My Favorite Redskins v. Cowboys Rivalry Story

I’d encourage you to read the entire story.  It is well worth your time.

As the story goes, in 1958 Texas oilman Clint Murchison thought he was finally closing in on his dream of bringing pro football to Dallas. Two previous attempts to purchase teams had failed, but now word reached Murchison that Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was eager to sell his club because the team was doing poorly and Marshall needed money. Imagine! The ‘Skins in Dallas! But that blasphemy was not to be. For just as the sale was about to be announced, Marshall demanded a change in terms. Murchison told him to go to hell and canceled the deal.

Coincidently, around this time, Marshall also had a falling out with Barnee Breeskin, the Redskin band director who had written the music to the Redskins fight song. Breeskin, smelling an opportunity for revenge in the strained negotiations, approached Murchison lawyer Tom Webb and asked if he’d like to buy the rights to “Hail to the Redskins.” Webb agreed, paying $2,500. He figured this would at least be good for an occasional joke on Marshall.

Meanwhile, feeling abused by Marshall, Murchison decided that his best chance of owning a team was to start one himself. In that endeavor he got support from the chairman of the NFL expansion committee, George Halas. Halas agreed to put the proposition of a Dallas franchise before the NFL owners. Unanimous approval would be required for the proposition to pass.

As the meeting approached, every owner but one was in favor of the proposal. The holdout? George Preston Marshall. Marshall knew that he had strong fan loyalty in the South and was afraid of losing it to Dallas. So he told the other owners he would not vote for a Dallas franchise. Besides, he told them, Murchison was “obnoxious.”

But then Marshall found out that Murchison owned the rights to his song. Oh, how Marshall loved that song. Although Breeskin had written the music, Marshall’s wife had written the lyrics, so Marshall had made the song the centerpiece of his elaborate pregame and halftime shows. Back then, the Redskin band was a small army in buckskins and headdresses, snappy and well-drilled, featuring a chorus line of prancing Indian princesses. Many fans thought the band, the princesses and Marshall’s halftime pageants were more entertaining than the team itself.

When word of Murchison’s “dirty trick” leaked out, one Washington columnist wrote that “Taking ‘Hail to the Redskins’ away from George Marshall would be like denying ‘Dixie’ to the South, ‘Anchors Aweigh’ to the Navy, or ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ to Elvis.” So a deal was struck. For Marshall’s approval of the Dallas franchise, Murchison returned the song. Thus, Murchison’s Cowboys were free to be born.

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