Monday, April 12, 2010

Texas Stadium, RIP

I was 8 years old, the day I first visited Texas Stadium. My cousins had come in from New York and we all went out to see this beautiful new arena that was set to open a few months later. The grounds around the site were still barren from all the dust and construction. But the frame work was in place.

I had moved to North Texas just a year and a half earlier. Until then, the only football I knew was the Tennessee Volunteers, and how the city of Knoxville would become a ghost town on football Saturdays. But once I moved to Dallas, I became completely hooked on my new hometown's Cowboys. The very first game I attended was in the old Cotton Bowl, when the then-mighty Green Bay Packers came to town. Maybe it was kismet, but on that day, the Cowboys finally defeated their arch-nemesis that day, by a score of 16-3. At that moment, a lifelong fan was born.

Although I went to a couple of other games at the Cotton Bowl, most of my Cowboy experiences centered around Texas Stadium. It was from the 48-yard line where I saw Drew Pearson catch Clint Longley's last minute TD to beat the hated Washington Redskins. It was from the second row where I watched the team defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, 10 years later - and one week after seeing them lose to the Colts from the top row of the stadium.

From Tex's stadium (which some called it, due to Tex Schramm's huge contribution to the team and its' history), I watched great players, like Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Tony Dorsett, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mel Renfro, Walt Garrison, Chuck Howley, Drew Pearson (who NEEDS to be in the Hall of Fame), Everson Walls, Rayfied Wright, "Bullet" Bob Hayes, Mike Ditka, Lance Alworth and so many, many more.

One non-Cowboy memory - and I'm almost embarrassed by this - was from 1984, when a few friends and I hung out outside the stadium in hopes of scoring cheap tickets to see the Jackson's Victory Tour (we didn't get in, but we did hear most of the concert).

The last time I visited Texas Stadium was in 1989. Life had sent me to different cities and I was fortunate to go to one last game there. Unfortunately, it was during the teams worst season ever. Although they lost the game badly (27-0 to the Eagles - the game that became known as the "Bounty Bowl") - I was able to watch future Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.

There were many games less famous that I witnessed first hand and every single one of them holds a special place in my memory. Each one also brings me back to the relationship I had with my dad, who took me to all but one of those games.

Watching Texas Stadium being demolished made me feel like I was watching my memories being destroyed. When my father passed away, eleven and a half years ago, I knew I would never be able to relive those wonderful moments of my childhood. But seeing the stadium, whenever I returned to town, or on TV in one of the many nationally televised games the Cowboys played in, kept those memories alive.

I really didn't know what I would feel watching the implosion the other day. I figured that since I'm 47 years old, and hadn't even been inside the place in over 20 years, I'd feel agnostic about the whole thing.

Boy, was I wrong.

Goodbye Texas Stadium. You know, the old saying was that there was a hole in the roof so G-d could watch his favorite team play. If there were such a thing as a heaven for stadiums, I bet He'd would be watching at Texas Stadium.

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