Giving Thanks to the Dallas Cowboys

Brad TaylorContributor INovember 26, 2008

All across the United States on Thanksgiving, a ritual will once more take place just as it has for more than four decades.  Americans completely stuffed after another Thanksgiving feast will tune in to watch the Dallas Cowboys.

Yes, the Detroit Lions were the first team to play on the last Thursday in November, but it was Cowboys who utilized the exposure gained from this annual game to enhance the National Football League and to launch their reputation as "America's Team."

This bit of Americana is an interesting story.  In 1965, the NFL was looking to add a second game to be played outside of Detroit.  By order of league seniority, every team was offered the opportunity to host an annual game and one by one—they each declined.

Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm and owner Clint Murchison instantly recognized the opportunity before them and jumped at the chance to showcase their six-year-old franchise to a watching nation with no competition. 

Thus, the first seeds were sewn which would make Dallas into the most popular (and most reviled) franchise in the increasingly popular National Football League.

Then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, in one of his dumber ideas, actually took this game away from the Cowboys in 1975 and 1977, in an ill-conceived attempt to placate owners who now envied the exposure Dallas received from the game. 

Fortunately, Rozelle took note of outraged network executives who saw a ratings decline and fans who preferred their turkey and dressing with a heaping side of Cowboys to put America's team back on this uniquely American holiday.

The game has become a very successful tradition for the Cowboys.  In the 40 games so far, Dallas is 25-14-1.

There have been amazing finishes such as the unheralded Clint Longley filling in for  Roger Staubach, leading the Cowboys to an improbable last second 24-23 win against the Washington Redskins in 1974. 

There have been improbable wins such as 1994 when third stringer Jason Garrett led Dallas to five second half touchdowns in less than 20 minutes to shock the Green Bay Packers.

And there have been losses to leave you dumbfounded, such as in 1993 when Leon Lett famously touched a live ball following a blocked field goal attempt and gave the Miami Doplhins a chip shot kick to seal the victory.

This Thanksgiving Day tradition will no doubt have many more magical moments and will be eagerly anticipated by those who love the Cowboys and love to hate them.  Half of the country will tune in to see Dallas win and half to see them lose.

Regardless, all should be thankful that the Cowboys and the NFL are as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and cranberry sauce. 

How 'bout them Cowboys?