Attention incoming sports fans: If you're going to embrace our city during Super Bowl week, the first step is recognizing our Super Heroes.
Dodging tumbleweeds as we ride our horses to work: Not guilty.
Favoring style over substance and championships as much as character: Very guilty.
As almost a quarter-million visitors descend upon Dallas, Arlington and North Texas for Super Bowl XLV, we'd love to shine up and roll out a recent history of our sports championships. Problem is, the national view of us is pretty much spot-on these days. We're more America's Old West than we are America's Team.
Sure, the Dallas Cowboys have five Super Bowl championships, the Dallas Mavericks made it to the NBA Finals in 2006 and the Texas Rangers are fresh off a trip to the World Series. But the metroplex hasn't hoisted a major professional sports championship trophy since the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999. Yep, we're 0-for-this millennium.
Doesn't mean we don't have pride. Or heroes. There they are—under all that dust.
Our Cowboys Mount Sportsmore would require more than just the four massive faces carved for Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln in South Dakota. We'd need five spots, etched in the rolling hills of South Dallas.
Oh yeah, and keep a giant eraser handy because Dallas is nothing if not trendy, materialistic and eternally yearning for the next shiny bandwagon to hop aboard. No?
In 1993 Troy Aikman was sitting in his SUV while he filled up with gas in Valley Ranch. Recognizing the Cowboys' quarterback as she drove past the pumps, a young female abruptly stopped her car and curiously fumbled in the driver's seat for a full two minutes. Upon exiting her car, the woman approached Aikman's vehicle, lifted his windshield wiper and placed under it a pair of her freshly worn and, yes, moist panties. "I love you Troy!" she screamed as she retreated, wanting nothing in return other than to be creepily close to her heartthrob hero.
The idol worship prompted by three Super Bowls eventually faded, however, as in 2000 Aikman attended a Mavericks game during a disappointing 5-11 Cowboys season. When his face was displayed on Reunion Arena's video screen, he was promptly booed.
"This isn't a great sports town," Aikman said during his playing days. "But it's a heck of a winners' town. If you're going to play here, it's in your best interest to be pretty darn good."
Fickleness be damned, Dallas-Fort Worth has produced and/or hosted some of the best athletes in sports history.
Tatu was a shirt-throwing goal-scorer who kept professional soccer afloat in this town for three decades, eventually prompting enough passion and support for a Major League Soccer franchise. Mike Modano made hockey hip in Dallas before leading the Stars to a title. Pudge Rodriguez was the best Rangers player ever, though Nolan Ryan is by far the most recognizable. Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino and Byron Nelson played on our local courses before helping shape the game of golf globally. Dirk Nowitzki's Hall of Fame résumé is missing only a championship. Michael Johnson's golden spikes will always be synonymous with the Olympics. And there's a pretty transcendent alum out of nearby Plano East Senior High, goes by the name of Lance Armstrong.
Members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame with DFW familial roots include Lamar Hunt, Doak Walker and Davey O'Brien. The Cowboys have 12 enshrinees in Canton including Aikman, Tony Dorsett, Bob Hayes, Michael Irvin, Tom Landry, Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, Tex Schramm, Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach, Randy White and Rayfield Wright. In addition, Herb Adderley, Lance Alworth, Mike Ditka, Forrest Gregg, Tommy McDonald and Jackie Smith all played for Dallas before gaining football immortality.
But—for now—there are only five football icons who have a spot reserved for their massive mugs up on our Cowboys Mount Sportsmore:
Tom Landry—In his trademark dapper fedora and calm, stoic expression, God's Coach put together a career that is unfathomable given today's coaching culture. After learning the ropes on a New York Giants staff alongside a co-assistant named Vince Lombardi, Landry earned a 10-year contract from the Cowboys before he had a winning season. With innovations like the Flex defense and re-introduction into the NFL of the shotgun formation, Landry coached the Cowboys for an incredible 29 years and from 1966-85 produced 20 consecutive winning seasons. One of the most popular and beloved figures ever in Dallas, his post-firing parade in 1989 drew 100,000 to downtown streets and a collection of his personal items prompted such crowds during the State Fair of Texas that organizers re-opened the exhibit to run through Super Bowl XLV.
Emmitt Smith—After showing up for his initial Cowboys press conference wearing black linen shorts adorned with bright yellow polka dots, he dazzled Dallas and the NFL with an understated style that produced the most rushing yards in pro football history. With uncanny balance and undeterred effort, he turned more three-yard holes into five-yard runs than any running back in NFL history, finishing with a record 18,355 yards and an unmatched 164 rushing touchdowns. In his 13 seasons as a Cowboy, Smith won four rushing titles, three Super Bowl championships and in 1993 was selected MVP for both the regular season and Super Bowl XXVIII.
Troy Aikman—The California kid with the Oklahoma roots won more games (90) in the 1990s than any NFL quarterback in any other decade. After a sluggish Cowboys start that saw him go winless in his rookie season in 1989 and get sacked 11 times in a memorable 1991 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Aikman's cool in the pocket and strong, accurate arm led him to 47 team passing records and three Super Bowl rings. A reluctant superstar with a modest ego, Aikman nonetheless ascended to fame in Dallas during the 1992 season after throwing four touchdown passes and being named MVP of Super Bowl XXVII at the Rose Bowl. He remains a popular figure locally with several endorsements and media appearances and nationally as Fox's lead NFL analyst.
Roger Staubach—The rare player to have won a Heisman Trophy (1963) and NFL MVP (1971), his performance as a player is rivaled only by his sparkling persona off the field. He became Captain America, a flawless, peerless leader who steered the Cowboys to Super Bowl wins in 1971 and 1977. On the field, he was a fearless scrambler and a stubborn competitor who rallied Dallas from seemingly impossible late-game deficits countless times. Off the field he still remains one of the most visible names in Dallas, with a prominent real-estate company and a leading role during Super Bowl XLV as North Texas Host Committee Chairman.
Jerry Jones—Eternally despised by some as the man who fired Landry, Jones has constructed a Pro Football Hall of Fame career nationally with his ownership innovations and restored his reputation in the metroplex by managing the Cowboys to three Super Bowls in four years in the mid-'90s. Despite the dismissal of a coaching legend, the 1-15 inaugural season start and—currently—the longest drought between Super Bowls in franchise history, Jones these days is more synonymous with the three Lombardi trophies, the construction of the shining sports jewel that is the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium and being the grandiose host of Super Bowl XLV.
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