During a recent NFL Playoff weekend, when the Vikings were doing battle with the Cowboys, Joy mentioned that the Cowboys had, yet again, been referred to as “America’s Team”, and wondered why. So, I did a little checking.
According to Wiki:
The nickname originated with the team’s 1978 highlight film, where the narrator opens with the following introduction:
“They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team.”
The term is recognized and often used by media outlets, including ESPN, Yahoo!, HBO Sports, and Sports Illustrated
That got me thinking. Not about the Cowboys being “America’s Team”, because clearly, that would be the Bears. But about the whole concept of being a team fan vs. being a player fan.
Back when that was happening, in 1978, I wasn’t into football. Heck, I was still crawling around on the floor, neighing and drinking water out of a bowl that my mom put out for me (do NOT ask). But I do remember the name Staubach from then, and Landry, but not much else about individuals. It was all about the teams back then. And even after I became aware of football early in high school, and through the ’85 “Monsters of the Midway” Bears. There were good players, even stars, but none stood higher than the team. And all regularly credited the team for their success. I remember that from those ’85 Bears. They were a unit, led by a punk, and they were a terror on the field. But they were a team. And after, when the members started to leave, the team was no longer. And that cohesion was gone.
Now, it’s all about Favre, and Urlacher, the Manning Brothers, Tony Romo, Ben Rothlisberger, Adrian Peterson. That guy Chad Ochocinko. God help me with THAT one. And Terrell Owens.
Favre is the perfect example of the individual taking the fans away from the team. Not to draw anything away from him – he’s a legendary quarterback, an icon who deserves all the praise that he gets. And he’s cute. But when did fan loyalty switch from the team to the player? Did it start with Free Agency? Did it start when players started hiring their own PR firms? I really don’t know.
I do know, though, that it’s not something that I want Josh learning. I have no problem with him appreciating individual players for their athleticism, their skill, heck, even for their charitable works off the field. But what I have a problem with is when kids favor players over the team. My nephew, for years, bled Green and Yellow. Packers this, Packers that. We bought him jerseys, heckled him during the traditional whipping of the Pack by the Bears (just leave it alone). Suddenly, this year, he’s in Purple and Gold, chanting “Go Vikes!!” I was flabbergasted. “I thought you were a die hard Pack Fan?”
“Nope,” he replied. “Favre.”
“What about the team?” I asked.
“Wherever Favre is, that’s my team.”
Interesting. Football is, and always has been, a team sport. The quarterback is nothing without a good offensive line to protect him, make holes for his running back. Without a good defense to hold the other team out of their end zone. Need proof? Jay Cutler. Awesome with the Denver Broncos. Pathetic with the Chicago Bears. And the reverse… Kyle Orton struggled with the Bears. Ran hot and cold. He went to the Broncos and had a great season.
But now, it seems like it’s all about the player, damn the consequences. I’m afraid to see what is going to happen down the line, as we get more Ochocinkos and Owens’s and fewer McMahons and Singletarys.