All my life we’ve wanted top billing. But in the eyes of the world, we’re forever the sidekick: Dallas–Fort Worth. We’ve tried, over the years, to use that thirty-mile-long hyphen between the cities like a battering ram, deriding our rival for having fewer museums, no Bass brothers, and no sense of place. But four decades after a Dallas ad guy buried our Western flavor beneath the label “Metroplex,” we’ve become the Texas city nobody knows. I mean, who thinks of late Fort Worth son Larry Hagman and doesn’t think Dallas?
Look, we’re not just a dusty version of St. Paul or Baltimore. Think Orange County. Our county is the state’s third most populous—and home, incidentally, to all the terminals of the area’s only international airport, the Texas Rangers, Big 12 Conference football, and the (ahem) Dallas Cowboys, as well as a recent Super Bowl. Yet all we hear in local media is about the glamorous life in Big D. We don’t have a news radio station of our own anymore, and even KXAS-TV, which was founded by city godfather Amon Carter (and was the first television station in the state) is moving to Fort Worth’s eastern edge, closer to the Galleria than to the Stockyards.
We’ve always had to fight for respect, as far back as 1876, when a Tarrant County lawmaker stalled adjournment of the Texas House for fifteen days to get the railroad built an extra sixteen miles west. Our rivalry was established by 1888, when the first Texas League baseball series between the two cities ended in a grandstand brawl and gunfire. Some fifty years later Carter would try to give Fort Worth (“Where the West begins,” as he liked to repeat) the edge over Dallas (“Where the East peters out”) by getting a Trinity River ship channel built from the Gulf to his beloved town. He didn’t get the ship channel, though his influence eventually helped Tarrant County land the dominant airport—at least until Southwest Airlines gets legal clearance to fly nonstop from Love Field in 2014. Of course, that has Fort Worth worried too.
So now we’re clinging to that hyphen like a towrope. Over the past few years, Web users worldwide have been eight times as likely to search for “Dallas” than as for “Fort Worth.” But thanks to that airport, or the Super Bowl, or something, Fort Worth still has a foothold in cyberspace: in the same time period, searches for “DFW” have held mostly constant.
We like “Dallas–Fort Worth” now. It’s still two words to one.