There are a lot more smiles around Dallas this week. That tends to happen when the Cowboys are doing well. Fresh off a road win over the defending champions and sporting a 5-1 record, talk of the playoffs and a run at the NFC East abound from sports talk radio to office water coolers.
Dallas is a good team, thanks to a running game that takes over the clock in every contest and a no-name defense that is playing very well. And no team in the NFL is watched and scrutinized as much as the Dallas Cowboys.
The fact is – the NFL is simply better when the Cowboys are winning. There are only a few special teams in North American pro sports that are “flagship” franchises for their respective leagues and the Dallas Cowboys are one of them. Like the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics in the NBA, the New York Yankees in baseball, or even the Montreal Canadiens in hockey, more fans are watching on a league-wide basis when each of these respective teams are winning and contending.
Take the current ALCS, for example. The Royals’ run is nothing short of incredible and a great story. But let’s be honest, if they were playing the Yankees instead of the Orioles, more people would be tuned in. Half of them would be rooting for the Yankees and half rooting against them.
The Cowboys aren’t called “America’s Team” for nothing. Former Cowboys President Tex Schramm coined he phrase, and it was marketing genius at the time. Every game was not televised back in the early 70’s, yet the Cowboys were one of the teams that built a national audience on the strength of Roger Staubach and winning and got the highest ratings when they were on. That popularity lives on today.
According to The Harris Poll, which surveyed approximately 2,500 adults nationwide in September, the Denver Broncos are the most popular team in the NFL today, followed by the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys came in fourth, after holding the top spot for the previous six years.
I’m not going to dispute the results of this current poll, but here’s what I do know – five of the top 10 most-watched regular season games last year featured the Dallas Cowboys. Then there’s this: according to Paulsen Sports Media Watch, Cowboys-Seahawks on Sunday drew a higher overnight rating (19.2) than every college football game since 2006, every MLB game since 2004 and every NBA game since 1998.
Yes, that’s every NBA game since Michael Jordan was in his heyday with the Chicago Bulls. That 19.2 overnight was also best for any NFL regular season game since 2011.
The Dallas Cowboys are like Howard Stern – whether you love them or hate them, you watch. And when they win, you watch more. And the league likes that (duh).
It’s amazing, actually, considering the Cowboys have won a mere two playoff games since their last Super Bowl win in 1996. Dallas is 8-8 in each of the last three seasons, and 136-136 over the last 17 campaigns.
That’s a lot of mediocrity. Kids who are graduating from high school this year have never seen the Cowboys win on a regular basis. Yet they are still the bell cow in the NFL, the highest-valued franchise of any in the league.
Imagine if the Cowboys started winning again on a regular basis. Looking ahead at the schedule, things should continue to get better for Dallas, as they host the Giants, Redskins and Cardinals in their next three games before heading to London for a “road game” vs. the Jaguars.
Eagles fans may not like it, but the league is indeed better off when the Cowboys are winning. But look at it this way, Philly fans, since you play Dallas twice near the end of the season, your national television ratings are about to go up, no matter how good those ratings are today.
Yes, smiles are abundant these days in Dallas. And in the league office. Imagine what might happen if the Cowboys make the playoffs and win a game or two. Your television might explode.