I've made fun of the new Cowboys Stadium and have pondered the chicken/egg nature of the layout: is it the world's biggest living room, or the most tricked out stadium?
Having seem it first hand, I can say it's both. Although the monstrosity still needs some finishing touches, and some fine tuning, I can state without equivocation that the experience makes Texas Stadium seem primitive by comparison. Some initial notes from Jerry Jones' Death Star.
Warmer Than Any Dome You'll Ever See
I grew up near the Astrodome and remember the novelty and comfort of indoor professional sports. I also recall how dark the interior could appear, if you were in the stands and especially if you were watching on television. When I saw the artists renderings of this place two years ago, I wondered why Jerry didn't pack more stands into the end zone? Yesterday, I understood.
The stadium features two large sliding glass doors in each end zone, which let the sun shine in. Adding natural light to the stadium lights gives a brightness and warmth to the atmosphere that's missing in other domes, even those with retractable roofs. What's more, the field is so far below ground level (see the attached photo; the bottom of the glass is ground level) that any shadows cast between 7:00 and 8:00 pm fell on fans in the stands, not on the players. This spares network game directors the problems of adjusting cameras for the extreme zones of brightness and darkness that troubled September and October games in Texas Stadium. It also spares TV viewers from trying to track a play across these hot and black zones.
Cool, Baby Cool
How many pre-season, Texas Stadium games did you attend or view where the fans worked paper fans, trying to find some cool amid the late summer, north-Texas heat and humidity? Last night, we could all laugh at the 90 plus conditions outside. We sat in 72 degree cool. I don't know it is accomplished, but the air conditioning system actually generates currents. There were several times where I remarked to the people next to me that a breeze was blowing over us. Nice touch.
Texas Stadium, especially the upper deck seats, smashed your shins against the backs of row in front of your. This place offers much more space.
Come and Watch on Jerry's Big Screen
I don't know how the Mitsubishi folks did it and I don't care how they did it. They did it. They produced four enormous screens that produce honest-to-goodness HD clarity. This has its good qualities and its bad qualities. On the downside, cuts or blemishes on players' faces had people saying "uhh" because, let's face it, you don't need to see a zit on Jason WItten's face in two-story-high, 1080-line resolution. When the operators played a clip from Paul McCartney's Wednesday concert you could note the thickness of his makeup and see every one of his 66 years onscreen. On the other hand...
CHEERLEADERS IN HD!!!
Fix It or Add Earplugs to Your Concessions
The PA had one annoying quality most of us endure with our home TVs -- the ads shown were much louder than the down, distance and tackle calls during scrimmage play. During one commercial break a local DJ interviewed one of the dance team members. I couldn't make out much because I had my fingers in my ears, and I was not alone. When this happens at home, we can hit the mute button. Give the fans in the stands some help with this one next week, please.
DId I mention,
CHEERLEADERS IN HD!!!!
We're in the TV now
NFL games have existed in two different worlds. If you were in a stadium, you went into a limbo during the commercial breaks, where the players stood around and the PA blared pop music. At times, the breaks included commercials shown to the fans at home, blurring the line between the two experiences.
A more important blurring brings the fans at the stadium the benefits the TV viewers have enjoyed for years. If its 4th and one, the fans can see exactly how many inches are needed to convert. Did a runner break the goal line play? Everybody will see the same degree of detail. Is a field goal attempt good? You'll know regardless of your sight line. All you have to do it watch it on one the big screens. Did a player's knee down before he fumbled? The in-stadium view will be every bit as sharp as those at home.
The replays were run immediately after every down. I suspect the referees won't like calling games here, because any mistake will be on screen for all to see. On the other hand, every player who commits a dumb penalty or makes a careless fumble will feel more intense heat from the bleachers. The eye in the sky doesn't lie.
On the whole, a very pleasant experience. I kept my eyes on the field when play was live, but watched the big boards for a second, more close-up view between plays. That's something you can't get at home. The $5 bottles of the water and the $8 beers were annoying but the comfortable seats, the confortables 72-degree breezes, the ample sunlight and the big screen mean a more immediate football experience, even if you're sitting high in the upper deck.
And I think it bears one more mention:
CHEERLEADERS IN HD!!!!