There was 9:57 left in the third quarter when the unthinkable happened on Thanksgiving Day, 1974. Roger Staubach – he of the Naval Academy pedigree, a Heisman Trophy winner, Time Magazine cover boy, and Super Bowl VI MVP – was knocked out of the game against the archrival Washington Redskins with a concussion. Legend has it there was a bounty on his head, for without Staubach, the path to a Skins victory was much more easily charted. But not on this day. Not on this Thanksgiving. A rookie gunslinger from Abilene Christian nicknamed the “Mad Bomber” made sure of that.

Having entered the game not having taken a single snap that season, Clint Longley engineered one of the most remarkable Turkey Day comebacks in NFL history. With touchdown passes to TE Billy Joe DuPree and the winning heave to wideout Drew Pearson with 35 seconds left, Longley engineered a victory for the ages.
And that was all she wrote for the Mad Bomber. His 15 seconds were up. Brawling with Staubach on two occasions – the second of which was a cheap shot in the locker room – was not particularly good for job security in Dallas, and Longley was sent packing, barely heard from again.

But how did the Cowboys come to be scheduled for Thanksgiving Day every year? After all, pro football has had its place on the menu dating back to the 1920s, featuring teams with interesting names like Bulldogs, Panhandles, Triangles, and Staleys, playing for cities like Canton, Columbus, Dayton, and Decatur, respectively. The Detroit Lions have been a permanent part of the festivities since 1934, when owner G.A. Richards set up a deal for the Lions to play the defending champion Chicago Bears and have the game broadcast nationally on NBC radio. And the Cowboys? Their fans can give special thanks to original general manager Tex Schramm for making their favorite team part of Thanksgiving tradition that’s become as constant as pumpkin pie and overserved uncles.

Schramm, among other things, was a bit of a marketing prodigy (he also created the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders) and realized that national publicity would help the Cowboys brand, even as the team struggled under head coach Tom Landry. This was back in 1966, and the team was only a few years out of diapers, having been founded six years prior. The league wasn’t particularly confident that many fans would show up and was more than surprised - quite thrilled, actually - when 80,259 took to the Cotton Bowl to watch the home team beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14. And with that, a new tradition was born.

To this day, many football fans of a certain age still picture the fedora and business-suit-wearing Tom Landry when the Dallas Cowboys come to mind. Serving as the team’s first head coach in 1960, the innovative and stoic football lifer roamed the sidelines until 1988, winning two Super Bowls and five NFC championships along the way. Before being named Cowboys coach, he spent six seasons as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. His offensive counterpart on those teams was none other than Vince Lombardi. Landry and Lombardi went from teammates to adversaries, when the two future Hall of Famers faced each other as lead men of their respective teams in the 1967 NFL Championship game forever known as the “Ice Bowl.”

Tom Landry’s non-football legacy – especially his life before joining the professional ranks – is a profile in American courage.

Landry served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. From November 1944 to April 1945 he completed 30 combat missions and survived a crash landing in Belgium after his plane ran out of fuel. He was motivated to fight for our country by his older brother Robert, who enlisted in the Army Air Corps following the attacks on Pearl Harbor and was later shot down and killed over the North Atlantic.

After the war, and a stint as a player from 1949-1955, Landry’s story continued in New York City and then moved to Connecticut, where he lived while making a name for himself on the New York Giants coaching staff. Around that same time, an interior designer by trade named Ruth Bigelow also followed this post-war New York to Connecticut trajectory, settling a family owned tea company in Fairfield.

While the future Cowboys coach was fighting overseas in 1945, family matriarch Ruth Bigelow was living in a New York City brownstone creating the first cup of specialty tea in this country. Happening upon a special colonial recipe that called for tea to be blended with orange peel and spices, she decided to try to recreate what she felt sounded like a wonderful idea. After much trial and error in the family kitchen, she finally hit upon what she thought was the best tasting recipe. She named it Constant Comment, and the Bigelow Tea Company was born.

The connection goes beyond the year and the geography, however, as over three generations Bigelow Tea has been a tremendous supporter of the United States Armed Forces. From donations and sponsorship of the USO, to participation and support for veterans-support organizations Ride2Recovery and the National Veterans Golden Age Games, to their Tea for the Troops program that’s delivered over 4,000,000 tea bags to our overseas soldiers, the brand that launched while Tom Landry was serving our nation has become a stalwart in community giving – especially when it comes to our American troops.

So, when gathering around the television at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time for the Cowboys vs. (you guessed it) the Washington Redskins, take a moment or two to be truly thankful for the traditions we hold dear to our hearts this time of year, including family, homemade food, and football. And reserve a helping of gratitude to those who fought to make these wonderful events possible. Maybe even raise a glass – or perhaps a cup of tea – to the Mad Bomber, who is probably watching the game as well, knowing his one day in the sun 42 years ago will shine on forever.

Happy Thanksgiving!

When the meal is done and the focus is on football, try a Tea Cosmo using Bigelow’s "Constant Comment®"!