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The Dallas Cowboys: Still America's Team

The NFL regular season kicks off tonight when Minnesota visits New Orleans, and according to a new study, America's favorite team still resides in Texas.

The Nielsen media research company has come out with its first Media Exposure Index of NFL teams and it says the Dallas Cowboys are still the overwhelming favorite among fans.

The Cowboys measure almost 20% more popular that the second-place Pittsburgh Steelers. Nielson looked at local and national TV ratings as well as the hits that each teams website recieved, along with the number of times that the teams were mentioned on the internet.

The Cowboys came out with a "Popularity Index" of 100 -- compared to the Steelers 81. The least popular team in the Nielsen Index was the St. Louis Rams, who registered a 22.

The Top Ten looks like this:

Dallas 100
Pittsburgh 81
N.Y. Giants 70
Chicago 67
Green Bay 67
Minnesota 67
Philadelphia 66
Indianapolis 62
New Orleans 62
New England 58

For the national TV ratings, Nielsen counted the total number of viewers, and since Dallas led the league with 6 national appearances the Cowboys had 117 million viewers for those games. Dallas' website also had the most traffic for 2009, nearly 50% more monthly unique visitors than the second-place Steelers.

The Cowboys popularity can be traced back all the way to its inception -- with the hiring of two former Texas Longhorns -- Tom Landry to coach the team, and Tex Schramm as the team's president and general manager. Schramm, a former sports writer and TV producer, worked as hard on the off-the-field image as the team itself.

Among many innovations, Tex Schramm gave us NFL Cheerleaders.

Scrhamm decided to have the Cowboys train outside the state, on the west coast. He believed that would increase coverage of the team from both the local and national press. He lobbied to get put into the NFL East division, with the N.Y. Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, because that's where the TV sets were.

When the NFL started to put games on Thanksgiving, Schramm jumped at the chance to make it an annual part of the Cowboys schedule. He understood the value of being the only televised game on a late Holiday afternoon.

Tom Landry (Texas '49) built the Dallas Cowboys foundation on the field, while Tex Schramm (Texas '47) created the image that still thrives today.

In the 1978 NFL films highlight tape for the Cowboys, there is a famous silhouette of Tom Landry and his fedora in the shadow of Texas Stadium. The copy in the film reads,

"They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, America's Team."

Landry hated the moniker from the start, but Schramm immediately recognized its value and embraced it with a vengance.

The brand he helped build from that start continues today, seemingly impervious to various playoff failures.

Love 'em or hate 'em the Dallas Cowboys will not be ignored.