Over the years, a number of professional teams in several different sports have tried to assume the mantle of “America’s Team.”
For one magical year, the New Orleans Saints came to epitomize the rebirth of a battered New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as they enjoyed a stellar NFL season, capped off by an improbable 31-17 victory over the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
The championship was the Crescent City’s first and the Saints were the darlings of the media.
However, there’s simply no way that one good year—not even such a memorable one—makes you “America’s Team.”
With their 27 World Series championships and 40 pennants, not to mention such legendary players as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Guidry and Jeter, and managers such as Miller Huggins, Casey Stengel, Ralph Houk, Billy Martin and Joe Torre, a case could be made for the New York Yankees.
And while the Bronx Bombers’ fan base is national, there are hordes of loyal Mets fans in the Big Apple who are always just waiting for “next year.” If you can’t conquer your own city, how can you conquer the nation?
No, if America has a team then it’s either the Cowboys or the Fighting Irish. So with the shine reflecting brilliantly off the Golden Dome and tongue firmly in cheek, let us consider why the Fighting Irish -- and not the Dallas Cowboys—are truly “America’s Team.”
The Dallas Cowboys started life in 1960, first as the Dallas Steers and then the Dallas Rangers before becoming the Dallas Cowboys.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, however, started playing football in 1887. They began life as the Catholics, then the Ramblers before the “Fighting Irish” moniker finally took hold.
On longevity alone, Notre Dame would get a thumbs-up as the nation’s team.
Notre Dame has claimed an unmatched 11 national titles, and in games pitting No. 1 against No. 2, the Irish are 5-2-2. Best of all, the Irish have played in at least four contests hailed as the “game of the century.”
The Dallas Cowboys have been to the Super Bowl eight times in their history and emerged victorious on five occasions. It’s certainly an impressive record but not as eye-catching as the Steelers, who have played in eight Super Bowls, winning six, including four in six years.
We might also mention that the San Francisco 49ers also have five Super Bowl wins – four of which came with Notre Dame alum Joe Montana calling the plays.
Coming up big in the biggest games—gain, the Irish seem to have an edge on the ‘Boys.
The Cowboys boast a litany of great coaches, starting with the legendary Tom Landry. He was succeeded by Jimmy Johnson who gave way to Barry Switzer.
Their next big coach—in more ways than one—was Bill Parcells. Of them all, only Landry lasted more than a decade (28 years), with Johnson at the helm for five seasons.
The Irish had some notable head coaches, as well including Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz. With the exception of Devine, they were all the top man for more than a decade.
I’ll call this one even.
The list of Cowboy greats includes such immortal QBs as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and “Dandy” Don Meredith. Other luminaries on the list include Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Bob Hayes, Lance Alworth and Bob Lilly.
The Irish also had a few good signal-callers, including the aforementioned Montana, Johnny Lattner, Johnny Lujack and Paul Hornung.
They also had such greats as Tim Brown, “Rocket” Ismail, George Gipp, Leon Hart, Ross Browner and a backfield known as the Four Horsemen.
“Too Tall” against the Four Horsemen? I like Notre Dame’s chances in that one.
HALLS OF FAME
The Cowboys have their “Ring of Honor,” which includes 10 players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also in are Landry and former owner Tex Schramm.
The Irish have 49 representatives in the College Football Hall of Fame, including six head coaches.
A big win for the Irish here.
The Cowboys have that star on their helmet, a pleasure palace for a stadium and those incredible cheerleaders.
The Irish have flecks of real gold in their helmets as well as the “Play Like a Champion Today” sign, Touchdown Jesus, “We’re Number 1 Moses,” the band, the leprechaun and fight song.
It looks like another leg up for the Irish.
The Fighting Irish have a coach, who helped invent the forward pass, a history of barnstorming across the country playing all comers, seven Heisman Trophy winners, their own contract with NBC and their own clause in the BCS.
Well, the Cowboys still have those cheerleaders.
The phrase “America’s Team” was applied to the Cowboys in 1978 when NFL Films was looking for a way to indicate their popularity—and popular they remain.
Although the Irish have never laid claim to that title, when your legions of loyal followers called “subway alumni”—many of whom hail from cities that don’t even have subways—you’ve earned the right to be known as “America’s Team.”