, the Cowboys lost $9 million and finished 3-13 in what turned out to be the final season under late legendary coach Tom Landry.
Jones fired Landry, the Cowboys’ only coach since the NFL awarded Dallas a franchise in 1960, and hired Jimmy Johnson. Jones also devised aggressive measures to make the organization profitable again, among them opening additional luxury suites and selling personal seat licenses at Texas Stadium, the team’s home in Irving, Tex., until Cowboys Stadium was completed in 2009 in neighboring Arlington.
For all his savvy marketing and knack for turning a buck, Jones has had notable failures, including his evaluation of player talent. In 1993, for instance, he initially spurned running back Emmitt Smith’s overtures for a higher salary, deeming him“a luxury, not a necessity.” Smith, who signed a contract for the 1993 season after missing the first two games, wound up leading the league in rushing and being named MVP of that season’s Super Bowl. Then in March 1994, Jones and Johnson parted ways after the Cowboys’ consecutive championships prompted the owner to surmise that practically any coach could reach those heights given the talent on the roster. Patoski details an infamous, alcohol-fueled confrontation in which Jones cursed Johnson for declining to participate in a toast “to the people who made it possible to win two Super Bowls.” Jones felt he belonged in that company; Johnson thought otherwise.
Jones’s perceived meddling was in stark contrast to the approach of the late Clint Murchison Jr., the first owner of the Cowboys, who preferred to stay out of the talent-evaluation business. Murchison left those duties to pioneering general manager Tex Schramm and scout Gil Brandt, who were with the franchise in its infancy. Schramm was the first to use computers to assess talent and began drafting players from obscure colleges. Among his best finds were tackle Rayfield Wright (Fort Valley State), who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006; linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson (Langston); and safety Cliff Harris (Ouachita Baptist).
Schramm shared Jones’s flair for marketing, particularly when it came to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. Appearing in their own television special in 1979 and selling posters at a rate second only to Farrah Fawcett during the 1970s, when the Cowboys won a pair of Super Bowls, the cheerleaders became almost as symbolic of the organization as early quarterbacks Don Meredith and Roger Staubach.
These days, moving merchandise, hawking spots on the party deck at the new digs known as “Jerry World” and leaning on past glories keep the Cowboys relevant on the balance sheet, if not in the win column. As Patoski writes, “The swagger had never left, even if their record no longer justified the confident arrogance that defined Dallas the team and Dallas the people.”
Gene Wang , an editor and reporter with The Washington Post sports department since 1990, covered all three Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl victories in the 1990s.
By JOHN WILLIAMS
Published: November 30, 2012
We might pause right here at the start to wonder about the potential audience for an 800-page history of the Dallas Cowboys. If “football mad” is the first adjective you would use to describe Big D, many more will scroll by before you get to “bookish.” As Joe Nick Patoski writes, this is a city “all about tearing down the past” that can count, among its other achievements, an early rivalry with Houston for the title of “boob-job capital of America.”
THE DALLAS COWBOYS
The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America
By Joe Nick Patoski
Illustrated. 805 pp. Little, Brown & Company. $29.99.
Times Topic: Dallas Cowboys
Then again, even the N.F.L. was initially a hard sell in northeast Texas. The entrenched Lone Star tradition of packing high school and college football stands on Fridays and Saturdays didn’t leave a lot of energy for Sundays. The city’s first iteration of a professional franchise, the Dallas Texans in 1952, drew so little interest that the team was banished to practice in Hershey, Pa., and play in Akron, Ohio, in the middle of its inaugural (and only) season.
The Cowboys fared a little better. Clint Murchison Jr., the son of an oil baron, invested $600,000 to start the team in 1960. After surviving competition from another crew named the Texans — this one in the upstart American Football League — it went on to win five Super Bowls, redefine the art of cheerleading and inspire the equal levels of adoration and resentment reserved for arrogant conquerors everywhere. The current owner, Jerry Jones, paid $140 million for the team in 1989. Forbes recently valued the ’Boys at a manly $2.1 billion.
Jerry Seinfeld once joked that given all the personnel changes over the years, remaining loyal to a sports team is a silly proposition: “You’re actually rooting for the clothes, when you get right down to it. . . . You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.” On one hand, this is a problem for Patoski, since generations of Cowboys aren’t bound together by a single narrative strand, or even a dozen of them. Only by clothes. So a comprehensive history of the team is at an inherent disadvantage against narrower slices — say, Jeff Pearlman’s “Boys Will Be Boys,” which covers the team’s frequent victories and tabloid appearances in the 1990s with the frictionless verve of glossy-magazine vernacular. Or John Eisenberg’s “Ten-Gallon War,” published just one week before Patoski’s book, which chronicles the early battle with the Texans for the Dallas fan base.
