Bounty Bowl

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The Bounty Bowl was the name given to two notorious NFL games held in 1989 between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. The first, a 1989 Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas was most noted for allegations that the Eagles put a $200 bounty on Cowboys kicker Luis Zendejas, cut by Philadelphia earlier that season. The second was a highly touted rematch between the two teams that was held two weeks later in Philadelphia, noted for the rowdy behavior of fans attending the game. Philadelphia, already heavily favored to win both games due to the Cowboys having an extremely poor season that year, swept the series.

Bounty Bowl I: The 1989 Thanksgiving Classic[edit]

Bounty Bowl I
Texas Stadium.jpeg
Texas Stadium, the site of the game
1 2 3 4 Total
PHI 0 10 14 3 27
DAL 0 0 0 0 0
Date November 23, 1989
Stadium Texas Stadium
Location Irving, Texas
Referee Gene Barth
Favorite Philadelphia −17
Network CBS
Announcers Pat Summerall and John Madden

On November 23, 1989, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan found himself at the center of yet another controversy. The Eagles defeated Dallas by a score of 27–0, Dallas's only Thanksgiving game shutout. During the lopsided game, vitriol came to the surface on the field as the rivals got into several skirmishes, most notably when Dallas placekicker Luis Zendajas left the game with a concussion following a hard tackle by linebacker Jessie Small after a kickoff.

Following the game, which was broadcast on CBS with Pat Summerall and John Madden calling the game, Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson alleged that Ryan had taken out a bounty on two of his players, Dallas (and former Philadelphia) kicker Luis Zendejas and quarterback Troy Aikman. Johnson said:[1]

Buddy Ryan flat-out denied the bounty accusation, saying that film of the game "show that Small had no intention of hurting Zendejas."[2] The Philadelphia coach scoffed at the very idea, pointing out that it would have been in the Eagles' best interests to keep the Dallas kicker in the game because he was in a slump.[2] He also jokingly responded to Johnson's accusations:[2]

Zendejas claimed that when he was with the Eagles, a player had once received $100 each for hits on a punter[citation needed] and kicker.[3] This is what led his coach Jimmy Johnson to make the accusation that a bounty had existed in this game as well.[citation needed]

This game marked the first time a most valuable player was picked for a Thanksgiving game. John Madden handed out the first "Turkey Leg Award" to Reggie White. Such an award became an annual Thanksgiving tradition among CBS and Fox (and later, the NFL Network).

In 2008 and on April 11, 2010, the game was included on a list of the ten most memorable moments in the history of Texas Stadium by ESPN.[4]

This series of events set the stage for the scheduled rematch two weeks later in Philadelphia, dubbed "Bounty Bowl II."

Bounty Bowl II[edit]

Bounty Bowl II
Veterans stade.png
Veterans Stadium, the site of the game
1 2 3 4 Total
DAL 0 3 7 0 10
PHI 0 17 3 0 20
Date December 10, 1989
Stadium Veterans Stadium
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Referee Jerry Seeman
Favorite Philadelphia −17
Network CBS
Announcers Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw

After rumors spread that Eagles coach Buddy Ryan had put a bounty out on Dallas kicker Luis Zendejas during the first meeting two weeks earlier, the Eagles fans were more than rowdy when the rematch was held in Philadelphia. Gameday was December 10, 1989, with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in attendance. The game was anticipated as a media event. CBS Sports touted the game as "Bounty Bowl II," complete with wanted posters and the offending players, with the bounty posted, as part of the network's pre-game opening.

The volatile mix of beer, plentiful snow (the Veterans Stadium crew had not removed snow that had piled up for several days), the bounty, and the intense hatred for "America's Team" led to the Eagles' notoriously rowdy fans throwing everything within reach. Notable targets included back judge Al Jury, who was knocked to the ground by a barrage of snowballs; Cowboys punter Mike Saxon, who was targeted in the end zone; and Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, who was hit with snowballs, ice, and beer as he was hastily escorted off the field by Philadelphia Police. Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw announced the game for CBS, and they spent the afternoon denouncing Eagles fans and dodging snowballs aimed at the broadcast booth (broadcast booths are traditionally open during broadcasts); at the end of the game, Lundquist stated on the air that an oral surgery a few days prior had not been as unpleasant as broadcasting an Eagles game.[5] Even the Eagles' players were struck. As Eagles defensive lineman Jerome Brown stood on the players' sideline seats pleading for the fans to stop throwing things, he too was hit.

Future Pennsylvania governor and Eagles fan Edward Rendell got caught up in the fallout from that game when he admitted to a reporter that he was involved in the bedlam. The then-former Philadelphia district attorney and future mayor and governor had bet another fan $20 that the fan couldn't reach the field with a snowball; Rendell lost.[6]

The Eagles won the game 20–10.

As a result of the chaotic melee, the team added security and banned beer sales for their last remaining home game of the regular season vs. the Phoenix Cardinals and the subsequent NFC Wild Card playoff game vs. the Los Angeles Rams.

Porkchop Bowl[edit]

A third game in the heated rivalry took place the next season, known as the "Porkchop Bowl." Philadelphia won this game as well, 21–20.

After the Porkchop Bowl, the series rivalry settled down to the usual level between division rivals.

Philadelphia did not play another Thanksgiving game until the 2008 NFL season.

See also[edit]


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