Last Saturday night, the semi pro football team that I broadcast for won their league’s championship. The excitement and thrill of it all was an awesome feeling as I started out as the team’s general manager the season before but resigned from that post to concentrate on the broadcasting side for this season. To give you a little history, I have been in the semi pro football business for 4 years and each year I have had a team in the playoffs. The first season and team, we were one game from the championship game. The next year and a new team, we lost in the first round of the playoffs. The third year and my current team, we lost in the second round. This year’s squad went 14-0 and claimed the Crossroads Amateur Football League Championship. After finishing up taking pictures with players and the trophy, my mind started to think about the Dallas Cowboys.
I remember watching an interview that Tom Landry gave after winning Super Bowl VI. He stated, “You can’t imagine how it feels, you never suffered with us like we suffered.”
Tom Landry’s Cowboys in the 1960’s suffered loss after loss, from going 0-11-1 in the first year to finally getting the ‘boys into the playoff picture in 1965. It wasn’t until 1967 that Dallas finally won its first playoff game against the Cleveland Browns, 52-10. Landry and the Cowboys finally got the taste of a championship in 1970 when they won the NFC Championship and the right to represent the conference in Super Bowl V.
The Cowboys finally put to rest that they were not “the bridesmaids of the NFL, the team that couldn’t win the big one,” as quoted from Cowboys legend Bob Lilly as the next year they won Super VI over the Miami Dolphins, 24-6.
Lilly and Landry were both apart that long process of going from winless to champs.
Lilly was drafted was the first draft pick ever for the young franchise, he was a staple on the “Doomsday Defense’s” defensive line for 14 seasons. He started off playing defensive end but was moved by Coach Landry to defensive tackle midway through the 1963 season.
Looking back at the rosters from that 1961 season and comparing it to the 1970, only two players were listed on the Super Bowl VI champs team. Lilly and Chuck Howley are the only two Cowboys that made it through those tough first years of Cowboy infancy.
Graphic credit: http://www.alanskitchen.com/COUNTRY/People/H/0001-0025/0001_Chuck_Howley.htm
Howley wasn’t originally drafted by Dallas he played a couple of seasons with the Chicago Bears when they drafted him with their first pick in 1958. After suffering to what appeared as a career-ending knee injury, his rights were traded to Dallas in 1961. He decided to make a comeback that season and never looked back as he started for the Cowboys for 13 seasons.
Going back to that famous interview, to watch it on television and see the relief on Landry’s face, to hear him talk about the past and the struggles the team went through, it makes me appreciate even more the wins the Cowboys put together. Dallas’ string of 20 straight winning seasons will be a record hard to ever duplicate or break on any level, my current streak is at 4, not having one losing season in the semi pro ranks. I realize that the NFL and semi pro football are two different levels of the game but it is still football. No matter the level, you still have two teams putting their helmets on battling it for gridiron glory.
To be in that locker room with those Cowboys after they won Super Bowl VI, I can now imagine with my experience with my team. Those men felt a relief that you can’t really describe. A satisfaction in knowing that your team is the best in the league is short-lived because of the simple fact that you know when the next season starts, every team wants to play you and every team wants to beat you more than usual. Landry was quoted as saying, “it puts a target on our back,” in reference to the title “America’s Team.” When you put the words, “League Champion” in front of your team name, it has the same affect.
I have a small group of guys who were on the team with me that very first season, we took a picture together with the championship trophy to commemorate the accomplishment as we had made that journey all together. It is a picture I will cherish the rest of my life, it represents the family we were in sticking it though the hard times.
On Saturday night, my team was finally able to put to rest, “we are not bridesmaids, the team that couldn’t win the big one.” We were champions, just like Landry, Howley, and Lilly.