Good Biography of Lamar Hunt

huntDespite an uninspiring writing style this is a very solid biography of Lamar Hunt.  Better yet, I learned a good deal about Lamar Hunt I didn’t know.  Most readers will recognize Lamar Hunt as one of the found fathers of the American Football League which competed directly with the well-established National Football League.  After a rather successful half decade the Hunt was then instrumental in the merger of the two leagues, creating the modern, NFL we know today.

Lamar Hunt was born not with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but many golden spoons.  His father was a billionaire and Hunt inherited a vast amount of wealth that allowed him to pursue his own dreams and goals with little concern about the financial consequences.  He fell in love with football in college and as an adult desperately wanted to own an NFL team but was spurned by the old guard.  So Hunt did the next best thing, he found a group of like-minded men and created his own football league.

While getting a professional football league up and running and successful against the established, old school NFL was a daunting challenge, Hunt managed to do just that.  And despite eventually having to move his inaugural Dallas franchise to Kansas City, his team and his league thrived.  So much so, that eventually the NFL was compelled to merge with the AFL to avoid escalating player salaries and competition for television viewers.

The most interesting thing about Hunt through all this was his decency and humanity.  Unlike many who didn’t earn but were handed vast amounts of wealth who slid into slovenly habits and narcissism, Hunt was considered by his peers to be very nice, decent man and one who worked hard at his passion – sports.  Even during the intensive rivalry with the NFL’s expansion franchise the Dallas Cowboys, he managed to stay friendly with Dallas’s other billionaire football owner Clint Murchison.

The other amazing thing about Lamar Hunt was the other sports he was passionate about and some he helped get off the ground.  For example he was an original minority owner of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.  He helped create the modern open era tennis by co-founding the World Championship Tennis circuit and is in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Finally, Hunt is instrumental in first bringing professional soccer to the United States as an owner of a Dallas professional soccer franchise, despite it rankling owners in the NFL.  While the league eventually collapsed, it was the precursor to today’s Major League Soccer.

The story of Hunt and the AFL-NFL merger is well told in other places but this biography also does that seminal event justice, while expanding ones knowledge of just how instrumental Hunt was in the sports world in general.

While the writing lacks a lot to be desired, the content is worth the effort.

Lamar Hunt: The Gentle Giant Who Revolutionized Professional Sports

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