While watching one of the twenty-two Super Bowl XLVI pre-game shows, an interesting statement was made by a commentator. He said something to the effect that the Dallas Cowboys are always pre-season favorites to go the Super Bowl. Then he went on to discuss, along with running back, Walt Garrison, Oklahoma State Hall of Fame member and #47 on the top 50 Dallas Cowboys list, quarterback, Roger Staubach, Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor member, and others from the 1971 Super Bowl team, how prior to their first championship win, the favorite phrase was “there’s always next year.” Those words made me think, so we are going way back, to a happier time in Cowboy history.
Today is Sunday, January 16, 1972. I sit here in my hotel room in New Orleans, on my IBM Selectric II, pecking out the events of the prior 12 NFL seasons, awaiting the start of Super Bowl VI. Later tonight the NFC Champion Dallas Cowboys, in their second straight Super Bowl appearance, play the AFC Champion Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys are confident they will redeem themselves from the Super Bowl V loss.
Since the franchise’s very first season in 1960, that 0-11-1 year, fans rooted for this new Cowboy team. The next four years brought 4 wins in the odd years, and 5 wins in the even years. Then in 1965, a 7-7 regular season record brought an excitement the fans of the Dallas Cowboys had never experienced. The Cowboys were heading to their very first playoff game against Baltimore. They would lose, but this was the start of something new in Big D. The phrase “there’s always next year” meant something now. In 1966, the Cowboys stepped it up a notch by winning the Eastern Conference title, but lost to Green Bay in the NFL championship game. “We’ll get ‘em next year, ‘boys!”, the fans screamed.
In 1967, the Cowboys defeated Cleveland in the Cotton Bowl for another Eastern conference championship; however, the Cowboys lost their second bid for an NFL title to the Packers once again. “Next year will be the year, we just know it!”, yelled the Cowboy faithful. 1968 was a bit of a disappointment when they won the division for the second straight year, but they failed to capture the Eastern championship. In the Runner-up Bowl, Dallas beat Minnesota. Still, the shouts came from central Texas, “next year, next year, next year!” In 1969, the Cowboys won the division, again, however, they failed to win the Eastern Championship. A bit fainter, but still hopeful, “just wait until next year!”
In 1970 the Cowboys claimed the Eastern Division championship and made the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. They beat Detroit, then beat San Francisco for the NFC title. All of the goals had been accomplished, except for the big one. In Super Bowl V, in a heartbreaking loss to Baltimore, the fans could hardly contain themselves. Their Cowboys had made it to the big leagues in just 12 years of existence. The ultimate prize was at their fingertips……”there’s always next year.”
So here I sit, anticipating the last football game of the season. Having opened the regular season in the brand new Texas Stadium in Irving, with a crowd of 65,708, the Cowboys finished the regular season at 11-3, adorned the Eastern Division crown, again, made it to the playoffs, again, and are in the Super Bowl, again. The fans could be heard around the nation, “this is the year, this is the year, this is the year!”
Coach Tom Landry, the hero in Texas, the king in Dallas, will be coaching the game of his life in a few hours and the fans are more than ready for a championship. As Roger Staubach, Rayfield Wright, Mike Ditka, Duane Thomas, Walt Garrison, Charlie Waters, Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, and the rest of the Cowboy team takes the field, fans may finally get their wish. Somewhere in Arkansas, a lone Cowboy fan named Jerry Jones, who had just started Jones Oil and Land Lease, said to himself, “one day I’m going to own those Cowboys.”
Some things change, but some times, they never do. Like every year, about this time, you can hear a mighty roar from Dallas, Texas…….”there’s always next year.”
Writer note: For the record, I was three years old in 1971, but as excited as those fans were that year, I feel that way every single September…..and the Dallas Cowboys will once again be expected to win the Super Bowl.