Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Some thoughts on the Cowboys and the Steelers

Here's the deal: We should all have great respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and the Rooney family. They have a true football program that really works. They have a great tradition - at least in the modern football era - and they do smart drafting. And though the faces on the sidelines and on the field change, the winning continues. That is very difficult to do and it should be admired. And even their fans shouldn't really bother us. They are proud of their six Super Bowl wins, as they should be, and they focus on the Steelers - their team - not their hatred for their opponents, as they do in Philadelphia.

Steelers fans just really love the Steelers. And there's nothing wrong with that.

But sometimes, one of them will poke at me for some reason. And I will poke back. You can count on it. In fact, I will unload with force and with some venom.

We'll start with the fact that some Steelers fans, for some very odd reason, seem to be taking great joy in the fact that this year's Super Bowl is in Dallas, as if it's some sort of victory over the Cowboys. It's very weird. Dallas has won the Super Bowl in Pasadena, New Orleans, Arizona and Atlanta, but I never thought of that as having anything to do with the teams that actually played their home games in those stadiums. I never thought, "Beating the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta will really stick it to the Falcons." But some Steelers fans, for some reason, seem to be quite fixated on the Cowboys.

The fact is the Super Bowl will probably now be held in Dallas every couple of years. Maybe the Cowboys will play in it and win it there someday. Maybe they won't. No other team has done it in 45 years. What we do know is that Jerry Jones and the entire Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington area will make sure that all of the Packers and Steelers fans have a wonderful time in Texas. I've been there, and that whole "southern hospitality" thing is really true. They will be very prideful of this event and make sure it's a great day for the NFL.

Some Steelers fans also really like to point out that they have more Super Bowl trophies than Dallas. Well, for the most part, they always did. Dallas fans can't make that big of a deal about this "most Super Bowl wins thing" because the Cowboys were not the first team to win two, three, four or five Super Bowls. It's something that they were tied with - for a few short years - but it simply has not been a big part of their 50-year history. Having won the most World Championships has always defined teams like the Yankees, Packers and Canadiens. Not so with the Cowboys. They became the most popular team in the NFL 35 years ago, or "America's Team," simply because they were so colorful and were led by a tough-as-nails, classy quarterback who went to serve in Vietnam for several years even though he'd just won the Heisman Trophy. And they had really cool uniforms.

The fact is, in their last Super Bowl, the Steelers barely got by one of the easiest opponents in Super Bowl history and were handed much of the game by dumb Arizona penalties and a few questionable calls. They also got some "gifts" in their Super Bowl contest against the Seahawks and in Super Bowl XIII vs. Dallas. Yes, they are an excellent, very well-run organization that hires fine coaches, and for the most part - with the exception of their shady quarterback - their players seem like good guys. But some of the stuff that comes out of the mouths of their fans is just plain dumb. Some, even on ESPN, were debating after they won their sixth Super Bowl if they were the "greatest sports franchise in history." No, that would be the Yankees, followed by the Canadiens. And the truth is they are not even the greatest franchise in the history of the NFL. Both the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have won more championships. Are the Steelers "one of" the greatest sports teams ever? Certainly. Are they one-up on the Cowboys in World Championships? Yes. Are they up 2-1 when they've played each other in the Super Bowl? You bet. But Pittsburgh came into the league in 1933. Dallas entered the league in 1960. Pittsburgh went through 43 years of losing and mediocrity before winning its first championship. Dallas, by the late '60s, was already one of the best teams in the NFL and won its first World Championship during the 1971-72 season, only 11 years after coming into the league. Overall, the Dallas franchise has actually been much better.

I've also heard some people say that the Steelers are really "America's Team" because their fans really seem to have come out of the woodwork in recent years and they seem to really get a kick out of waving towels. But those fans were pretty much unseen during the entire decade of the '80s and some people I know have actually started to root for them in recent years even though they never did before. They're called "bandwagon" fans. And every great team that wins consistently gets them. Even the Steelers.

The fact is, even with the dysfunctional mess they've put on the field in recent years, the Dallas Cowboys still sell more merchandise than any other team in the NFL. If you're on this blog, you probably live in Pennsylvania, and if you're like me, you might know more Cowboys fans than Steelers and Eagles fans combined. Cowboys flags line the streets everywhere on Sunday. And while some Steelers fans seem annoyed that the Cowboys are called "America's Team," they don't know the facts, and that the Dallas Cowboys did not give itself that nickname. It was given to them in 1979 by NFL Films when the people there noticed that no matter where the Cowboys traveled on the road, the stands were filled with Cowboys fans. It was like nothing they'd ever seen. And again, no team in the NFL has consistently sold more merchandise, leading to the statistical fact that they are indeed the most popular NFL team in America and have been so for nearly 40 years.

