Ten-Gallon War: Dallas Cowboys v Dallas Texans

Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future by John Eisenberg
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0547435503

When I first picked up this monograph on the “war” between the NFL expansion team Dallas Cowboys and the upstart AFL Dallas Texans I did not have high expectations.  After all, what more could really be said about the history of the maverick AFL and its eventual merger with the longer tenured NFL?

Well, I dare say I was wrong because Eisenberg has written a very interesting account of how Lamar Hunt, the owner of the Dallas Texans and founder of the AFL, and Clint Murchison, another oil magnate who finally received a chance to own and expansion team because of the AFL, waged a battle within the city for football supremacy.

First off let’s be clear that the Dallas Cowboys, despite being in the NFL, did have some clear advantages being in the older league, but these advantages were evened out because it was an expansion team, and as such, a losing team.  And fans don’t want to root for losing teams.  The Texans, on the other hand, had creative owner in Lamar Hunt but also a roster that included some local stars that made it an attraction as well.  But the Texans did not have the advantage of having well known NFL teams to play home games against.  So all things being equal, the competition was pretty even.

This book recounts how both teams tried to recruit local talent and be the team to draw the most fans to games.  Lamar Hunt here was a bit of genius and while a nice fellow, manipulative.  He made sure he got a stadium lease that disadvantaged the Cowboys in their first year, gave away tickets to make it appear the gate receipts were a lot larger than they really were, and the battle to sign college players was comical.  Hunt also staged halftime shows to try to draw fans in and make professional football both sport and spectacle.

And for the most part Hunt succeeded.  And despite their sometimes bitter competition, Hunt and Murchinson maintained a respect for one another.  For example, Lamar Hunt jumped out of a birthday cake at Murchinson’s birthday bash.

All the nitty-gritty details of the throw down between these two teams is here, and told in very lucid prose.

So why did Hunt and the Texans ultimately leave?  Part of it was simply he got a deal too good to refuse from Kansas City and he started to realize it would be hard for two professional football teams to be successful in Dallas.  Another reason too was likely he had more than his own team to worry about; he had the survival of an entire league on his mind.  And thus the Dallas Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs.

If you like football history and are interested in the American Football League and Lamar Hunt, this is a great place to start.  Because here you have the rivalry between the two leagues played on mostly even terms in one city.  I highly recommend it.

Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future

Informative History of the NFL/AFL Merger

The Birth of the New NFL: How the 1966 NFL/AFL Merger Transformed Pro Football by Larry Felser
The Lyons Press 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59921-151-0

Despite the stodgy prose this is a comprehensive history of the merger between the American Football League and the National Football League in 1966.

The most informative aspect of this book is story behind the formation and advancement of the upstart American Football League when several wealthy (and some not so wealthy) businessmen wanted into the professional football fold.  Thwarted by the NFL and desiring a team, it was Lamar Hunt, owner of the Dallas Texans (later the Kansas City Chiefs) that really brought the AFL to fruition and helped create a league that was competitive with the long established NFL.

The story behind the merger is equally as fascinating, especially the clear lack of trust AFL Commissioner Al Davis had among owners, as they essentially worked for a merger behind his back while he was taking a all out go to war approach in trying to sign the biggest stars from the other league.  I also learned a great deal about how the television contacts the AFL was able to garner greatly helped the league, and the integral role Ralph Wilson played in the not only this, but the eventually merger itself.  It’s surprising that it took so long for Ralph Wilson (owner of the Buffalo Bills) to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For those interested in NFL history and how the AFL was founded, grew, and eventually managed to merge with the NFL, this book is worth reading.  But I will warn that the writing and organization of the book lack a lot to be desired.

The Birth of the New NFL: How the 1966 NFL/AFL Merger Transformed Pro Football