Who's the most hated team in the NFL?" Raider owner Al Davis asks.
"The Raiders," you answer.
"Wrong," says Davis. "We're the second-most. We'll never catch Dallas."
Dallas Cowboy haters, like New York Yankee haters, flourish in every corner of the U.S. "Don't get me started on the Cowboys; we have to play 'em," says Pittsburgh Steeler Linebacker Jack Lambert. "Talk to anyone around the league and they'll tell you, 'We don't care who wins, as long as it isn't the Cowboys.' "
"There's an old saying that pro football fans root for two teams: their own and the one that's playing Dallas," says CBS Director of Sports Information Jay Rosenstein. Last Oct. 11, when the Cowboys were getting crushed 45-14 by San Francisco in a game that was seen throughout most of the U.S., nobody switched away. In fact, the ratings steadily increased after the half. No wonder the Cowboys are the darlings of CBS. The network's slogan is, "When in doubt, give 'em Dallas."
You can't escape the Cowboys even when you turn the TV off. Twenty-four percent of all NFL-authorized products bear the Dallas trademark; Pittsburgh is next, with about 16%. You see them everywhere, those little silver-and-blue trinkets. "God, I hate those colors," says an L.A. newspaperman. "Pittsburgh's colors look like a steel mill. Dallas' colors remind you of a jewelry store."
A jewelry store run by a computer. Anybody who has ever had his phone bill fouled up by computers hates the things. "My favorite moment in sports," says Lump Jones, a Pittsburgh fireman and diehard Steeler fan, "was when Rocky Bleier leaped high in the air to catch a pass for the go-ahead touchdown in the '79 Super Bowl against the Cowboys in Miami. I loved it because it was done by an overachiever, and that's one thing the Dallas system doesn't have, overachievers. People there either achieve what's expected of them, or they fail."
Part of Cowboy phobia is the Texas image. Who wants to root for an oil well? "I was at the 1979 Super Bowl when the Cowboys played the Steelers," says one AFC general manager. "I didn't know who to root for. The Steelers had won enough, I thought. I decided to pull for Dallas. But when the Cowboys came out, somebody unfurled a 90-foot Texas flag. I hated it. I switched to Pittsburgh."
Cowboy hatred pops up in the most unexpected places—like Instrument & Apparatus News, a publication put out by the Chilton Company of Radnor, Pa. In his regular column in the February 1982 issue, the editor, Terrence Gallagher, had this to say:
"There are three types of people in the civilized world. There are those who love the Dallas Cowboys, those who hate the Dallas Cowboys and those who don't know who or what the Dallas Cowboys are. I call these people Group A, B and C, respectively. I have never met a Group C person, but reliable sources have informed me they do exist—they live mostly along the west bank of the Amazon.
"Group B people are paragons of mankind. They are superior in every way to Group A and Group C.... Group A men (except those living in or near Dallas, who have been brainwashed since birth and have long ago lost all ability to make rational decisions) should be shunned at all costs. They are not to be trusted....
"Let me profile the typical Group A man for you. He is a front-runner. In other sports his allegiance is pledged to the Boston Celtics, New York Yankees, etc. He will be your friend as long as you are doing well and don't need him. But when the chips are down, he'll leave you faster than the city of New York abandoned the Giants for the Jets in the glory days of Broadway Joe. A Group A man will lie about the past. He will, for example, claim to always have been a supporter of whoever is on top at the moment. A Group A man will never take a chance: He is a coward. He will never tell you on Friday what he thinks will happen on Sunday; but he'll always tell you on Monday that he knew....
"Knowing whether a person falls into Group A, B or C is valuable information. If you are interviewing someone for a job, you are not permitted to ask questions relating to sex, religion or politics. But there is no law against asking them their favorite football team. If they are Cowboy fans, don't hire them. Who needs a front-running, cowardly liar?
"Actually, I think all Group A people should be required to identify themselves so that we can more easily avoid them. Nathaniel Hawthorne proposed much the same thing back in 1850. They should wear a scarlet A."
Or a silver-and-blue one. "It's all part of the Cowboy hype," says George Perles, who was Pittsburgh's assistant head coach until he resigned in July to become head coach of the USFL's Philadelphia team. "They want people to hate them. Hey, when people start liking you, buckle up. That means they're beating you consistently."
"George Allen worked on that hatred," says John Wilbur, four years a Cowboy guard, one year a Ram, three years a Redskin. "He cultivated it. It got to you. I mean he never referred to the Dallas Cowboys without calling them the goddamn Dallas Cowboys. I can't think of them as anything else now. My 9-year-old son, Nathan, even calls them that."
A few years back, the Cowboys modestly began calling themselves America's Team. "If they're America's Team," says Raider Safety Mike Davis, "what does that make the rest of us? Guatemalans?" When the designation brought the Cowboys too much ridicule, they backed off and admitted that perhaps they had been a little overambitious, but here they come again, entitling their 1981 highlight film Star Spangled Cowboys. "Star Spangled Organization would be a better name for it," Wilbur says.