And don't forget the television ratings. Dallas leads all NFL teams in that category as well. And according to the Neilsen Company, the Cowboys also mean more to their own home region than any team in the NFL. A recent study, according to the Wall Street Journal, examined "each team's local and national TV rankings, how often they're mentioned on the Internet and how many visitors they attract to their official websites." And the most popular NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys. And by a big margin: 23 percent more popular than the number-two team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

We do sometimes hear that Steelers fans "travel well," and it does seem to be true. Their fans like to travel to other cities to see them play, which is cool. Good for them. As I said before, they're mostly good people. But this also seems to back up the old "America's Team" name given to the Cowboys. Cowboys fans don't have to travel. They already live all around the nation. That being said, I can also say "Who cares?" I don't know of one Cowboys fan that really cares that much about the "America's Team" thing. It's fun to poke at people with it sometimes - especially Steelers fans, because they hate it - and it is statistically accurate, but I have an entire shrine in my house built to the Cowboys featuring championship plaques, steins and framed photos, and not one thing says "America's Team" on it. I could care less who anybody else roots for. The Cowboys are my team and that's all that matters to me. If someone hates the term that much, write a letter to Steve Sabol at NFL films, not Jerry Jones.

Seriously, saying "My team is more popular that your team" seems juvenile to me, but since some Steelers fans seem to like to take that stance, I'll he happy to weigh in on it. Consider this about the last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl: only 250,000 people showed up at the victory parade. You can get a card game bigger than that in Big-D.

Though it is actually very easy for me to show some respect to the Steelers, it never seems to be reciprocated. And they've had some bumps themselves over the past 40 years. They're actually tied for most losses in the history of the AFC Championship Game and have lost it a record of five times at home. In some of those games they were favored. But that doesn't diminish what they have accomplished as an organization. They deserve praise. Yet I've rarely ever heard a Steelers fan say anything positive about the Cowboys.

Some facts: The Dallas Cowboys are considered to be one of the most successful NFL teams of the modern era. They have won five Super Bowls and eight NFC championships. They have more victories (42) on "Monday Night Football" than any other NFL team and hold NFL records for the most consecutive winning seasons (20) and most seasons with at least 10 wins (26). The record of 20 consecutive winning seasons is one of the longest winning streaks in all of professional sports. The Cowboys have also earned the most post-season appearances, a league record of 56 post-season games (winning 33 of them), and the most division titles with 21. They also have the most appearances in the NFC Championship Games (14), and are tied with the most Super Bowl appearances (8). Three Super Bowls were lost by a total of only 11 points. Even in defeat, they have always played well in the big games.

The Cowboys also played in two NFL championship games before the NFL's 1970 merger with the American Football League. They were also the first team in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in just four years. An article from Forbes Magazine, dated September 2, 2009, lists the Cowboys as the highest valued sports franchise in the history of the United States. They are also the wealthiest team in the NFL, generating almost $269 million in annual revenue. And considering how much "revenue sharing" takes place in the NFL, it's safe to say that the rest of the NFL owners love the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones because they make more money for everybody than any other team.

I can respect the Steelers, but I really don't like them. And I really love the photo posted with this blog. If you asked for my favorite Super Bowl memory, Larry Allen's block on Greg Lloyd of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX might be it. On Dallas' very first possession of the game, Allen hit Lloyd so hard he knocked him right off his feet. Emmitt Smith picked up about 25 yards on the play, and to this day, the body of Greg Lloyd has never been found. Seriously, all I heard about for two weeks prior to that game was Greg Lloyd and what he was going to do to the Cowboys. And he did ZERO. He got smacked around like a rag doll. On the very first possession, he got knocked flat on his ass a few times and never recovered. I mean he got TORCHED. CRUSHED. POUNDED. I've always imagined the Dallas offensive line breaking huddle on the first possession of that game, lining up at the line of scrimmage, looking over at Greg Lloyd, and Larry Allen saying "You're small." I'd never seen a star defensive player totally manhandled like that. Larry Allen, Nate Newton ... they literally hit him like a freight train. It was absolutely beautiful. Savage. Complete emasculation. I think even Lloyd's wife filed for divorce right after the game. Even his kids never spoke to him again. (Just kidding.)

Steelers fans whined badly after this loss. Some said, "If our quarterback didn't suck, we could have won" or "Only the interceptions killed us." It was laughable. The play of the quarterback IS a part of the game. They also seemed to take some moral victory over the fact they didn't get killed and were still in the game in the fourth quarter. You're not supposed to get killed. It's the Super Bowl. You're supposed to play well. I found it all to be very funny.

Again, I'm not really a Steelers "hater." I save that for Philadelphia. But I am very good at returning some smack when it comes my way. You can count on it. If you poke at me, I will poke back. I will unload with force and with some venom. If you're a Steelers fan, please just leave us Dallas fans alone. We don't think about you nearly as much as you think about us. I'd suspect most of us are rooting for the Packers in this year's Super Bowl, but if you win "#7," it won't affect our draft picks, our schedule next year, or what happens when we play the Eagles, Giants and Redskins. All we know is that the last time we played you in a really big game, we kicked your ass. Don't remember it?

Ask Greg Lloyd.

Lincoln Financial Field ... the proud home of The Philadelphia Eagles:

Please note that this image is by no means meant to be offensive. If you are a Cro-magnon person or a Neanderthal, and you are offended by being compared to an Eagles fan, we apologize.