Sports media loves nothing more than debating the Dallas Cowboys.

The sports media is obsessed with the Dallas Cowboys. This is no surprise. They are the most popular team in the most popular sport in the country. They are “America’s Team” for a reason.

But it’s also been 28 years since Dallas won the Super Bowl or even advanced to the NFC Championship Game. In that time, Super Bowl viewership has grown from 94 million for Super Bowl XXX to over 120 million for Super Bowl LVIII. Also, 13 different NFL teams have won a Super Bowl title since the Cowboys last lifted the Lombardi Trophy. Patrick Mahomes was just four months old in January 1996.

Yes, the Cowboys are popular. But so are the Lakers, Yankees, Notre Dame, and other teams that have been institutions for decades. Yet none get near the year-round attention, scrutiny, and fixation that Dallas does.

But just how deep does this obsession go? Is it obnoxious, unhealthy, or overstated? How much of a crutch are America’s Team for the 24/7 news cycle of sports debate and discussion? How often does the sports media talk about the Cowboys, Dak Prescott, and Jerry Jones ad infinitum for seemingly no reason at all?

To find out, Awful Announcing ran an experiment last week.

AA tracked the two main sports networks that run daytime sports talk programming, ESPN and FS1, for Monday, March 25 through Friday, March 29 to track just how many times they talked about the Cowboys. This week was selected because there was absolutely nothing of note happening with the Dallas Cowboys – no games, no signings, no trades, no controversial comments, nothing. Even Dallas Cowboys blog sites are talking about the team’s “slow offseason.”

It also coincided with a ridiculously packed time in the sports calendar – March Madness, Opening Day, and the stretch run of the NBA and NHL seasons.

We did a closed captioning search for three terms – “Cowboys,” “Dak,” and “Jerry” for Jerry Jones. (We made sure to sort out the few references to recently traded wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.) While consuming this much sports debate about the Cowboys should come with a warning from the CDC, these are the lengths that AA is willing to go to inform its readers.

Here are the results, which uncovered a few notable trends and surprises.

“Cowboys” Mentions By Network

FS1: 106
ESPN: 38

“Dak” Mentions By Network

FS1: 103
ESPN: 35

“Jerry” Mentions By Network

FS1: 89
ESPN: 19

Total Mentions By Network

FS1: 298
ESPN: 92

Featured Segments By Network

FS1: 26
ESPN: 12

Analysis

Incredibly, FS1 blew ESPN out of the water when it came to the Cowboys by a 3-1 margin. In fact, FS1 might as well just label themselves the Cowboys Sports Network with how much airtime they devoted to the franchise in the middle of the NFL offseason.

Naturally, most of the segments centered around QB Dak Prescott. “Dak” was mentioned over 100 times this week on FS1 with conversations about his contract, his future in Dallas, and whether or not he can win a Super Bowl. Most of it was incredibly boring, the kind of paint-by-numbers stuff that would probably put even diehard Cowboys fans to sleep for how repetitive and pointless it all is. Not even Dak Prescott cares about Dak Prescott being disrespected in March like Emmanuel Acho does.

But some moments also made you question whether or not you were living in a kind of alternate universe like Skip Bayless arguing that Shedeur Sanders is a better QB than Prescott in some kind of AI-generated SEO fever dream.

FS1 also gives an inordinate amount of attention to Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones, mentioning him more times than every other athlete we could find except Prescott and LeBron James. (More on that in a minute.) It’s almost like the network’s talk shows are the children of Succession fighting over the love and money of their billionaire family patriarch.

Over on ESPN, the conversation was much more muted and well-balanced with the network actually finding real-time stories to talk about most of the time. However, ESPN also fell into some of the same tired tropes with most of the Cowboys content focused on Dak’s contract.

If you just landed on Earth, you would think Dak Prescott would be a breakthrough generational athlete (Caitlin Clark), a three-time championship-winning quarterback (Patrick Mahomes), or he was the greatest of all time (Tom Brady). Nope, he’s a guy who has made the same amount of Pro Bowls as Andy Dalton.

FS1 Breakdown By Show

The Carton Show: 87
Undisputed: 64
The Herd: 71
First Things First: 40
Speak: 36

Incredibly, the show that talked about the Cowboys the most was not their number one fan Skip Bayless and Undisputed. It fell behind both The Herd and the overall winner – The Carton Show. In fairness, Carton (like Get Up) repeats segments often as an early morning show, so perhaps that inflates their numbers. However, Colin Cowherd was the only show to mention the Cowboys, Prescott, and Jones every single day.

