Why the Cowboys are called “America’s Team”

Why do the Dallas Cowboys call themselves America’s Team, kinda presumptuous for a mediocre team to do that isn’t it. –  KZ from Chicago

Well obviously you’re not a Cowboys fan.  But in short the answer is that throughout the 1960’s, 70’s 80’s and 90’s the Cowboys were both extremely successful AND extremely marketable.


The Team that was first called America’s Team (dallascowboys.com)

The term was coined in 1978 by NFL Films.  They were producing an end of the year highlight film, and were looking for a nickname for the Cowboys.  It was the late 1970’s and football was coming into its own as a sport.  Though pro football had been around for a number of years, the 70’s saw huge gains in popularity for the sport.  This was in part because football, more than any other professional sport; looks and plays great on TV.  And the Cowboys, in particular looked and played great on TV more than anyone else.


The 1978 “America’s Team” included your balding Uncle, Questlove’s cousin, and a porn star.

In 1978, the Cowboys had just finished their 12th consecutive winning season, a streak that would hit ultimately hit 20.  In those 20 years they made the playoffs 18 times, both are records.  They owned their conference, the NFC, playing in the NFC championship every other year for over thirty years.  In the 1970’s they played in as many Super Bowls as all the other teams in the NFC combined.

But they weren’t just successful in transformative years of the NFL, they were marketable.  They had that iconic Blue Star on their helmet, one of the most recognizable sports logos worldwide.

dallas-cowboys-helmet-logo-e1325797190394-250x192 People on tiny islands in the Pacific know what this is (dallascowboys.com)

They played in a stadium that unlike many in the NFL was also recognizable.  The not quite a doom, not quite an open air stadium that looked like it had a hole on the roof.  That hole by the way was put there so that , as linebacker D.D. Lewis said, so “  God can watch His favorite team play.”  Now that’s presumptuous.

Texas%20Stadium-dallas ob Why God had to put a hole in the roof to see is beyond me(dallascowboys.com)

As for the players, the teams of the late 60’s and 70’s included a Heisman Trophy winner (and future hall of fame) running back, and another Heisman Trophy winner at Quarterback who just so happened to be a Navy War Hero (also a hall of famer).  At Wide Receiver, they had a bona fided track star.  As in a Olympic Gold Medal winner, literally the world’s fastest man.  Bob Hayes, Or Bullet Bob Hayes was the  Usain Bolt of his generation who then also became Calvin Johnson, (not to be confused with Navin R. Johnson).  Of course they also had true blue western cowboys, Danny Dons, members of the Rodeo Hall of Fame, the author of whats considered the best novel ever about professional football, Tonight Show guest hostslotto winners, pro wrestlers, and other assorted characters.

As coach they also had one of the best known hat wearing man in the western world…Tom Landry


So by 1978, when NFL Films was trying to think of a nickname, they realized that no matter where they went to film the Cowboys on their road games, there were always Cowboy fans.  The Cowboys also played more national TV games than anyone else, including the Monday Night games and the Thanksgiving Day games. When foreigners were asked to name an American football team, the Cowboys were named most often and their Blue Starred helmets identified.  The Cowboys had become the most popular team in the NFL, so if football was quickly becoming America’s new past time, the Cowboys were becoming America’s Team.

0123_largeSports Illustrated, back when the cover was edited by 7 year olds

The name has stuck in part because of the wave of successful and the characters of the 1990s.  If the Cowboys had only been successful and charismatic in the 60’s, 70’s and into the 80’s, the name may have faded.  But in the 1990’s, football’s second boom time with the explosion of cable tv, espn, highlight shows, and fantasy football; the Cowboys were just as successful and just as marketable as they were in the earlier years.


Available on ebay for a small fortune

They’d play in three Super Bowls in the 90’s making the playoffs eight times, their quarterback, Troy Aikman would win more games in that decade than any other quarterback in history had and would date America’s sweetheart in the early 90’s Nancy Kerrigan.  They also had a fur coats wearing Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith the all time leading rusher NFL history, and their biggest free agent of the time was nicknamed, “PrimeTime”  for his antics.  He also had a rap song…it’s awesome. It inlcudes the lyrics…”Hey, my snakeskin shoes gonna change into gators- Hey, my library cards gonna change into credit cards”

deion1992skyboxprimetime Deion’s Poster c2_24343_0_PrimeTimeNFLStarringDeionSande Deion’s Game

And though the Cowboys have not had the success they had in the 60’s, 70’s 80’s or 90’s, they do still have this.


Which should make America’s Team forever