Whenever you see one, you notice. That’s the point. That’s what they want. The flags. The yard signs. The hats. The jackets. The jerseys. The obnoxious bumper stickers.
How many times have you driven behind a Dallas fan for so long in traffic that you start to calculate how much your insurance premiums would go up if you rammed your car right into that damned star? Would it be worth the feeling of accomplishment, ridding the Delaware Valley of one more horrific reminder of the Cowboys’ existence?
Probably. Maybe the cops would even let you off without a ticket. I mean, it was a Cowboys fan in Philly. They’re pretty much asking to get hit.
This is a truism. Eagles fans hate the Cowboys fans more than they love the Eagles. If there were a way to prove it other than by the collective nodding of everyone reading this statement as fact I would share it. But it’s true. We hate the Cowboys up here. So, with the 4-2 Eagles traveling to the 5-1 Cowboys for a huge game on Sunday Night Football this week, we wanted to ask: Why are there so many Cowboys fans around Philly?
This was prompted by several people asking me that very question this week. Without a good answer in response, I went searching for something tangible. Initially, I thought the answer stemmed from the Cowboys’ rise to success in the 1970s, suggesting that ‘America’s Team’ grabbed fans from all over, and since the Eagles played so far away from Dallas — why would they ever put a new NFL team from Dallas in the same division as teams from Philly and New York, I assumed — it stands to reason that people would gravitate to the best team, and one that was on television the most.
That would be a good guess, if it weren’t totally wrong.
The Cowboys have been in the NFC East since they entered the NFL and have managed to escape divisional reshuffling despite the geographic dissonance from the rest of the NFC East for nearly 50 years. That explains why people up here hate them so much — five Super Bowls wins to zero and 10 appearances to two will do that — but it doesn’t shed light on why there are so many Dallas fans in this area.
Philly Twitter personality and Cowboys
troll fan OuttaHerrrrreee changed his name on the social media platform to Cowboys Bro recently, for no reason but to antagonize Eagles fans he’s friends with online. I asked him why he rooted for Dallas in football, but the Philly teams in other pro sports. He explained that his dad was from the Main Line but rooted for Johnny Unitas and Don Shula growing up, while his mom, from north of Scranton, rooted for the Packers and Cowboys.
“I was always raised to root against the Eagles, and partly because of my mom, to cheer for the Cowboys. One year, at 3-4 years old I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy for Halloween (1988-89?). As I got older, more and more I was raised to root for them, and that I did. I got the hats, the jackets, the sheets for my bed, curtains, blankets, rugs… everything was Cowboys-related.”
Then, like almost every local Cowboys fan, came the qualifier. (There’s always a qualifier.)
“I know this is going to sound really stupid, and I can understand it,” he said, “but my Grandmother (mom’s side) used to live just north of Dallas, PA. I honestly thought they were from there when I was young. It was something I related to.”
He talked about a bet he had with his third grade teacher every time the teams played, a tradition that continued even after he wasn’t in her class. “It was something we bonded over even if it was about the rivalry. It was fun having the rivalry with my friends. The arguments, debates… it was all in good fun.”
For Dallas fans, it is in good fun. It takes a certain kind of success to look at this rivalry as fun. Eagles fans don’t seem to have as much fun with it. (Or much fun at all, really.)
Over the years, the rivalry between Dallas and Philly has grown fiercer. From the early ’80s NFC championship game to the Buddy Ryan Bounty Bowl, to year after year of division title fights — 11 of the last 16 NFC East titles were won by either Philly or Dallas — to this year, when both teams have superstar rookie quarterbacks trying to lead them back to the playoffs, the wins feel bigger when they come against Dallas.
The losses, tougher to take.
Al Puryear is a regular caller to the 97.5 The Fanatic morning show. He’s a Cowboys fan, who has been given the radio moniker ‘Angry Al,’ yet in talking with him about the rivalry, he’s anything but. In fact, he told me part of the reason he never became an Eagles fan was because the fans are too angry.
