As a youngster in the '90s, the teams who were the pinnacle of achievement were the Niners, Broncos, and the Cowboys. Sure, there were other teams who did well, but those three were (arguably) the most visible, and of the three, only one still runs around calling itself America’s Team, despite the fact that team has won two playoff games in 15 years. Unfortunately, that team is my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.
If you’ve been around this site long enough, you know I’m a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan. You also know that I do not believe the Cowboys to be America’s Team anymore, and the reasons are simple. For one to be America’s Team, there should be some indisputable characteristics:
Super Bowl wins
Recent playoff wins
Consistent playoff runs
Fan support, merchandise, visibility, etc, etc, etc.
In regards to the first one, the Cowboys meet that criteria, but so do the 49ers, and, to an extent, so do the Raiders. However, there aren’t screams of America’s Team emanating from the Westside.
The next two criteria are obvious; none of the three have put together a decent playoff run in at least nine years, and in the case of the Cowboys, since the mid-90’s. Sure, they have the last part down, no question. They are visible as can be, people love them, and their memorabilia flies off the shelves, but as I’ve said countless times, a team can have all of that, but if they don’t perform on the field, I really don’t give a damn.
Folks can act like the title of America's Team is irrelevant, but when it comes to fans and how we view the moniker, that’s far from reality. The Cowboys fan in me admits that it isn’t my team anymore, but my pride won’t allow me to come right out and say it’s someone else.
That’s what makes this so hard. There are the Giants, but if you think for one second a Cowboys fan, even one as brutally honest as me, will ever concede the title of America's Team to a team in our division, then you’re out of your damn mind. No way in hell will that ever happen.
The teams that get thrown around the most, at least in recent times, are the Patriots, Packers, and Steelers. The Patriots qualify, except for the perception (at least mine) that there aren’t Patriot fans all over the place. It's something that's hard to explain. They’re definitely visible in the Northeast, but they’re not everywhere else like you would expect a championship-caliber team to be. I could be wrong, and if that is the case, that’s what the comments section is for.
That leaves the Packers and the Steelers who meet each of the four criteria above. They have the history in regards to Super Bowl titles. Even without their recent Super Bowl success, they’ve shown the ability to not only win playoff games, but to have consistent runs in the playoffs in recent years as well. When it comes to visibility, the Packers are known for the Cheeseheads, and any rational football fan knows that when it comes to that symbol, the Cheeseheads are everywhere. One can find a Packers fan in pretty much any part of the country.
As far as the Steelers go, we know they are as visible as any team in professional sports. From the Terrible Towels to the way Steelers fans ride for their team in their town and in your town, it’s impossible not to notice them. With that said, if one wants to say those two are the prime candidates to carry the moniker, I won’t argue with them, but you certainly won’t see or hear me say they are.
So who is America’s Team? Is this a label that is just that; a label and nothing more? Is it something that stays a staple of the team the phrase was coined for, despite their recent history? Perhaps the thing that makes it the most amazing and polarizing is that it’s truly open for interpretation.