Sunday, April 11, 2010

My Texas Stadium Two Cents From Three Perspectives

Like so many Dallas natives, I grew up watching the Cowboys play at Texas Stadium on Sunday afternoons.  I would ask my grandfather just about every Sunday why the shadow on the field was so weird and why there was that weird hole "on top".  He would always answer with the familiar refrain "there's a hole in the roof so God can watch the Cowboys play."  For years, YEARS, I truly believed that. 

I remember watching listening to Brad Sham scream "TOUCHDOWN TONY HILL!!!" in the closing seconds of a 1979 game over the Redskins.  When I went to work for the Cowboys it became known as the "Touchdown Tony Hill" game.

The first time I went to a game there, it was magical.  It was a Thanksgiving day game against the Chiefs, the one in which Jay Novacek jumped over Kansas City defender en route to scoring a touchdown.  I walked around in a virtual "I can't believe I'm finally here" haze.

The first time I walked in there as a Cowboys employee, it was truly surrreal.  I worked for the team for three full years, from 1999-2002.  My second day on the job the late great John Chang sent me there, along with Cowboys TV photographer/producer Roxanne Medina to shoot an offseason Cowboys coaching clinic.  It was a hot, sticky, sweaty vaccuum on the field that day.  But I will never forget going home that night, reaking of sweat and hairspray, thinking "I worked for the Dallas Cowboys, in Texas Stadium! today"  I interviewed coaches, who were now my co-workers and was not only allowed to go everywhere in the place but needed to because my job called for it.

I made what seemed like hundreds of trips to Texas Stadium with John, Roxx, Cowboys TV's Chris Behm and Scott Purcel over the years.  It was easy to get frustrated with the building:  Patrolling the sideline for Cowboys preseason games drenched and dripping with sweat while trying to look "refreshed and classy" for a live hit was infuriating.  I would get lost on the wrong suite level time and again.  I always bemoaned the fact there wasn't a restroom I could use on the field level.  Trust me, in times of need, these things count.  I would fear the falling piece of roof asbestos that would nail me every now and then.  (I don't know if it was really asbestos but it was kinda fun to make it seem sooooo dramatic and worst-case scenario).  I learned not to eat the popcorn.  Trust me, avoid most stadium popcorns.  I could go on and on.

As I moved on to WFAA and then my current station, KTVT/KTXA, I got to experience the magic of the high school football games there and, as cliche' as it is to say, there is absolutely nothing like Texas high school football.  It's one of the best things about our state.  While I was no longer a Cowboys employee, I still felt so at home there. 

I think that's what made the place so great.  There was a sense of pride and hospitality that contradicted Texas Stadium's rundown facade. 

Cowboys great Bob Lilly told me he wasn't going to watch the implosion.  He doesn't want to drive by there and hates the fact it's going away.  I get it.  I am afraid that I am a little more "media cynical" now and may never feel the way about Cowboys Stadium or any other sports complex for that matter the way I did about Texas Stadium.  I won't grow up with any new facility.  I no longer have my grandfather around to ask about the "hole on top". 

Yes, Texas Stadium was just a building but it was our building.  Anyone who experienced a special moment or memory there knows exactly what I mean.
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