Norman Vincent Peale may not be right on in asserting that "if Jesus were alive today he'd be going to the Super Bowl." But more than just the way the ball bounced put the Cowboys from Dallas and the Broncos from Denver in Sunday's big game.
For both cities command in abundance the values and attributes that make for success. Neither allows itself to be overburdened by the discontents and hangups that now hobble former national pacemakers on the East and West Coasts.
To grasp the symbolism of the Super Bowl a word is in order about the role of sports in American life. Sports in general, and big-time professional sports especially, represent a kind of mythic enclave. On the playing fields, and on the playing fields almost alone, individualism and independence - that is to say the leading values in the national myth - still apply in pureform. Winners win - and often win very big, as the six-fugure salaries of the best players and coaches indicate. Losers get fingered, in no ambigudus way, as lossers. In sports - unlike the home, business and government - outcomes are not negotiated, failures not cushioned and competion not softened.
Dallas and Denver represent parts of the country peculiarly in tune with the individualistic ethic. The most obvious common denominator is close access to the eneryg-producing interests, and the new fortunes that go with them.
Dallas grew rich as the headquarters city for development of the great East Texas oilfield. Some of the most successful individual entrepreneurs - notably the Richardsons and the Murchisons - make their home in the region.
Some industry, especially oil drilling, is a direct byproduct. Most of the Dallas banks, insurance companies and law firms are connected with oil. The proliferation of office work has fostered a growth of services, particularly in such companies as Ross Perot's Electronic Data Systems, Inc.
Denver has become the administrative and transport center of the rush to develop coal, gas, oil and uranium in the Rocky Mountain states. A great many of the major energy companies have dramatically increased their Denver operations.
The corporate growth has touched off a fantastic real-estate boom. Big new office buildings are on the rise all over the downtown area, and executive housing is at a premium in the suburbs. Because of its use by the private planes of the energy companies, Stapleton Airport, which services only the 20th biggest city in the country, has become the fourth most active in number of flights.
The first consequence of these activities is a crop of new millionaires, eager to assert their exuberant self-confidence by backing big-time sports. They poured in the money required for hiring super coaches and dozens of dynamite players.
In both cities economic growth has bred a sense of fellowship, of community spirit. Loyal fans turn out to support the team game after game and year after year. They create the kind of climate in which the television and papers concentrate heavily on the teams, and in which political leaders find it no trick at all to raise mony for a new stadium andall the appropriate access facilities.
The Cowboys and the Broncos crystallize a civic purpose, an aspiration to which the most active part of the citizenry is committed. They want a win in the Super Bowl, heart and soul.
More than urban sociology explains successful football teams. Oakland nearly made the Super Bowl, and Pittsburgh has been a strong contender for years. Still, Dallas and Denver express the upsurge of a particularly fortunate part of the country. So whether you like the Cowboys or the Broncos and six points, it's worth remembering that the proceeds of the energy investment the country has been making ought to be spread as widely as possible - and particularly to the great urban centers that are most in trouble.