The Dallas Cowboys call themselves America's Team. They're Mexico's Team, too.
The Cowboys, popular in Mexico because of the Mexican kickers they have employed and their Super bowl status, play the Houston Oilers Monday night before what is expected to be the largest crowd ever to see an NFL game.Some 108,000 tickets have been sold for the game, the last of four NFL exhibitions played outside the United States this preseason. Other games were played in Berlin, Barcelona, Spain, and Tokyo.
The attenadance record for a game involving an NFL team was set at Chicago's Soldier Field in 1947 when the College All-Stars played the NFL champion Chicago Bears before 105,840. The official capacity of Aztec Stadium is 110,000.
Aztec Stadium, used primarily for soccer, is at 7,347-feet, some 2,000 feet higher than Denver's Mile High Stadium.
"It's going to be big for NFL purposes, and it's a big trip because you're playing the world champions," Oilers wide receiver Ernest Givins said. "But remember, it's an exhibition game."
The Oilers will attempt to add to their streak of five straight preseason victories over the popular Cowboys, who have their own Mexican edition of the Dallas Cowboys Weekly newspaper and a local Cowboys Fan Club.
The Cowboys gained popularity in Mexico during the Tom Landry era when they had kickers such as Danny Villaneuva, Effren Herrera and Rafael Septien. Winning Super Bowls the past two seasons has also added to their appeal.
It will be the first NFL game played in Mexico City since 1978, when the Philadelphia Eagles played the New Orleans Saints at University Stadium.
Oilers offensive coordinator Dick Coury was a member of the Eagles staff in 1978 and doesn't anticipate players having any problems with the altitude.
"The more you talk about the altitude, the worse it gets," Coury said. "I don't think there will be any problems."
Since it's an exhibition game, there will be plenty of substitutions so players won't have the exertion of a regular season game.
"I wouldn't say it will be a no-holds barred deal," Oilers coach Jack Pardee said. "I hope we can look like a decent team and play well, but we want to look at a lot of personnel."
The inconvenience of playing a game outside the U.S. is diminished by the short flight from Austin and San Antonio, where the Cowboys and Oilers have their training camps.
"The great thing about this trip is it takes just 21/2 hours to get there; it's like flying to New York," Cowboys coach Barry Switzer said.
NFL rushing champion Emmitt Smith could get his first playing time of the preseason and the Cowboys also want running back Lincoln Coleman to get plenty of work as he gets back into shape.
The starting quarterbacks, Dallas' Troy Aikman and Houston's Cody Carlson, won't get much playing time. It will be a game of spotlighting backups.
Cowboy backup Rodney Peete, who had an off performance Sunday against the Los Angeles Raiders, will try to rebound. And the battle for the Oilers' No. 2 quarterback will continue between Bucky Richardson and Sean Salisbury.
"Of course, we always like to beat the Cowboys," Oilers quarterback Bucky Richardson said.
The Oilers have done well against the Cowboys in their recent meetings. Houston coach Jack Pardee is 5-0 in preseason and 1-0 in the regular season against Dallas since taking over the Oilers in 1990.