Saturday, December 20, 2008

Farewell, Old Friend

**I had the unique opportunity to be a partner for season tickets during the last season -- The Farewell Season -- for the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium. I took Mrs. Commish and my sister-in-law, Lizbeth, to the very last game played in the house Tom Landry built. As a tribute to that day, which ended up being horrible -- cold as hell and a terrible loss to the Ravens -- I wrote this piece. On Sunday, April 11, 2010, Texas Stadium will be demolished for good.

Irving, Texas – Texas Stadium, The House Landry Built, died at the age of 37 years, 1 month, and 20 days.

Services: 7:15 p.m. Central, Saturday, December 20th, 2008, in Irving, Texas, where the Dallas Cowboys will host the Baltimore Ravens. Visitation: Gates will open at 3 p.m. on Saturday, when guests are invited to bring all their Cowboys fan gear, tailgate equipment, and help us give this storied cathedral its farewell. Interment: Is yet to be determined by officials.

On October 24, 1971, Texas Stadium opened its doors for the first time, giving Dallas Cowboys fans an opportunity to enjoy their team in a place that would be home for 37 glorious years. At a cost of $35 million, which is a little over half of Tony Romo’s current contract, Texas Stadium revolutionized visions for football gridirons, especially that famous hole in the roof, which we believe is intended for God to watch his favorite football team on Sundays.

1,433,000 watts of power brought the place to life that inaugural day, releasing any angst of leaving the old Cotton Bowl a few miles away in the heart of Dallas, Texas. Christening the new park was celebrated with a Dallas win over New England, 44-21.

The Dallas Cowboys’ new home, which some players called an “opera house,” as compared to football stadiums of the day, inspired that squad to greatness. They would defeat San Francisco, 14-3, in the NFC title game and complete the 1971 season with victory over New Orleans, 24-3, in Super Bowl VI. The Cowboys would win their first world title in Miami, the year they moved into their new home.
For many, visualizing anything other than Texas Stadium on that piece of real estate in Irving, entrapped by Loop 12, Highway 114, and Highway 183, amongst others, will bring nostalgia. Driving that part of North Texas without the “Big Silver Hamburger,” as Charlie Waters once called it, will need some getting’ used to.

It was the vision of Texas Earnest Schramm Jr., a man we call Tex -- a name on the Ring of Honor I’ve had the opportunity to sit under for the last three years --, for the Dallas Cowboys to become an American icon. It was he who is credited with making the Cowboys, America’s Team. But, as quoted in a movie once, “another man turned $150 million dollars into some serious money”. Jerry Jones took over America’s Team and Texas Stadium in 1989, paying $75 million for the franchise and $75 million for the lease on Texas Stadium.

During the Jerry Jones era, the Cowboys franchise has won three world titles, and increased the team’s net worth ten-fold, giving it a tag of well over a billion dollars. Adding more luxury suites and making large events of almost every home game, Cowboys fans and haters alike have been able to experience the greatness of the NFL in the parking lots and on the seats in that bowl.

Next season, 5.3 miles from my home, the Dallas Cowboys will open the 2009 campaign in the new stadium, one that defies and challenges all standards for stadiums today. There will simply be nothing like it.

As a family, we have enjoyed all the varieties Texas Stadium has offered, from that Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, to the Thursday against the Miami Dolphins, and the Monday against the Philadelphia Eagles. We hesitated to indulge the horrid NFL Network and their Thursday/Saturday offerings, with one exception – today. We’re not clear who gave this deplorable network rights to such a historic night, which truly warrants the voice of a John Madden and/or Al Michaels, but it was not our decision to make.

Today’s world always calls for better and faster, for newer and bigger. We are a generation who expects instant gratification, and anything less seems to be an increasing nuisance to tolerate. If you have had the opportunity to walk towards Texas Stadium, you notice its wear. You notice its need for paint, a need for repair. Its concrete pillars continue to hold up that famous roof, which hardly contains the tremendous roar of a crowd on a Sunday afternoon.

John Madden said in his Hall of Fame speech that he believed the busts talked to each other once everyone was gone. Surely, the echoes of generations of Cowboys fans will continue to sound in that air space, on that ground. There are the countless locker room speeches. “HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS!” The fedora clad man walking intently, but quietly, to his place on the sidelines, Emmitt Smith’s rushing record -- truly too many to name and remember on one occasion.

Today, Cowboys fans all over the world will cheer on the Boyz to continued victory over the Ravens with hopes of making it to what former Cowboys coach, Bill Parcells called, “The Tournament.” They’ll be watching on TV or their seats in the stadium, all the while taking in that last breathes inside and out, lest we forget it will be no more.

One more time down that tunnel…one more time, just one more curtain call.

Texas Stadium, thanks old friend.

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