Since the Dallas Cowboys are “America’s Team,” you can understand why they have been the subject of so many books. I have read a lot of them.
The most recent, and likely, best-selling edition is called The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America by Joe Nick Patoski (New York: Little Brown, 2012). At 805 pages, it does the job.
But, I don’t think it’s the best. If you really want the history, go back to a book that concentrates on the first nine years of the team’s existence (1960-1969). And, that book is entitled Dallas Cowboys Pro or Con: A Complete History by Sam Blair (New York: Doubleday, 1970). The book is long out of print, but it is available through third-party sellers.
Before his retirement, Blair was a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. I met him through the late Merle Harmon, who broadcast games for area sports teams for many years. Blair was the paper’s first Dallas Cowboys writer, and he worked for the Dallas Morning News for 41 years (1954-1995).
Blair was a writer in a different era. In his career, there was not muckraking, blowing up heresay into facts, instant messaging, social media availability, or anything like today’s journalistic activity. Writers went to press conferences, chatted informally with players and coaches, kept off-the-record tidbits exactly that way, and did not blow up rumors into stories. It is true that they were laid-back, let the stories come to them, and were definitely not Watergate-style investigative reporters.
Perhaps even more so than Blair was Red Smith, who was an editorialist for the New York Times and New York Herald Tribune from the 1930’s through the 1980’s. I read a great collection of his columns in a book by Daniel Okrent entitled American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith (New York: Library of America, 2013). Writers like Blair and Smith were just so different than you see today.
But, back to the Cowboys book by Blair. I guess that I select it for history because it is concentrated on the early years. It does not have to spread itself thin over 50 years. The context of Dallas, Texas, and especially the rivalry for ticket sales with Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Texans is so vivid in the book. Because it only covers the first nine years, you find all aspects of the team covered in a well-developed manner.
There were other books published about the team at that time that were also good. I remember reading the late Steve Perkins’ Next Year’s Champions (New York: World Publishing, 1969) . But, that book focused on a single season when the Cowboys did not advance as far as they had previously into the NFL Championship game. I remember it had a drawing of Don Meredith on the cover, wrapped around by Green Bay Packer linebacker Dave Robinson, as he through an interception into the end zone in the fourth quarter of the 1966 NFL Championship game. And, I remember how much I was stricken by the racism and bigotry in our area, even for star Cowboys players in the 1960’s, as told in Cotton Bowl Days by John Eisenberg, which was later retitled, and is now unavailable even through third party sellers.
I just think if you want to study the team’s history, why not read it historically? And, Blair’s book is the one that allows you to do that. You have to search for it, but you can find it.
With the flurry of collegiate bowl games and the onset of professional football playoffs, my attention today turns away from business to sports.
Sports has long been a popular arena for writers, including from those who cover the various events, as well as those who coach and play it. Sports has also been an increasingly popular source for business analogies – “you hit a home run,’ “that presentation was a hole-in-one,” “it was a slam-dunk in there today,” and so forth.
If you were to ask me what my all-time favorite sports book is, it would not take very long to get you an answer. My choice is Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer (Doubleday, 1968). In that book, the former offensive guard for the Packers revealed in-depth and behind-the-scenes information about life with legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Of interest to Dallas Cowboys fans is the revelation that he believed he may have been offsides on the famous goal-line plunge by quarterback Bart Starr that gave the Packers a last-minute victory in the famed 1967 Ice Bowl. How we have wished that they could have been pushed back five yards!
The book was republished in 2006, and that edition is still available on Amazon.com. But, for me, I read the book as a teenager, and I remember many parts of it vividly.
One other note about this book: like many works that athletes authored, this one was “as told to,” and the target was Dick Schapp. He was one of the great sports writers and interviewers of modern times. Even the unpredictable and volatile basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight admired him. Sports fans throughout the the world miss him.
That’s my vote. What about you?