November 29, 2011
By Tuesday Morning Tailback
During several seasons during the past decade or so, the Dallas Cowboys were crowned midway through the season, usually sometime around November. Inevitably, the team would collapse in either December or January, never advancing as far as the Conference Championship game an only winning one single playoff game in the past 15 years. While much blame falls with the organization itself, the media and NFL also bear some blame with all the heaps of hype these entities bestow upon this franchise.
You see, the Cowboys cannot be good without being “great”. Any sign of success and the media sees ratings boosts by hyping this popular team because they have the fan numbers. The NFL is equally as culpable. Through NFL Films, they coined the term “America’s Team” around 1980, and recently self congratulated with a “Top 10” show that granted “America’s Team” as the best nickname ever. Really?
What the NFL and the Cowboys should realize is that there is a serious downside to this hype. In the age of Internet, instant access, and fantasy football, a more balanced and “true” football fan has evolved and is certainly turned off by unbalanced coverage of any team or hype of any players on that team. In 2006, quarterback Tony Romo was named to the Pro Bowl than two month after starting his first game ever. The following year, Dallas had thirteen Pro Bowl players while that year’s eventual champion (and the team that beat the Cowboys in the playoffs), the New York Giants had just one. Coming into the season last year, many pundits predicted that the Cowboys would be the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Dallas started 1-7 and had a terrible season as the Green Bay Packers captured the crown at Cowboys stadium.
So, why again are they “America’s Team”? Well, there are two main reasons. First and foremost, they did a really good job marketing their merchandise in K-Mart and Sears in the 1970s, so that a generation of kids wore their knit caps and mittens. The branding aspect has left an indelible mark on fans and non-fans alike. In fact, even though I was a pretty big NFL fan when I was 10 years old in 1978, I did not know that the Atlanta Falcons even existed until they played (and nearly beat) Dallas in the playoffs that year. The second reason follows the first, as the media follows the marketing with the hype. So, although there are many teams with cheerleaders, none are as “hot” as the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. And while there are many great rivalries in the NFL, some that date back decades before the Cowboys existed, the truly best rivalries are always Dallas vs. ~insert team here~, etc., etc., etc.
Although this whole “America’s Team” sham has persisted for over three decades now, I feel it will collapse as the fans get more and more sophisticated and the media shapes less and less opinions. Why isolate the rest of the league’s teams by crowding out their own stories?
But back to November’s champions. Everyone has seemed to forget, this is the same team that got absolutely destroyed in Philly a few weeks ago. Since then they have won four straight, but against four teams with losing records. They will face their fifth straight sub-par team this week when they travel to Arizona to face the 4-7 Cardinals.
The true NFL story is this season, like last season is the Green Bay Packers. There are the Packers and then there is everyone else. Sure, Dallas has done some good stuff, but so have New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, Oakland, and even Denver (who has also won four in a row). These teams are all at about the same level as Dallas, which is a step above the more mediocre teams and a huge leap behind Green Bay. So let’s have some context here.
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.