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.