Book Review: Ten-Gallon War
Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future is my second read by John Eisenberg, following That First Season. As the subtitle indicates, Ten-Gallon War covers that odd periods in football history when the AFL and the NFL both had teams in Dallas. Now, Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States, but back in the early 1960’s that was most emphatically not the case.
The basic story is relatively straightforward. Local son of zillionaire Lamar Hunt couldn’t get an NFL team, so he banded together with other people who couldn’t like Bud Adams, Barron Hilton, and others to form the AFL, including a Dallas franchise. The NFL then responded by expanding, including to Dallas in a franchise owned by another son of a local zillionaire, Clint Murchison. The Cowboys and the Texans battled over prime dates in the Cotton Bowl (where both teams played their home games), the support of the local business community, and getting butts in seats for home games, including with what were viewed as gimmicky moves and by aggressively discounting tickets. Both teams lost money for three years and when the Texans drew poorly even en route to an AFL championship in 1962, Lamar Hunt looked to move the Texans and did move them to Kansas City.
As he did in That First Season, Eisenberg tells the narrative story of that point well, in a way that is very readable. I enjoyed That First Season more than I expected to, since I didn’t find his choice of the 1959 Packers season that interesting. The struggle for Dallas was to me inherently a much more interesting subject, but ultimately I’m not sure how much additional understanding I gained from reading Ten-Gallon War as opposed to what I already knew from, say, America’s Game and other readings on the history of the AFL. The most interesting part of the story to me was what led Hunt to be the one to move and Murchison the one to stay. The Texans were more successful on the field, albeit against lesser competition, while the Cowboys had the advantage of bigger road gates to defray any home losses. Murchison was more emphatic in his public statements and commitments to staying in Dallas, while Hunt was more equivocal. Then again, we’ve seen in other situations what those sorts of proclamations are worth. Hunt, it seems, just blinked first, though I didn’t get a good grasp of why. Perhaps the new MacCambridge bio will shed more light as to why.
Recommended for what it is.