On the other hand, the 50-year scope offers an instructive time-lapse view of America’s jock culture: from the 1970s star quarterback Roger Staubach, who asked for a station wagon instead of a sports car after being named M.V.P. of Super Bowl VI, to the current quarterback Tony Romo, who took fire from fans when he jetted to Mexico with Jessica Simpson just before the start of the 2008 playoffs. And from the legendary coach Tom Landry, who said about his deep religious convictions, “I have no doubt that there is something other than man himself that leads man,” to Jones, who once reflected, “If I was going to be in the foxhole with somebody, I’d be there with me.”
Whether or not it’s an illusion based on high visibility, the franchise seems to have attracted more than its share of outsize characters. Gathering them all in one book makes for a raucous reunion. In 1971, the running back Duane Thomas fell into a silence for weeks after asking a reporter, “Haven’t you ever felt like not saying anything?” He spoke to the media through the former football star Jim Brown after that season’s Super Bowl. (Brown: “Duane says he feels good today.”) A vow of silence would have been a good strategy for the offensive lineman Nate Newton, a key part of the team’s ’90s dynasty. He told the press, of the days leading up to Super Bowl XXX in 1996: “The Tempe police gave us a list of places not to go, and there’s where I went. I like wicked, dude.” And in perhaps the least publicity-conscious moment in American history, he said this about the “White House,” a designated five-bedroom hangout where Cowboys could get wicked, dude: “We’ve got a little place over here where we’re running some whores in and out, trying to be responsible, and we’re criticized for that, too.”
Patoski notes that the linebacker Lee Roy Jordan and three other white players went to a team Halloween party in 1970 dressed as members of the K.K.K., which was somehow less odd than the explanation for it. “I felt I needed some way to show the blacks on the team, especially those from the West Coast, that color meant nothing to this ol’ Alabama boy,” Jordan said. Mission . . . accomplished?
Unfortunately, Patoski sets no limits for himself in the anecdotes department. Information, once learned, will be shared. He knows the rest of the costumes worn to that party, so we’re told that “Larry Cole was the Jolly Green Giant; Ron Widby came as Frankenstein.” The minutiae of the team’s media changes are also set down for the record, like the fact that Rick Weaver, “an announcer from the West Coast by way of Wichita, Kan.,” joined the radio team in 1963. One by one, we learn all the moonlighting jobs that players held in the 1978 off-season. (“Burton Lawless got into frozen seafood.”) This devotion to detail reaches its apotheosis when Patoski lists the regular seating arrangement for team flights in 1975: “On the right side, Clint Murchison and wife were in 3C and D,” and so on.
His appendix of sources includes a 62-page list of magazine and newspaper articles. That’s a lot to synthesize, and he can be too dutiful in giving equal time. He spends just a little more than three pages (about 0.4 percent of the book) on the Ice Bowl, the legendary playoff game between Dallas and the Green Bay Packers in temperatures well below zero. A bit later, we learn that Billy Graham christened Texas Stadium with a 10-day spiritual crusade in 1971, which is interesting enough. But we’re also treated to an extended excerpt from Graham’s remarks on one of those nights: “To you who are watching by television, it’s been raining here in Texas for the last two days. And tonight, in spite of the weather, there are 43,000 people here. I don’t know what kind of crowd this would have been, had we had good weather.”
Patoski’s previous books include biographies of the musicians Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Selena, Texan legends all but not of the gridiron variety, and he airs some opinions about football that seem squarely those of a music fan. He offers, for instance, that by 2011 the former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson “had become almost as legendary a broadcaster as former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden.” He also fumbles some facts along the way. For instance, he has the 1960 United States men’s hockey team (the book is wide-ranging) beating the Soviet Union, 9-4, for the gold medal in the “miracle on ice.” But America beat Czechoslovakia for the gold that year — the “miracle on ice” over the Soviets came in 1980, and not in the gold-medal game.
But the book’s shortcomings are balanced by its surplus of entertaining characters and by Patoski’s broader interest in Texas history. The Cowboys’ birth and ensuing decades of success also corresponded with the Sun Belt’s ascent to a central role in the politics and economics of the country. Always in the foreground of the book is the larger story of Dallas, from its founding in 1841 through its lingering codified racism in the mid-20th century to its various periods of population boom and increased clout. Those looking for just the football facts have to wash them down with a lot of civic history along the way, and the book is better for it. Patoski must be fascinated by the Cowboys to have devoted himself to this herculean task. Luckily for those fans whose curiosity extends beyond the sidelines, he’s also taken with the complicated region that the team calls home.
