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Renegades, Roughnecks stoke Dallas-Houston rivalry

The Houston Roughnecks (3-0) visit the Dallas Renegades (2-1) in Week 4, marking the XFL's first ever Texas Throwdown.

Perhaps football in February is exactly the shot of adrenaline that the moribund Dallas-Houston sports rivalry needs right about now.

Maybe the XFL’s Dallas Renegades and Houston Roughnecks come along at precisely the right time for contention in seek of conflict.

To those who know the regional rivalry best, Dallas vs. Houston is no New York-Boston and no Los Angeles-San Francisco. It might not even be Seattle vs. Portland.

The blood simmers between the sister cities, Texas’ biggest (Houston) and third-biggest (Dallas), but it doesn’t boil over.

Could the Texas Throwdown on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park Stadium in Arlington (4 p.m. ET, FS1) -- the first matchup between the Houston Roughnecks (3-0) and the Dallas Renegades (2-1) -- become the roughest tumble in the Lone Star State?

“I think it has a real chance,” said Clint Stoerner, a host for CBS Sports Radio in Houston and a former Dallas Cowboys and Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback. “I’ve been part of several new leagues, and I think there is more attention here. That's a real anchor here. The Dallas-Houston rivalry, city-to-city -- I think the XFL should take it and run with it. It’s there, but the fire needs to be stoked a little bit and I do believe the XFL is something that can help grow that rivalry.”

With even some of the cities’ most well-known franchises still taking off their training wheels, it is a rivalry in need of growth.

When you think of the great rivalries in this country, almost all of them include sports franchises dating back as far as the turn of the last century. Think Yankees vs. Red Sox or even Knicks vs. Celtics. The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals rivalry dates back to 1892.

Houston only got its baseball team, the Astros, in 1962, and the Texas Rangers came along a decade later from Washington D.C. The NBA’s Rockets landed in Houston a year before the Rangers docked in Arlington, and the Mavericks tipped off eight years after that.

The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers rivalry only began in 1967, lasting 31 years before the Oilers hightailed it to Tennessee to become the Titans. It was so one-sided that Houstonians still have a chip on their shoulders.

"As someone who grew up in Houston and watched the Oilers in the '60s with my dad when the AFL was coming of age, I was a huge fan,” said Terry Blount, a former sportswriter for the Dallas Morning News and both the Houston Post and Chronicle. “One thing that always bugged me, and this is still true, is so many people in Houston are Dallas Cowboys fans and really didn't care about their own team."

That'll happen when the Cowboys build an 18-13 series edge over the Oilers while winning five Super Bowl titles' to Houston's zero.

"There were many years where the Oilers were horrible and the Cowboys were usually very good under (Tom) Landry," Blount said. "So there was a little bit of bandwagon jumping. No other place does that happen. People in Cleveland don't root for Cincinnati, people who live in Philly don't root for Pittsburgh. It still bugs me, really."

If anyone can commiserate with Blount, it’s Kevin Sherrington, a sports columnist for the Morning News.

“I spent my whole life in Texas, worked for five newspapers here, worked in Houston, born in Dallas, grew up in Houston, back in Dallas since 1985 -- so, yeah, I can give you the lay of the land,” he said. “There's always been a natural antipathy between the biggest cities in the state. San Antonio is a sleepy little town, and it hasn't had the sports history, and if not for the Spurs, they wouldn't have much at all.”

If there is a rivalry at all, Sherrington said, it is off the field.

“There's a rivalry from the standpoint that Dallas looks down its nose at Houston socially,” he said. “Dallas has been considered the fashion center, elitist, snobby. There's a natural condescension.”

Houston is considered the blue-collar town of the two, as Dallas has been replete with oil wealth for decades.

“People in Dallas, and I know this from working at the Morning News, don’t root for Houston teams,” Blount said. “They look at Houston as blue-collar, oil refiners, oil workers, which is far from the truth in this huge, dynamic city. People in Houston don’t look at it that way.”

Could that enmity rear its ugly head on Sunday? That wouldn’t be quite such a bad thing.

“I know from Houston's perspective when you go play Dallas, it means more,” Stoerner said. “We had (Roughnecks quarterback) P.J. Walker on (the radio), and I asked him point-blank about that, and he said absolutely we're aware of it. I believe it exists across the board -- NBA, MLB, obviously with the NFL.”

And on Sunday, the XFL.