Football has officially returned and for fans of every NFL franchise, hope springs eternal at this time of year. Because unlike all of the other major sports, no one does parity quite like the National Football League. No matter how bad your team was last year, there is always a glimmer of expectant optimism as the season kicks off.
In 2012, the Philadelphia Eagles went 4-12. The next season they went 10-6 and won the NFC East. The Carolina Panthers went from 7-9 to 12-4 in the same span.
And who can forget RG III’s magical rookie ride through the league, taking a Washington team that went 5-11 the previous year to 10-6 in 2012?
But the greatest reason for the buoyancy present at this fresh juncture of the season can be found most recently in the 2001 New England Patriots and 2009 New Orleans Saints, who followed up some rough seasons with Super Bowl championships in their ensuing campaigns.
I love watching the excitement of the fans as they tailgate and populate stadiums with their fervor and enthusiasm. I’m always happy for the long-suffering whose teams finally win that elusive championship, bringing a temporary moment of ecstasy to all of those who are emotionally invested.
Seeing franchises like Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, St. Louis or Seattle lift the Lombardi Trophy will never get stale, because after all, doesn’t everyone deserve to bathe in the spoils of victory every once in a while?
But for me, I’ll never be one of those NFL nuts whose fanaticism engenders an orgasm upon the climax of a team’s Super Bowl victory. The NFL strike of 1982 made me understand that all of those people whose highs and lows depend on the final score have all been duped.
I may have been young, but I walked away from that experience knowing that the players and fans, who cry in defeat and celebrate in victory, are simply pawns in a game played by multi-billionaires.
The real final score does not register on the field, but rather at the cash register. And it for this very reason that I laugh at everyone disparaging the Dallas Cowboys for their recent ineptitude and mediocrity, as evidenced by their three consecutive 8-8 seasons and not having appeared in the playoffs since 2009.
The ESPN talking heads can pontificate until they’re blue in the face about how the Eagles, Giants and Redskins will finish above the Cowboys in the NFC East this year, or how strong the Packers, Saints, Patriots, 49’ers and Seahawks look, and how Dallas’ defense last year was worse than the most atrocious Adam Sandler movie, or Faizon Love's buffoonery in Who’s Your Caddy.
In the grand scheme of things, none of that actually matters. I chuckle at everyone saying that Dallas has to win the Super Bowl this year to be relevant again. That’s like saying that Queen Elizabeth has to actually do something in order to be significant.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the Cowboys have never stopped being America’s team, despite not having won a Super Bowl since DJ Kool was clearing his throat back in 1996.
The Cowboys are not only heads and shoulders above every team in the league today, but they've been so for 20 consecutive years. You don't believe me?
They are the only team in the NFL to distribute and market their own merchandise. Revenue on their apparel sales alone tops $250 million annually. They will appear in prime time a league-leading five times this year, and are always a Nielson ratings bonanza. The stadium that they play in, if you want to call it that, which is owned by team owner Jerry Jones, is America’s gleaming example of excess and gluttony that has become our country’s top arena for sports and entertainment.
The Cowboys’ seat licenses are worth $1 billion. All of the stadium’s luxury suites are insured with wildly lucrative multi-decade leases and Jones has over 200 corporate sponsors that fork over pretty pennies to have their names associated with the brand. And they continue to push the envelope.
They’ve added Carnival Cruise Lines to their 2014 marketing roster. They recently became to the first NFL team to sign a sponsorship deal with luxury watchmaker Hublot and they also initiated a partnership last year with Peace Love World, the luxury women’s apparel lifestyle brand that has an international presence.
Jones purchased the Cowboys for $151 million in 1989, which was then the highest price ever paid for an American sports franchise. Today, their worth is in the neighborhood of $3.2 billion, and the league’s most valuable property, by far according to Forbes.
Given that, how much do you think Jones is worth? I think it’s safe to say, given his other business interests and real estate holdings, a helluva lot more.
His sales and marketing acumen, and vision for expanding his and the entire league’s profit margins, are worthy of their own Harvard Business School case study, regardless of his checkered history as the team’s General Manager.
Throughout the history of the NFL, only the Pittsburgh Steelers have won more Super Bowls. So you can go on and on about how, despite their explosive offense, it’s hard to imagine head coach Jason Garrett pushing the team past the .500 threshold, or how weak the defense is.
You can gloat about signal caller Tony Romo’s continued failures in the playoffs, when they manage to get there, despite him being one of the most gifted and best quarterbacks in the league, and how they’ll be hard-pressed to ever capture the magic they had when Jimmy Johnson was coaching Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
But all of it is simply an exercise in futility. Because you can talk about the Ravens, the Seahawks, the Giants, the Packers, the Saints, the Patriots and all of the other teams who’ve won Super Bowls since Dallas last did. None of that really matters.
Because where it matters most, which is the bottom line, the Cowboys are the best team in the league every year.
But keep on believing and spending your money, cheering and crying about your team’s results on the field, which is what the NFL wants you to think is most important.
Separating you from your dollars is. And no one does it better than the Dallas Cowboys, who are still America’s team. They are, quite simply, the NFL's best at what the league is really all about, whether you choose to believe it or not.