Full disclosure: I am not a Dallas Cowboys fan. I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, I’ve coached and played football all my life, my current residence is about 40 minutes from the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, and a sinister feeling of glee arouses my senses every time that team loses. For the better part of two decades (and counting) the Dallas Cowboys football team has been a mediocre team at best. The organization has chalked up only three playoff wins while loaded with talent every season. And this 2021-2022 season comes to a close with a Cowboys’ playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Wild Card round. So the question we all should be asking is: Why should this be “America’s Team”?
The phrase “America’s Team” was first used as an opening line in a 1978 highlight film by John Facenda describing how often the team appeared on television. They were one of the first teams to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span, have made eight Super Bowl appearances, and have undoubted storied success. They won more games than any other team from 1963 to 1983, a time when live television entertainment was on the rise, which also helped popularize the team. So it’s understandable that the fanbase spread across North America. Even presently, the team never seems to have a true “away” game as their fans show up in droves wherever they play. Even the teams’ cheerleaders are recognizable icons for the sport of American football.
But with such love spread across the country for the Cowboys, there’s just as much animosity to go around: plenty of people love to hate the Cowboys. Fans who carry a disdain for Dallas usually have their reasons, from personal displeasure over the team’s historic success to the overexposure and sense of entitlement associated with the organization. But without any verifiable research, I suspect most fan-hatred for the Cowboys has to do with Cowboys’ fans.
Every year the organization, led by billionaire mogul Jerry Jones, adds shiny and gimmicky players and play callers, hypnotizing their fans to blindly drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. Disillusioned, Cowboys’ fans try convincing everyone around them that every year is somehow “their year” to win the Super Bowl. We’re not sure if they’re trying to convince everyone else or themselves of these promises, because the end result is always the same: disappointment—at least for the last two decades.
Calling the Dallas Cowboys “America’s Team” is certainly disrespectful to the other 31 NFL organizations across the country, but I think it’s actually the most accurate moniker for this disappointment of a team. The Dallas Cowboys are the best representation of America on the football field for reasons that extend well beyond football.
The United States of America is a beautiful place, loaded with a diversity of people, ideas, and cultures. But even referring to the United States of America as simply “America” is a not-so-hidden clue into how ethnocentric we can be. This name, marked by a shift in imperialistic motives, carries a sense of entitlement and grandiosity. There are other countries that exist on “American” continents: Mexico and Canada in North America; Brazil, Belize, and Chile in Central and South America. But of course, most people around the world know which “country” you’re referring to when you say “America” (short for the United States of America) just like most people understand who’s referenced when mentioning “America’s Team.”
But with these names come an unwritten responsibility to represent all that the name embodies. America is to represent leadership, freedom, liberty, and justice for all. “America’s Team” should embody unparalleled success, consistency, and glory. But when a country or a team isn’t living up to those standards, it deserves all the associated critique. If citizens face unnecessary restrictions to vote, economic inequalities, and discrimination of various forms, people on the outside are right to criticize our hypocrisy. Likewise, if “America’s Team” can’t win more than three playoff games in two decades (and counting), they deserve a similar critique if they choose to carry the moniker.
The Dallas Cowboys are indeed “America’s Team.” They have all the tools necessary to live up to their hype, yet they remain flawed, overrated, and overpromising in what they offer their fans and the National Football League. And when they don’t get their way, they gaslight, blame-shift and assault any potential scapegoat with their empty words or beer cans, as evidenced when Cowboys’ fans threw trash at officials when the game ended and the team lost. Even worse, the team’s leader and quarterback Dak Prescott, the person you would hope would embody level-headedness even in defeat, praised the fans for doing so, commenting, “Oh, well, credit to them, then.”
America—in all its grandeur and glory—is really no different. There’s much to be grateful for here. We can openly voice our grievances without fear of becoming political prisoners. We obtain protections to practice our religions freely. And we have safety and time to sit in front of our televisions on weekends enjoying sports entertainment. But many have convinced themselves it is the absolute purest place on Earth, a covenantal gift from God for all Christians and undeserving of any criticism, past or present. Every two or four years we convince ourselves that the party/president we elect will make or keep America great, but the results remain similarly unchanged (at best). And when our leaders ought to take responsibility for their debacles, they instead create villains in everything and everyone, from renewable energy and academic studies, to immigrants and “the other side of the aisle.”
To be fair, Cowboys’ fans and American citizens aren’t the only guilty parties for such boorish behavior. Other countries and other teams’ fans can be just as bad or even worse, and can even make the comparisons seemingly trivial. However, those foreign countries and other teams also don’t claim such prestigious titles.
So the Dallas Cowboys are undoubtedly “America’s Team”—a disastrously disappointing organization, unwilling to accept the truth of who they really are. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see we’re really no different. Just pay attention the next time you tell a story about yourself. We’re prone to make ourselves the hero or victim of our own stories, and very rarely the villain. It is a Christian practice to consider yourself the chief of sinners (the villain) in hopes to rely more on the grace of Jesus rather than any perceived goodness we obtain on our own (1 Timothy 1:15–16).
Perhaps, if we adopted such a practice regularly we’d witness more societal progress, working to outdo one another in love. This type of discipline could help our country learn lessons from our flawed history and unlock the unbridled potential of all the United States can become. Maybe it could even compel the Dallas Cowboys to take off their rose-colored, star-shaped glasses, collectively look in the mirror, and be honest with themselves about who they truly are, “America’s Team”: broken, faulty, egotistical, yet always full of wonder and possibilities.