HOUSTON – Bill “Cowboy” Lamza, as his nickname suggests, loves his Dallas Cowboys. He wears a remarkable crafted suit bedazzled with Cowboys logos and matching sequined shoes. Tex Schramm made him the founding father of the Cowboys national fan club. And he tells anyone who will listen how wonderful America’s Team is.
Just one problem, he comes from Houston.
“Which is why I need to watch my back,” laughed Lamza, 75, a retired senior executive for an oil and gas supply company, in an interview with USA TODAY Sports at his home a short drive outside the Super Bowl city.
Houston has mixed feelings about how this year’s playoffs turned out, and the fact that it is the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons who will be squaring off on Sunday.
For some, the exit from the postseason of the Cowboys, who went into the playoffs as a favorite to go all the way after a 13-3 regular season record, is an almighty blessing. For others, it is a lost opportunity for profit.
“I am working every shift I can this week but I know I would have made more money if the Cowboys were here,” said Cheri Smith, 23, who works part-time at two local bars. “Dallas would have brought a lot more people and Dallas people are kind of flashy. They spend big and tip well.”
With Dallas just over a three-hour drive away, Super Bowl organizers anticipated that the event’s week-long festivities would have seen a huge spike in attendance had Jerry Jones’ pride and joy gotten over the line.
“There would have been a lot more traffic and it would have also been really good for the Houston economy,” local entrepreneur Mykel Walker said. “A lot of people would have come in just for the day and it would have boosted the city.”
Not everyone would have been impressed.
“It makes me laugh when I hear people say that,” said Sam Chilton, a local student and lifelong Texans fan. “The people who say they are Texans fans but that they wouldn’t mind if the Cowboys had made it – it’s simple, they’re not real Texans fans and probably not real football fans.
“If you truly love the Texans, then you truly hate the Cowboys. I am sick of them. I’m sick of their fans and their arrogance, I’m sick of Jerry Jones and I’m sick of this idea that they somehow represent Texas and represent America. They don’t.”
What would have made things infinitely more painful for Texans fans would have been the gloating presence of “Cowboy” Bill, who has made a habit of infuriating his fellow Houstonians with his pro-Cowboys rants for years.
Radio talk show program directors would routinely call him up on a slow night, hoping to get a spirited debate and chatter going, and with a sharp tongue and razor-like wit he never failed to incite some ire.
“It has been a lot of fun because I’m associated with the Cowboys and the people down here are so jealous of the success and notoriety of our team,” Lamza said. “They have been living in the shadows of Dallas success for so long. They still can’t get it together. When they named the team the Texans I thought that was pretty ridiculous because the Dallas Cowboys own this state. The Texans should pay the Cowboys rent for playing here.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, and much to his delight, Lamza was named third on a list of the most hated sports figures in Houston several years ago.
Given that former Oilers owner Bud Adams topped the list and has since died, Lamza is trying to figure out how to leapfrog ex-Oilers head coach Jerry Glanville into top spot.
Super Bowl organizers want to embrace the whole state of Texas and incorporated much of the region’s culture into its supplemental events.
“It is an affectionate rivalry,” Hasting Stewart, executive vice president for public affairs of the host committee, said. “The main thing for us is to put Houston on an international platform and that’s what the Super Bowl represents to the city.”
Some fans accept that – with a caveat.
“I accept that it is a big event for Houston and we want to do the city proud,” Houston businessman Ronnie Finch said. “It would have been tough for us to have the Cowboys come – and maybe win – in our city, but I actually respect them a lot as a team.”
For all the friendly tones, Lamza can always be relied on to stir things up and admits he would not have been a gracious winner had the Cowboys made it to the biggest game of all.
“It would have been a nightmare for Houston and a dream come true for me,” he said. “My neighbors would probably have moved out.”