‘America’s Team:’ Cowboys NFL’s Second-Choice After Steelers?

Pittsburgh Steelers helmet

Getty Pittsburgh Steelers helmet.

Before signing off for the July 4th weekend, Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, host of The Herd with Colin Cowherd, took the opportunity to present his list of ‘America’s Teams.’ That is, the college and professional teams he believes “most symbolize America.”

Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys were among the eight teams that made his list, which brings to mind a curious bit of NFL history.

The History of ‘America’s Team’

Today most NFL fans associate the Cowboys with the phrase ‘America’s Team,’ which is part of the reason Cowherd listed them first on his list of ‘America’s Teams.’ (Cowherd also claimed that the Cowboys are the most popular team in America on social media before adding: “Generation after generation they remain relevant…. Of the nine most watched regular season games in the NFL last year—of the nine, six were Cowboy games.”)

But the term ‘America’s Team’ actually became closely tied to the Cowboys in 1979. In fact, ‘America’s Team’ was the title of the Dallas Cowboys’ 1978 highlight film, which was produced by NFL Films.

During the introduction to the 22-minute highlight reel, legendary NFL Films narrator John Facenda intones: “Their record is envied and their innovations are copied down to the most glamorous detail. They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team.”

Okay, but did you know that NFL Films first approached the Steelers to ask if Pittsburgh wanted to be ‘America’s Team,’ only turning to the Cowboys as a fallback option?

According to Bob Labriola, longtime editor of Steelers Digest and contributor to Steelers.com, “… after becoming the first team to win three Super Bowls by defeating the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII, the Steelers were approached by NFL Films and asked whether they would agree to be called ‘America’s Team’ in their annual highlights film. Art Rooney Sr. declined and said he was happy being Pittsburgh’s team.”

So NFL Films repurposed the phrase as the title of the Cowboys’ highlight film—and the rest is history.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1978 highlight film was titled ‘The Return of the Champions,’ and presented as the “story of the decade’s finest football team in its finest hour.”

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If you’d like to revisit that season’s Cowboys-Steelers Super Bowl, the Steelers recently re-aired Super Bowl XIII on the team’s social media channels, featuring brand-new interviews with Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, both of whom featured prominently in Pittsburgh’s 35-31 victory.

Colin Cowherd’s Other ‘America’s Teams’

As for the other six teams on Cowherd’s list, there was just one other NFL club, that being the Green Bay Packers, who Cowherd described as “small town kid makes it big.”

He also included the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers (“most glamorous” franchise), plus MLB’s Chicago Cubs (“lovable losers”) and New York Yankees, the latter defined by their 27 championships. He also included two college programs, the Duke University Blue Devils (“it’s aspirational”) and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

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