The Organization...ah, The Organization. The Dallas Cowboys will never let you forget that no one man stands higher than The Organization or that it's The Organization that has produced 16 playoff seasons out of the last 17 and the No. 1 record in pro football since they entered the league in 1960. When he was a CBS publicist Beano Cook once told Cowboy President Tex Schramm, "You're one of the two most efficient organizations in the 20th century."
"What's the other?" asked Schramm.
"The Third Reich."
But to Al Davis, the whole Cowboy corporate operation is a great hypocrisy. He doesn't laugh when Pete Rozelle's former Los Angeles Ram employer, Schramm, is referred to as the Unofficial Commissioner.
"The Cowboys are wired to the league office, everyone knows that," says Davis. "And you can bet every game official knows that, too. If there's one team that's going to get a break, it's Dallas—on the calls, on the scheduling, on the Competition Committee, on everything else relating to league matters. When the leagues were realigned in 1970, how come the Cowboys got to host the Thanksgiving game 11 out of 13 years, including the last five, counting this season coming up? Do you know what a tremendous advantage that is, having 10 days off going into December? How many times have the Cowboys lost the game a week and a half following Thanksgiving? [Dallas is 10-0. However, in those same 10 years the Detroit Lions, who play at home every Thanksgiving Day, have a 3-7 record for the following games.] When Tex says that the league couldn't get a fair shot because our trial was in L.A., that was the utmost in hypocrisy. Who has more of a competitive edge than him? I don't begrudge it; God bless him. It's to their credit that they're working for the competitive edge all the time. We're always fighting the mainstream."
"The only thing I want to say about Dallas," says ex-Raider Tom Keating, "is what kind of place has a domed stadium with a hole in the roof that's only over the field? When it rains, the players get wet, everyone else stays dry. The first time I ever played there, it was raining. I turned to Ben Davidson and said, 'Do you know what's happening here?' He said, 'Yeah, it's raining.' I said, 'But only on the players, Ben, only on us.' "
"I hated the Cowboys because it was impossible to watch a game from the sidelines with those cheerleaders behind you," says NBC announcer and former NFL Halfback Mike Adamle. "I played there when I was with the Bears. I borrowed Roger Stillwell's helmet on the sidelines. Biggest hat on the team, size eight. I took out the cheek pads so it would swivel freely on my head, and I turned it around so the face bar was facing the field, and I turned my head and watched the cheerleaders through the earhole."
"Nobody ever beats the Cowboys," says NBC's John Brodie. "They always do something to beat themselves. They never give anyone credit. Whenever someone beats them, all you hear is 'Well, those weren't the real Dallas Cowboys they beat.' How many guys do they carry on their roster, anyway? They invalidate the thing they promote the most and the thing they have the least of, and that's class."
"They've changed," says Mike Manuche, the New York restaurateur and legendary Giants fan. "In the old days they had stand-up guys, Lilly, Renfro, Garrison. Now it seems like they're all a bunch of moaners."
"Roger Staubach's a terrific guy," Terry Bradshaw says, "and I really like working with him on CBS, but I can always get him excited just by reminding him of the '79 Super Bowl and the tripping call on Benny Barnes. I love it. I'm kidding, but he's deadly serious. He always says, 'You know we'd have beaten you, Terry, if not for [Field Judge Fred] Swearingen's call.' "
Rob Bayley, a former Cowboy season-ticket holder now living in Orlando, Fla., says: "Not only are the Cowboys whiners, but so are their fans. Texas Stadium is amazing. The folks in my section used to complain if the Cowboys didn't score at least two touchdowns at our end of the field every game. They'd all whine, go home, and then let someone else use their tickets at the next game.
"Even their cheerleaders became whiners last season. They came to Orlando and looked upset that there weren't 5,000 people to meet them at the airport. They locked themselves up in their hotel rooms so fans couldn't get to them and then they probably complained that there weren't enough people hassling them. The whole organization is a bunch of whiners."
"Dallas fans never feel the Cowboys have lost a game," says CBS announcer Tom Brookshier. "It's always that the referees screwed 'em or the Good Lord looked the other way or something. It's the toughest place to broadcast a game. Sagebrush, U.S.A. Their fans don't know football, they just know something's wrong if the Cowboys aren't winning by two TDs. A few years ago their highlight film was called Like a Mighty River. Boy, that's Texas all right. And John Wayne is the quarterback. You do a game in Detroit, say, the people there have seen a little football. You can't BS 'em. But try to tell the truth in Dallas, and you'll find some frozen hemlock in your nachos."
"Last year I did a tongue-in-cheek column before the first Philly game," says Dallas Times Herald columnist Skip Bayless. "I said the Eagles were much better because Dick Vermeil worked so many more hours. All I got the next week were death threats and Yankee-go-home letters. Hey, I'm from Oklahoma City."
