“Life is great. Football is better.” -Steve Sabol
Part of the passion associated with loving this great game is cultivated through the great work of NFL Films. Over the last year I've had the opportunity to speak with NFL Films Senior Producer Paul Camarata, one of the leaders of Sabol's Army, twice concerning different projects.
In December he and I spoke about a new series called The Timeline and an episode that focused 50% on America's Team – a name we'll address more in a second – the Dallas Cowboys.
A few months later, Paul joined my weekly NFL Podcast, the RJ Ochoa Show, to talk about the nuts and bolts of what goes into making one of these treasures. I'm proud of all that work and urge you to check it out.
It's a funny little story about the whole “America's Team” nickname. It was another member of Sabol's Army, Bob Ryan, that coined the legendary nickname when cutting the 1978 season highlights for the Cowboys (a year ending in the loss of Super Bowl XIII, what I believe to be the greatest game ever played… but that's a story for another day).
It emanates patriotism, glory, and a pedigree of excellence. They are more than just two words. They're a five syllable code linking Dallas Cowboys fans to one another, near and far. We are, for now and for always, America's Team.
This is a philosophy that some have tried to dispute in recent years, but ultimately accepted. The Dallas Cowboys are just as much America's Team as water is wet, and gravity is 9.8 meters per second squared. Facts of life, I tell ya.
The NFL Network is on board with the right disposition and is choosing this weekend, which will culminate with a July 4th Monday, to celebrate the most star-spangled team in its repertoire – America's Team. Beginning Saturday (July 2nd) at 7:00 AM CDT, NFL Network will be showing an America's Team Marathon.
As a student of NFL History and NFL Films, I've seen all of the programs they have scheduled. As a Staff Writer here at Inside The Star, it's my job to deliver you the goods when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, so we're going to merge those two ideas here.
Let's be real. You don't have time to watch every single thing that's a part of this marathon. You've got errands to run, groceries to buy, yards to mow, kids to take care of, or any and every other possible chore that comes up through our walks of life.
I've developed a Star (we're Inside The Star, get it?!) rating for each of these films.
- Three stars means it's something you absolutely cannot miss
- Two stars means you can DVR it for a rainy day
- One star means you're not missing anything spectacular and can leave it on in the background
7 AM – Top 10 Dallas Cowboys ✭✭
Any sort of Top 10 is always an interesting debate, but that's exactly what it is… a debate. This is a subjective practice which keeps it from getting the three-star rock star status from me. What's cool about it is this program is a walk down memory lane because they include Cowboys from different eras, but the episode is a bit older and a little dated. Yawn.
8 AM – America's Game: 1971 Dallas Cowboys ✭✭✭
America's Game is a documentary series that the NFL Network began airing in 2006. The objective then was to count down the Top 20 Super Bowl teams of all time with an hour long documentary about each team. After the Top 20, they went ahead and included the remaining 20 (this was the season that culminated in Super Bowl XLI) and have made an episode for each Super Bowl Champion ever since.
Each episode has clips from that season and members from its team as narrators. This one includes Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, and Duane Thomas. It's a great tale about Staubach's battle with Craig Morton, Duane's with Tex Schramm, and Bob Lilly's with the frustration of losing.
This is a must-watch for anyone looking to understand what helped make the Dallas Cowboys who they are today.
9 AM – America's Game: 1977 Dallas Cowboys ✭✭✭
Back to back three stars means that you're going to be glued to your TV for these two hours. Maybe it'll even be three, but we'll get to that in a minute.
The narrators here include Tony Dorsett, Charlie Waters, and Drew Pearson. The 1977 squad was perhaps the best Dallas Cowboys team to ever win the Super Bowl and was the first team in NFL History to do so in the Louisiana Superdome.
Dallas certainly prospered from the services of their rookie running back Tony Dorsett, but the story about how his playing style clashed with Coach Landry's game plan is one you don't want to miss. Tres stars!
10 AM – America's Game: 1992 Dallas Cowboys ✭✭✭
This is the final three-star broadcast of the America's Game series, but it's for a great reason.
The 1992 Dallas Cowboys set the standard, not just for their franchise, but for the National Football League in the 90s. They were the first step that the team took in building a dynasty and that disposition is apparent in the episode's narrators: Troy Aikman, Ken Norton Jr., and Michael Irvin.
As you can imagine, Irvin is his charming self and tells a few stories that will make the team you remember oh so fondly all the more amazing in your mind. Also within is the legendary “asthma field” story, courtesy of Troy Aikman.
You can't miss this. Trust me.
11 AM – America's Game: 1993 Dallas Cowboys ✭✭
This installment of the series doesn't fire me up in the way that the first three World Championships do. Emmitt Smith, Jimmy Johnson, and Bill Bates do a great job of telling the story… but we expected this team to win.