ESPN Breakdown By Show

Get Up: 54
First Take: 30
The Pat McAfee Show: 6
Around the Horn: 3
Pardon The Interruption: 0

There’s a reason why Pardon The Interruption has been regarded as the gold standard and has never been topped in sports debate shows – because they actually discuss topics that matter. PTI didn’t mention the Cowboys once all week, which is like finding an oasis in the middle of the sports talk desert. On the other hand, Get Up led their Tuesday show with Cowboys talk as the show that had the most Cowboys chatter. First Take predictably followed next. But it’s also worth giving a shoutout to McAfee, who has shown a real willingness to shine a spotlight on non-traditional sports talk favorites with a unique blend of content.

Comparisons

Just how out of whack was the Cowboys coverage compared to what else was going on in the sports world? Here’s a comparison of some other athletes and teams who were featured in the news last week to see how it fared overall.

“LeBron” Mentions

FS1: 181
ESPN: 47

“Caitlin Clark” Mentions

FS1: 6
ESPN: 40

“Mahomes” Mentions

FS1: 60
ESPN: 40

“Draymond” Mentions

FS1: 51
ESPN: 58

“UConn” Mentions

FS1: 33
ESPN: 64

“Caleb” Mentions

FS1: 71
ESPN: 69

“Opening Day” Mentions

FS1: 13
ESPN: 29

Analysis

As expected, the only athlete that could match talk about the Cowboys was the one and only LeBron James. But again, FS1 was way more infatuated with James and the Lakers than ESPN was this week. LeBron received an incredible 181 mentions on FS1 airwaves but at least A) he’s one of the two best players in his sport’s history and B) he’s actually in-season. Notably, the gap between ESPN and FS1 in the amount of LeBron talk was even more extreme than the Cowboys, which is almost hard to believe.

Patrick Mahomes got a decent number of mentions on both networks, mostly in general segments around QBs and the NFL. Meanwhile, newsmakers like Draymond Green and Caleb Williams were covered similarly by ESPN and FS1. The mentions of Opening Day mostly consisted of promotional ad reads or passing mentions on Thursday.

One huge break the other way was in ESPN’s extra coverage of college basketball, specifically the NCAA Women’s Tournament. Yes, Bristol has the rights to televise the event so it makes sense for them to promote it. But ESPN was way more invested in women’s basketball, and Caitlin Clark specifically, than FS1. In fact, Clark only got a few passing mentions in a couple of quick segments on various shows. She was not mentioned at all on Undisputed according to our closed captioning search. FS1 seems totally uninterested in capturing what is a rapidly growing fanbase.

Overall Thoughts

Most daytime sports shows have seen ratings continue to rise over the last year. In fact, that’s true for pretty much everyone except Skip Bayless and Undisputed And these shows wouldn’t be talking about the Cowboys so much if it didn’t maintain ratings. That’s business after all. It’s why arguably the two most influential “Embrace Debate” figures took opposite sides of Cowboys fandom with Bayless playing up his loyalty and Stephen A. Smith portraying himself as the ultimate troll.

In an ideal world, more diverse topics could be seen as worth diving into for these shows. And maybe we’re slowly making progress there with things like McAfee taking his show to Iowa to cover the women’s tournament.

But when it comes to editorial quality and interesting, relevant sports discussion, the chasm between ESPN and FS1 is jaw-dropping. FS1 is an oldies station that only plays “Every Breath You Take” and “Here I Go Again” every hour of every day. ESPN at least tries to balance playing the hits with what’s happening in the here and now. Shoutouts to McAfee, Around the Horn, and PTI for clearing the rest of the field there by far.

At the end of the day, ESPN may be slightly obsessed with the Cowboys, but not to an egregious level. FS1’s obsession is just flat-out unhealthy.

And remember, this study comes at a time when the Cowboys are going through the quietest part of a quiet offseason. Just imagine how insane the sports talk shows will be when the Cowboys actually move on from Dak, or fire Mike McCarthy, or Jerry Jones tries to usurp Roger Goodell in a coup d’etat. Then it’ll truly be inescapable.