"The thing I hate about doing one of their games," says John Madden of CBS, "is that they lead the league in lobbies. Normally, there'll be 30 or 40 people milling around the lobby where a team's staying. When the Cowboys are in a hotel, it'll be more like 500. You can't even get in the damn dining room. You have to call room service."
But nowhere does Cowboy hatred run as deep as it does in some ex-Cowboys. "I didn't really hate the Cowboys until I got with George Allen," says Wilbur. "When I was with Dallas, well there were some things I didn't like, but I wouldn't call it hatred. The organization was a monolithic computer; there was a real antihuman spirit there, the corporate mentality, total conformity. But we always had a little group of flower children—me, Pete Gent, Craig Morton, Calvin Hill. We got along.
"They always were a cheap team on salaries. They'd pay one or two guys and keep a lid on everybody else. I know they're still that way, because I helped a kid named Jerry Scanlan get a free-agent contract with Washington a couple of years ago and when we were listening to offers, the Cowboys were 40 percent below everyone else. The way I feel now? Well, just the sight of that silver-and-blue uniform inspires rage. One of the proudest moments I ever had was when I got a favorable settlement in a workmen's compensation case about an injury I suffered while playing for the Cowboys."
Workmen's comp...failure to disclose injuries...that's a subject to raise the anger of present as well as past Cowboys. Last May, Rafael Septien, the placekicker, said that during the 1981 season the Cowboys never told him he had a hernia. "They just told me, 'You pulled a groin muscle,' " he said. "At the end of the season they said, 'By the way, you have to have an operation.' "
Septien is apparently willing to let bygones be bygones but some former Cowboys are not. Currently under litigation is a suit in which Pettis Norman charges two Cowboy doctors, Marvin Knight and John Gunn, with an intentional tort, a failure to disclose medical information. In the same suit that charge is also made against the Cowboys by Mike Gaechter, and against the Cowboys and Knight by Leon Donohue and Willie Townes. Norman played tight end for the Cowboys for nine years, then was traded to San Diego, where he played another three. When a deteriorating condition was found in his left knee, he sued the Chargers' doctor for malpractice and lost—largely through the testimony of Dr. Gunn, who said that the knee had shown a 25% disability in Norman's first year with the Cowboys and had been slowly deteriorating ever since that time. He said he had twice informed Schramm.
"Was that communicated to Mr. Norman?" Gunn was asked on the stand.
"I don't think so," he said.
Gunn, who no longer works for the Cowboys, won't comment on the subject. Schramm says, "Norman knew about it the whole time. Hell, we've got tons of records."
"I can assure you that I was never informed about my knee condition," Norman says. "But that's life in the NFL for you. They survive by hidden facts. Do I hate the Cowboys? No, I don't. I have four season tickets on the 30-yard line. I root for them, for the players. The organization? Well, that's business. The last time they had an alumni reunion, I wasn't invited—me and Pete Gent and John Wilbur."
Like a mighty river, the Dallas organization rolls on. "When you reach stardom with the Cowboys," says Calvin Hill, the All-Pro halfback who finished his career in Cleveland and now works part-time as a personnel consultant in the Browns' front office, "that's when you get the feeling you're stepping on a banana peel. That's when you start looking over your shoulder at your eventual replacement. And in that way the corporation remains efficient—and impersonal. Cleveland is a team that cares about people. Its success under Sam Rutigliano showed that there is another way of doing things. Personally, I've got nothing against the Cowboys—except the knowledge that I was always underpaid. But everyone else was, too."
"My dislike for the Cowboy organization has become a revulsion," says ex-Dallas Defensive End Pat Toomay. "I remember once in training camp, following our first Super Bowl victory, Coach Landry was giving us his summing-up-and-pushing-on speech. He said, I can now walk down the street in New York and I'm recognized.' I looked at Blaine Nye, our right guard, and he looked at me, and he said, 'What are we shooting for next year, Europe?' "
"In Dallas," Gent says, "you saw the future. Corporate America. That's bad enough in the real world, but in sports, well, it's downright depressing."
Epilogue: I dialed the number of the Dallas Cowboys' p.r. department. I told them I was writing a piece about why the world hates Dallas. There was a pause. "Wait a minute," I was told. Another pause. "Here it is. Bill Gildea of The Washington Post did a story in D Magazine on why the Redskins hate the Cowboys. John Crittenden did a similar-type column in the Miami News. I'll air-express them to you." Next day they arrived, postmarked Dallas. Why they hate us. Why we love it.
Many fans of other NFL teams thirst for Dallas to destruct, which helps the Cowboys get the league's highest TV ratings.
Do the cheerleaders mope if their fans don't break down the doors to get at them?
Fans fill hotels housing the Cowboys, forcing Madden to resort to room service.
When the Cowboys are the opposing team, fans adopt a dog-eat-dog mentality.