“That’s one of the reasons I think I’ve never come over to being an Eagles fan,” Puryear explained, “because some of the Eagles fans take it way too serious, man. I mean, at a certain point I realize we’re talking about a football game here. And if you listen to some of these guys — I guess a part of me likes that if I never come over [to being an Eagles fan] I’ll always be a certain amount of an antagonist, but it’s just like, if you listen to some of the Eagles fans…”
Puryear cut himself off before ordering up the greatest knock on Eagles fans I’ve ever heard.
“Seriously,” he said, “after they lost to Detroit, I was going to go to Primo Hoagies that day, but I didn’t because people get so wound up in the Eagles game that your sandwich isn’t even good a day after the Eagles lose.”
Puryear explained that both his parents were Cowboys fans after his dad had crossed paths in the military with ‘Bullet’ Bob Hayes. “He was one of the first black players to get a contract from an NFL team,” Puryear said, “so they sort of cheered him on. Back then Philadelphia was a really racist sports town — it really hasn’t grown that much, but that’s another story — so it was more that kind of thing.”
He said he grew up with the Cowboys footie pajamas and all the decorations and it just stuck. His kids are all Eagles fans, he admitted, even though Puryear tried to raise them “in a Cowboys house.”
It’s funny to think of pajamas as a reason to root for a team, but back in the ’70s and ’80s, footies were the thing. Chad Deal grew up across the Delaware in the heart of Eagles country, in South Jersey, but proudly wore the Dallas star, mostly to annoy his friends he admits now, but also because of the PJs.
“My grandmother bought the wrong pajamas when I was 3,” he shared. “My dad was an Eagles fan and my grandfather was Giants fan. I stayed with it to split the difference, then later in life more to be annoying to Eagles fans.”
There is no empirical data to show how many Cowboys fans there are in this area. A request to the NFL to share geographic jersey sales data for Cowboys players was denied. “We don’t release info like that,” and NFL spokesman said. Alas, even though Dallas doesn’t even have top selling jersey in the state of Texas this year — that goes to J.J. Watt — the Cowboys have four of the top 15 selling jerseys in the country, and two of the top three rookie jerseys (Carson Wentz is No. 1, followed by Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott).
Cowboys fans are everywhere. Yes, including here. And they are loud, and that’s certainly on purpose.
Jamie Lynch is the producer of the 97.5 The Fanatic morning show and told me that 15 to 20 percent of the calls they got this week came from Cowboys fans. They are routinely so annoying on the radio that the show actually banned Cowboys fans from calling on Monday. “They started scurrying out on Tuesday,” Lynch said.
“I think the Cowboys being dominant in the ’90s led a lot of front-running type of people to the Cowboys,” he offered, “but from my experience most of them have some story about their fathers. I’ve heard ‘my father was a Navy man and loved [Roger] Staubach,’ ‘my father loved cowboy & western movies so it was a natural fit,’ ‘they were always on TV, so that’s who I rooted for’ and a classic new one today ‘I was a South Philly paper boy and the paper had a contest for Pigeons tickets and a kid from the suburbs who’s family had ties to the Pigeons ended up winning the tickets, I was pissed at the organization and never looked back.'”
Philadelphia is 1,500 miles away from Dallas, and yet these are the reasons people became Dallas Cowboys fans in Philly. Spurned paperboys. Movie genres. Geographical coincidences. Family connections. Frustrated fans turned frontrunners. Pajamas. (And, well, maybe a little local racism.)
And pajamas, again.
Lynch offered another explanation, too. “It’s not necessarily because they’re good,” he said of the Cowboys franchise that has made the playoffs just once in the last six seasons. “But being ‘America’s Team’ is going to attract fans from all over the place, and Philadelphians are such territorial creatures, with the majority of fans never leaving the city, they can’t really comprehend this.
“Never have, never will.”