By Law Ware / @law_ware
An egregious error was made in 1978. Bob Ryan, of NFL Films, was editing a highlight reel and needed a nickname for the Dallas Cowboys. He saw the popularity of the team both at home and away and decided to call them America’s team. This error was further cemented at the start of the 1979 season when they were introduced as such at a nationally televised game played against the St. Louis Cardinals. It remains the biggest misnomer in NFL history.
America’s Team should reflect what’s best about this nation. However, the Dallas Cowboys fans reflect this country’s arrogance while the owner reflects the nation’s stubbornness and capitalistic excess. None of that represents what’s best about us.
If a team is going to represent America, then we should decide this democratically. We don’t live in a dictatorship. The citizens should have a say. I am one with the people, and I have a better franchise in mind. The Pittsburgh Steelers are America’s Team. Let me make the case for why.
Pittsburgh was once known for its steel mills. It remains unapologetically blue-collar culturally. The very name "Steelers" reflects hard-working Americans, and the culture of the team does as well. They play hard, make no excuses, and win or lose with dignity. This is a country composed of hard-working people, not flashy one-percenters in a billion-dollar playpen. (No shade. Well, maybe a little shade. OK, shade.)
The Dallas Cowboys represent all that is wrong with America economically: excessive spending, supercilious flamboyance and enormous debt. We need America’s Team to reflect what’s right about this country — not what’s most base. The Steelers represent this. The Cowboys do not. America’s Team should represent hard-working Americans, not the corporate elites on Wall Street.
America’s Team should represent the American idea that all men (and women) are created equal. There have been tremendous strides with black and brown faces ascending to high places in this country. Hell, we even have a BLACK family living in the WHITE House. Yet, when it comes to diversity, the executive office of America’s Team is more Ward Cleaver than Eldridge Cleaver. And even Eldridge went from being a Black Panther to being a Black Republican. Ben Carson in a black, leather jacket. That's all I want from Dallas: tokenism, just like in America, but Jerry won't even give me that. With no minority head coach or general manager in the history of the organization, Jones isn't giving me anything to work with.
Conversely, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team representing in a city with a troubling racist past, has forged new ground with the Rooney Rule. Established in 2003, the Rooney Rule (named after Art Rooney, the longtime owner and general manager of the team) requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring for head coaching and senior management positions. While there is disagreement about its efficacy, most hold that it has opened doors that were previously closed. Many attribute the success of Mike Tomlin, Jim Caldwell and Tony Dungy to the implementation of this policy. The Steelers are a force for good in the world. Rooney is a bit like the MLK Jr. of the NFL. America’s Team should be opening doors, not maintaining the status quo.
OK, I’m done with all the highbrow philosophizing. I’ve methodically laid out my argument in a manner that, I hope, would make my dude Russell proud. Let’s get down to brass tacks, here. The Steelers have more Super Bowl trophies.
I know, I know. I can count. Dallas has five. All the Cowboys need is one more, and then they will be tied with the Steelers. When that happens, let me know. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though. Right now Prince has more Super Bowl appearances than Tony Romo. That’s got to be a little embarrassing if you’re the starting quarterback for America’s Team. Maybe Romo needs to purify himself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka to make it to the big game. Either way, America’s Team should embody excellence, not 20 years of mediocrity.
There you have it: my case for why the Steelers should be considered America’s Team. I know the Cowboys faithful will come for me like Sho’nuff in The Last Dragon. That’s OK. Like Bruce Leroy, I got the glow … of six NFL championships.
Lawrence Ware is a professor of philosophy and diversity coordinator for Oklahoma State University’s Ethics Center. He is the kind of Steelers fan that enjoys watching the Dallas Cowboys lose.
Lawrence Ware is a philosopher of race at his day job and a curator of dopeness when time allows. Words in The New York Times, Slate Magazine, The Root and others. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the kind of Steelers fan that enjoys watching the Cowboys lose.