It's interesting to hear about the drama behind Emmitt's holdout to begin the season, and if drama is your thing then stick around for the end when the actual end of the Jimmy Johnson era is discussed.
12 PM – America's Game: 1995 Dallas Cowboys ✭✭
Ah, the franchise's fifth – and so far most recent – Super Bowl title. #Sigh
The cast of narrators here is interesting in that it includes someone involved with their respective team who isn't present on any other episode of America's Game – a PR man.
Richard “Rich” Dalrymple joins Darren Woodson, Larry Brown, and Daryl Johnston to recount the season that made the Dallas Cowboys the first team in NFL History to earn three championships in four years.
1 PM – My Road to Canton: Michael Irvin ✭
You're a hardcore Dallas Cowboys fan. You know that. I know that. Even Michael Irvin knows that. While it's great to see Irvin's journey into football's most elite fraternity, it's a story that you are well-familiar with by now.
Use this time to catch a nap, because you'll need your rest for later.
2 PM – Deion Sanders: Canton Goes Prime Time ✭
If I knew how to slice that Star emoji in half I'd do it here. Deion is arguably the greatest defensive back to ever slip on a pair of shoulder pads, but this particular motion picture is probably my least favorite throughout the America's Team Marathon lineup.
3 PM – A Football Life: Jimmy Johnson ✭
The purpose of A Football Life is to tell the story of one's football life. “Duh, RJ.”
Jimmy Johnson, in all his greatness, only spent five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. That doesn't mean that he's not one of the best coaches in franchise history, it just means that the portion of this program devoted to the silver and blue isn't particularly exciting.
4 PM – A Football Life: Roger Staubach ✭✭✭
This is one of my favorite episodes of any television program ever. And that's coming from someone who saw Sunday's Game Of Thrones season finale.
The life of Roger Staubach is so vast, so incredible, and so heroic that one hour isn't enough for us. This whole marathon could be devoted to Staubach's greatness and even that wouldn't be enough. Nevertheless, take this hour to learn about his life, both on and off the field, including intricate details about things like his Faith, “the Hail Mary,” and what it was like playing for coach Tom Landry.
5 PM – A Football Life: Great Wall of Dallas ✭✭✭
This is a sight to behold.
The Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line of 2016 is heralded as one of, if not the best in the National Football League. That standard of excellence was built in the 90s by the Great Wall. This episode tells the story about how they were formed, their relationships with one another, and what it was like to pave the way for the NFL's All-Time Leading Rusher, Emmitt Smith. Prepare to be amazed.
6 PM – A Football Life: Bill Parcells ✭
This falls into the same category as the Jimmy Johnson AFL for me. Bill Parcells is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, but so much of that is because of his time spent elsewhere. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys (and Tony Romo) are a part of that story, but not enough to make it a must-see for Cowboys Nation.
7 PM – A Football Life: Tom Landry ✭✭✭
I know that you might eat dinner at around this time, but you need to postpone it for an hour. This episode of AFL is absolutely incredible.
It's an hour long education in the equally large greatness and mystery that helped encompass one of the brightest minds to ever grace an NFL sideline. Coach Landry's former players are on hand in the episode to speak about life under his wing and about the lessons they learned from, in the infamous words of Roger Staubach, “a man in a funny hat.”
8 PM – A Football Life: Terrell Owens ✭✭
I'm rounding up from 1.5 stars to the full dos for the man they call T.O.. As it'll be later in the evening, you'll want to have your popcorn ready for someone who asked you to get some ten years ago now.
Terrell Owens shares a common denominator with some of these episodes in that only a fraction of his story was written in a Cowboys uniform, but he's such a fascinating individual. This episode dives into all the stops along his journey, which include two of our biggest rivals, the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Give T.O. a chance and just hit record.
9 PM – A Football Life: Charles Haley ✭✭✭
If you want to talk about fascinating lives then Charles Haley is going to take up the whole conversation.
One of the most animated personalities in the history of football helped catapult the 1990s Dallas Cowboys to the forefront of the league, and the story behind it all will leave you on the edge of your seat. Learn about the demons that Haley battled off the field and about the relationships he relied on to help him get through and, ultimately, into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2 AM – NFL Classic Games: 2014 NFC Wildcard (Cowboys v. Lions)
As a nightcap, you can re-live the last Dallas Cowboys playoff win, which is only 500 or so days old.
Watch the Detroit Lions take an early lead, Terrance Williams narrow the gap before halftime, the Cowboys fight back, a slew of crazy calls, and Tony Romo throw the game-winning touchdown. It's all here for your eyes to see, and when you're done you can go pass out. You'll be tuckered out after a long day of Dallas Cowboys greatness.
Notice: You may have noticed that the America's Game titles are links. You can follow them to DallasCowboys.com where you can catch the full episode, in case you can't during the marathon!