*Editor's Note: Dan Turner spent some time at training camp in Oxnard this past summer and has been a guest on "Talkin' Cowboys" to share his stories and opinions from London. Dan will also contribute to DallasCowboys.com when the Cowboys are in London next week to face the Jaguars. *
An Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman, an Italian, a Greek, a Polishman, a Romanian, and a German all walk into a bar. Actually, they walk into an article, this article.
It's quite easy to think of the Dallas Cowboys as just 'America's Team'. After this week, it will also likely be seen as 'Great Britain's Team'. Are they also 'Europe's Team'?
May I first of all just thank the kind people who answered my questions so superbly and eloquently. It was fascinating to hear the stories of these fans. I write for this site as a UK Cowboys fan, so I feel as though I should also represent this continent as a whole.
The Englishman is Gary Jordan. I owe a lot to Gary. It was his editing, publishing, and distributing of my very first articles that got me started in writing. Like so many of the people I questioned, Gary became interested in the NFL in the early 1980's. That was when Britain was introduced to the sport, through television coverage. The reason he chose the Cowboys is the most English reason you will ever hear. Dallas lost to Washington in the 1982 NFC Championship game, and he decided to go for the loser. Us English love an underdog, even though he admits that he realised afterwards that the Cowboys weren't the underdog. He says that 'the current boom (in popularity) is certainly bigger than the original back in the 1980's', which is saying something!
Paul Healy is the Irishman. With the popularity of Gaelic football and Rugby, it's no surprise that American football is big there as well. Paul tells me that it's obvious that the NFL is increasing in popularity in Ireland, due to the huge rise in stores selling merchandise. The Irish-Boston link means that the New England Patriots are the most supported team there, but the Cowboys are close behind. He claims that, 'I didn't pick the Cowboys, they picked me.'
Next are the 2 fans from the great Ancient empires, Italy and Greece. My Italian friend, Marco Volpi provides a fascinating insight into the Cowboys, and NFL in general in Italy. Marco is the admin for the group 'Dallas Cowboys Italia', who I can honestly say are as passionate about the Cowboys as anyone. The first game Marco watched was Super Bowl XXX when the Cowboys beat the Steelers. He also plays football himself to a high standard for Islanders Venezia. It is a challenge being an Italian Cowboys fan. The media don't really give any NFL coverage, and television stations don't often show it, so NFL Game Pass is incredibly helpful. The NFL is increasing in popularity in Italy. The language barrier has been an issue in getting fans involved, but there has been an increase in Italian NFL sites over recent years.
Our resident Greek is Nik Antonas. He technically lives in Britain, and is one of the heads of the UK Cowboys fans group, but he is half Greek, and that's good enough. Unfortunately, he tells me that 'NFL barely resonates in Greece'. They are 3 hours ahead of us, so a 1pm game in the States would start at 9pm in Greece. That doesn't even account for the late games. He says the UK 'are going to go crazy for our 'Boys', and I tend to agree.
Next we delve into Eastern Europe, into Poland and Romania, and Adam Zaziemski and Andrei Alex respectively. Adam doesn't believe Poland has embraced American football yet. He does say that there is 'definitely a market there left unexploited.' Adam has been a fan since the early 1980's, and his favourite moment was the Cowboys win in Super Bowl XXVII against the Bills. He admits to being a bigger Arsenal fan than the Cowboys though.
Andrei became a fan during in the early 1990's. Unfortunately, he tells me that this is the first year since 2006 that no television stations are showing the NFL. It's a shame because the NFL was gaining fans quickly in Romania, and it will be a hindrance not being able to watch games. Andrei watches games on NFL Game Pass now, and even stays up for games which start at 3:30am, which makes me feel ashamed to complain about 1:30am starts. His favourite ever game was the win against Philadelphia in the playoffs in 2009.
Next is the historical foreign enemy of the English, a Scotsman. Paul Stewart was a fan of the NFL Europe team, the Scottish Claymore's. He chose to support the Cowboys because he liked the look of a Cowboys baseball cap when he was 9, and bought it. The NFL may be bigger in Scotland than in England. Scotland has a professional team called the East Kilbride Pirates, and Paul says the number of participants in the sport is rapidly increasing as well. He says his favourite moment as a Cowboys fan was when the London game was announced, saying 'honestly, I have never ever been more excited over a sporting event in my life.'
Germany is the next represented, by Lars, who some may know as OCC. He initially gained interest in the Cowboys when his father would bring him home the comics, 'Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys', when he was 7 years old. After years of sparingly being able to watch games, he was able to start watching over the internet in 2002. This rekindled his love for the Cowboys. OCC tells me that 'Germany is the most football-friendly country in Europe.' Frankfurt Galaxy, the biggest team in NFL Europe, was drawing an average attendance of 33,000 in 2007. As he says, 'NFL Europe was basically NFL Germany.' He believes the International Series should have a more globalised focus. Instead of just having games in London, share it out between London, Berlin, and even some lesser supporting places, like Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. These are rapidly developing cities, so it would be a wise financial idea to implement support for the NFL there.
My Welsh victim is Colin Caesar. Interestingly, he became a Cowboys fan because the first game he watched was in 1983 between the Cowboys and the Redskins. He instantly took a dislike to Washington, so decided to support Dallas. Out of everyone I questioned on why they became a Cowboys fan, this was by far my favourite reason. He's also a rugby fan, as are many NFL fans. He says that the NFL is increasing here mainly due to the increased coverage, and social media.
The UK and Ireland have embraced the Cowboys, so have Italy, Germany, and even Eastern Europe to some extent, but the rest of Europe is a little sketchy. This is likely more down to a lack of exposure though. The NFL world has widened almost exponentially over the last 20 years. This will carry on well into the 21st century.
This article hasn't quite shown that the Cowboys are Europe's team yet, but to limit them to Dallas, or America, or the Atlantic Alliance, would be wrong. They will soon be a world renowned team, and you better start believing it.