During the 50’s and 60’s Texas football fans were still primary focused on the College and High School levels; when along comes the Dallas Texans, followed by the Dallas Cowboys. The history of Professional Football in Texas could have looked completely different if it weren’t for the fans.
A couple months back I was in Kansas City waiting to board a plane back to Austin when; as good fortune would have it, I was able to meet an “Original Dallas” fan. I’ve been a Cowboys fan for a little over three decades now; so when I heard “original” fan, it quickly perked my interest.
At 80, the old gentleman was kind enough to recount many of his favorite football memories; players, coaches, and games. But the one story I appreciated most of all (which is also one my Mother once told me) was how the history of the Dallas Cowboys could’ve been much different.
Pro Football in Dallas really began back in 1951, when a Dallas based millionaire named Giles Miller purchased a failing franchise called the New York Yanks. Originally to be named The Rangers, The Dallas Texans relocated to their new home the Cotton Bowl.
With a capacity of 75,000; filling the seats of the Cotton Bowl proved to be too much of an undertaking for Miller. Unable to fund the now Dallas based franchise, Miller handed the reins back to the NFL who then relocated the Texans to Hershey Pennsylvania. They folded soon (1952), but later reemerged as the Baltimore Colts. College and High School football would refuse to give up the “throne” for another 7 years.
Enter Lamar Hunt. In 1959, Hunt had already been through the ringer trying to bring his passion; Pro Football, back to Texas. Requests to purchase as well as create an expansion team failed after several attempts. So what was the son of an oil tycoon to do; easy, start your own league. With the help of several investors, Hunt created what became known as the AFL and finally was able to realize his dream; owning a pro football team. The new Dallas Texans were soon established and set to begin play in 1960.
Of course, all Cowboys Fans now know that 1960 proved to be a big year; however, at the time it only proved to be a very confusing year. Both teams (Cowboys and Texans) were based in Dallas and both played at the Cotton Bowl. The problem was, no one knew who to root for. Attendance issues soon followed.
Back to the 80 year old gentleman I spoke of before. You see, he was from Dallas and was there when both teams were established. “They (both teams) were just giving tickets away, but no one would go” he told me. “And the ones that did show up, didn’t know how to act”.
Both franchises declared an all out marketing war; however, too many football options proved to be too much for the fans as both the Cowboys and Texans were risking financial failure. So what was the fix? It needed to be decided, who stays and who goes. “They should play each other” was the cry of most Dallas area football fans (in my Mother’s story they did). But, it didn’t happen. It was the Greatest Game “Never” Played. Instead, ticket sales became the deciding factor.
The Texans; although having a more successful record from 1960 to 1962, were part of the newly formed AFC. Unable to compete with ticket sales of the Dallas Cowboys; their NFL counterpart, they were forced to relocate. Possible homes for the Texans included Atlanta Georgia and Miami Florida; but because of a promised stadium and a guaranteed fan following, they were Missouri bound.
Officially relocating the 22nd of May in 1963; and four days later, formally changing their name from the Dallas Texans to the Kansas City Chiefs.
As I had mentioned before, I was in Kansas City waiting to board a plane. They gave the boarding call and as I said goodbye to my new acquaintance, I realized the older gentleman I’d been talking too said he was an “original Dallas” fan. Not an “original Cowboys” fan. Not sure why I didn’t catch it when he first said it; so I had to confirm what he meant, he laughed and said, “I went to every Texans game I could, just never cared much for the Cowboys”.
None the less, it remains a great piece of Texas Football history. I felt privileged to have spent time with this gentleman; hearing his perspective and experiences during the birth of Pro Football in Texas, even if he turned out to be a Chiefs fan.
By the way, the Greatest Game “Never” Played was finally played on October 11th of 2009; a Cowboys overtime victory 26–20.