Wednesday, September 12, 2012

You think the NFL is big? Dallas is the reason why, and three new books tell ... - Dallas Morning News (blog)

The cover of John Eisenberg's new book, Ten-Gallon War, about the history of professional football in Dallas

No city was more important to the explosive growth of professional football than Dallas. In 1960, Lamar Hunt, son of famous Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, responded to a rejection from the National Football League for adding an expansion team in his native Dallas by founding his own team and his own league. The Dallas Texans would soon begin play in the Cotton Bowl, Hunt announced, provoking the NFL to respond by awarding Clint Murchison Jr., the colorful son of another Texas oilman, his own rival team â€" the Dallas Cowboys â€" who would open play in the Cotton Bowl the same year as Hunt’s Texans.

Overnight, Dallas had not one but two teams in professional football, sharing the same funky but lovable Fair Park stadium. As a kid during those years, I can tell you it was more than a little bit like going to heaven. On one Sunday, you could sit in the end zone for a buck and see Jim Brown or Y.A. Tittle or Big Daddy Lipscomb play the Cowboys. The next Sunday, for the same price, you could see Cotton Davidson, E.J. Holub and Abner Haynes wear warrior red for the Texans.

My boyhood bliss lasted three seasons, with Hunt’s Texans winning the American Football League championship in 1962, then bolting for Kansas City to become the Chiefs. The Cowboys lasted in the Cotton Bowl until 1971, when Murchison moved them to suburban Irving for the opening of Texas Stadium, which for its time was a state-of-the-art revelation. By then, professional football had eclipsed major league baseball as the national pastime and was reaping millions from network television rights. The Cowboys, who won their first Super Bowl at the end of that season, were well on their way to being anointed “America’s Team.”

From such humble beginnings they came, and now you can read all about it. Three new books will reach bookshelves by early October, with each offering its own spin on the early, zany history of professional football in Dallas. Joe Nick Patoski is author of the most ambitious effort, a more-than-800-page tome titled The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America. Publication date: Oct. 9.

Come Oct. 2, we get John Eisenberg’s Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future. Eisenberg is a talented writer who once toiled in the sports department of the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald. I type his name with more than a touch of envy: He wrote a marvelous little book in 1997 that I wish I had written titled Cotton Bowl Days: Growing Up with Dallas and the Cowboys in the 1960s. Those were some of my own happiest memories, sitting with Dad in the Cotton Bowl, through searing heat, torrential downpours and teeth-chattering cold to watch Dandy Don Meredith and Bob Hayes usher in the Cowboys’ golden years.

And finally, Michael MacCambridge completes the trilogy with a biography, Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports. This comes from the description of the Hunt bio, whose release date is Oct. 2:

“He had loved games as a young boy, had played them as a young man, and now, as a naive but determined 27-year-old in the summer of 1959, Lamar Hunt announced that he was going to launch a new football league. What he couldn’t possibly have known on that day was that the forces of the entrenched National Football League would soon be arrayed against him. The league would place its own team in his hometown of Dallas, in direct competition with his team, and would attempt to undermine the new league, trying on repeated occasions before that first season to prevent the new American Football League from ever starting. And what the NFL couldn’t have known, but would soon find out, was that Hunt, the mild-mannered, bespectacled son of legendary oilman H. L. Hunt, had an indomitable will, and patience beyond his years. Resolute and innovative, he successfully launched the AFL and, seven years later, helped broker a merger deal, which created the need for a championship game between the two leagues. Then he came up with the name of the game â€" the Super Bowl.”

He negotiated the merger with former Cowboys president and general manager Tex Schramm, with many of the Hunt-Schramm sessions taking place in a car in the parking lot of Love Field. How much more of a local connection could you want?

Dallas: The reason the NFL is the giant it is today.

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