John Williams produces the Books section for NYTimes.com.
Why the Cowboys Should Go Socialist
by Joe Nick Patoski
Nov 29 2012, 11:30 AM
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Another week, another Cowboys loss, and another round of fan unrest with Jerry Jones. This time, no doubt inspired by all of the secession talk in Texas, a desperate and disgruntled fan took to the White House “We the People” website, asking President Barack Obama to faciliate the “removal” of Jones as Cowboys owner and GM: “We, the Citizens of the Great State of Texas, and Dallas Cowboys fans worldwide, have been oppressed by an over controlling, delusional, oppressive dictator for way too long,” it read, as Dan Graziano of ESPNDallas reported. Unfortunately, the petition violated the site’s terms of participation, no doubt because it failed to “address the current or potential actions or policies of the federal government.” Fear not. Longtime Texas Monthly contributor Joe Nick Patoski has another solution:
If Jerry Jones wants to make a really big move before the 2013 season rolls around, he’s got to go beyond bringing in another formerly successful coach/GM like Bill Parcells or Mike Holmgren.
Last week, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Holmgren (above, left, with Jones) would be interested in coaching the Cowboys should the job come open, even as Holmgren publicly denied it.
Holmgren may have been a winner at Green Bay and Seattle, but his most recent record running the Browns leaves something to be desired. If Jerry really craves the Packer legacy and record, he should go much further than simply hiring its Super Bowl coach. He also needs to embrace Green Bay’s socialism.
Jones the owner has been fantastically successful, monetizing the value of the franchise as the NFL has monetized itself into America’s biggest entertainment. Jones the general manager is a failure, despite his “socks and jocks” declaration when he bought the team in 1989. And the owner won’t fire the GM.
So Jerry, go ahead and hire Holmgren. Give him the authority to make trades and run the football end of the franchise. But then double down and emulate the Green Bay model of ownership.
The Packers are the only community-owned team in the NFL, with over 300,000 shareholders owning a piece of the franchise. And yet, despite that—or more accurately, because of that—the Pack remain a dynastic team that consistently competes among the league’s elites.
Why would the NFL’s most ruthless capitalist embrace that model? Because then Jerry Jones could finally get what he really wants most—another Super Bowl win.
Think of it: 300,000 Cowboys fans, in Texas and around the world, willing to pony up $10,000 apiece (a pittance compared to the personal seat licenses fans pay to dib a prime viewing seat at Cowboys Stadium, much less a luxury box) to call themselves part-owners. That’s $3 billion more for Jerry. He also gets to keep the stadium receipts (like all that pizza money).
Meanwhile, a real GM is hired, and, finally, a better football team takes shape, and brings back the Lombardi Trophy. That earns Jerry absolute forgiveness, both from everyone who’s suffered the past decade-plus, and from older fans who haven’t forgotten Jones’s classless firing of Tom Landry.
Jones and his son Stephen might even be retained as business managers, so they can continue to wheel and deal. And if Jerry needs to get his football ya-yas out, he can always donate more dough to his alma mater the University of Arkansas, which, in its current state, can probably use him as a bench jockey and armchair general manager (it’s been suggested Jones was at least partially responsible for the Razorbacks’ overture to LSU head coach Les Miles this week).
The NFL is a very complicated game and business, one that requires specialized expertise at every level. The owner of the Jones-era Cowboys has tried to do it all for the past 15 years. He’s succeeded wildly at revenue and branding, but ultimately failed by not delivering on his business’s core-product: the football team.
So go socialist, Jerry! Make yourself a hero to the fans, and make the Dallas Cowboys worthy of their global fan base once again.
Joe Nick Patoski is the author of THE DALLAS COWBOYS: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America (Little, Brown). Read an excerpt from it here.
Sports, America’s Team, cowboys, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Jerry Jones, Joe Nick Patoski, Mike Holmgren, NFL, Dallas
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
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.”
I’ll be on KRTS-FM 93.5 FM, marfapublicradio.org on the www, on Thursday, November 1, 2:30 pm talking the Dallas Cowboys book.
Then at six pm, I’ll be at Front Street Books in Alpine for a talk and booksigning. Come on out.
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.
Michael Corcoran reviews the Cowboys book for the Austin Statesman’s Texas Book Festival special
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
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.