No Day for Games

November 21, 2013 | Marty Mossa

The following blog is based on the show Costas Tonight on NBCSN. On Wednesday’s show Costas examined the assassination of John F. Kennedy fifty years from tomorrow. The show mainly focused on how the events in Dallas affected the Dallas Cowboys. Since the NFL decided to play on Sunday, November 24, 1963; the Cowboys were forced to go to Cleveland and bring with them the baggage of represented a city that “killed” Kennedy.

In 2013 the Dallas Cowboys are financially the most valuable NFL franchise. But in 1963 they were an upstart team that wasn’t very good. They were 3-7 going into week ten the weekend before Thanksgiving.

On November 22, 1963 as President Kennedy was arriving at Love Field in Dallas; the Cowboys were only a few miles away practicing in preparation of Browns game in Cleveland.

Pettis Norman the Cowboys tight end said “we were on the practice field and someone said ‘what if some nut was to shoot the president’? “Then we thought that was farfetched.”
Cowboy player Jerry Overton remembers “all of a sudden there was an extreme amount of sirens and someone said ‘there must have been a terrible accident for that much to be going on.”

“This NBC News, here is Peter Hackus in Washington; ‘President Kennedy has been shot.”

“As we were getting back in the huddle, someone said in the huddle ‘the president’s been shot.”

The Cowboy’s trainer at the time Clint Hovy said: “I said I better go out and tell Coach Landry about this. I said coach, some tragic event has occurred in downtown Dallas. He looked at me kind of strange and said ‘what are you talking about?’ “I said coach someone shot President Kennedy. He looked at me in disbelief; his face became ashen at the time and said ‘you said what?”

“Coach Landry called us all together and said the President and Governor (Connolly) had been shot and both were taken to the hospital. They are both alive so we’re going to continue to practice until we hear something further.” Bob Lilly

Pettis Norman said “we just stood there in total disbelief. We just could not believe it. It seemed like life had stopped.”

When it was learned that the president had expired; Norman didn’t “want” to play. According to Bob Lilly, “We didn’t want to play.”

Many waited after the minor league AFL decided not to play, as well as many college games were cancelled. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle consulted with Kennedy Press Secretary Pierre Salinger who told him “Jack would want you to play.”

As the many games were scheduled to play two days after the shooting, Cleveland was preparing to keep the visiting Cowboys safe. Brown’s owner Art Model’s office received numerous calls stating that when the team coaches stepped onto the field they would be shot.

Upon arrival in Cleveland, the Dallas players were told that if they ventured away from their hotel not to advertise that they were from Dallas.

A the players were gathered at in their locker room at Cleveland Municipal Stadium; for their pregame meeting, word came in that Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by night club owner Jack Ruby. Many of the players knew and disliked Ruby.

Bob Lilly would say that usually on game day, he had a “chip” on his shoulder but didn’t want to play this game. Art Model told stadium pa announcer Johnny Holiday to refer to the Cowboys as only the Cowboys and not interject the title Dallas into it. Bob Lilly said people screamed “go home Dallas, murders. You could see the anger toward us because we were from Dallas.”

As players looked around the “mistake” by the lake, they saw armed guards; the players looked around worried that there might be someone in the stands ready to shoot them.

“There were bottles and debris thrown at us throughout the game; we didn’t take off our helmets.”