Today was a fine day, and one that will live with me for the rest of my life as one of the best I've ever had. My entire life I have been a Dallas Cowboys fan and until I turned 18 and moved to Connecticut I lived within 30 minutes of Texas Stadium. For one reason or another I never made it to a game there and I always have regretted not being able to see the Triplets in person. Today I made up for it and for the the first and hopefully not the last time in my life I had the privilege of attending a Dallas Cowboys game in Texas Stadium.
It was an amazing experience and it all feels kinda surreal, like it happened in a dream and pretty soon I'm going to turn on the T.V. and watch the game on Fox. I still can't believe I was actually there, surrounded by the World Championship banners and the Ring of Honor. Best of all I was surrounded by fellow Cowboys fans. I got there early and had one heck of a day where it seemed anything that could happen, did. I met one awesome Hall of Famer, and got Roy Williams to shoot the 'Horns at me.
The tale of my experience is a long one but I feel the need to share my day with the Cowboys faithful. I also took a ton of pictures (until my battery died) and narrowing it down to reasonable number to share was far from easy.
Follow the jump for a detailed description of one hardcore fan's day at Texas Stadium.
Arrival. I talked my dad into getting to the stadium around 8am, mainly because I was nervous about getting caught in the infamous Texas Stadium traffic. We parked in the green lot, which is about a mile and half walk from the stadium, and cost $30 to park. Let's just say that the parking attendants weren't in the mood for some friendly ribbing about that outrageous price. So we paid thirty bucks to park in a field across the highway from the stadium and moved on with our day.
Tailgating. A lot more tailgating than I thought there would be for a noon kickoff. We arrived around 8 and I would say about half the parking lots were filled with tailgaters with others arriving and setting up at the same time. As we were walking through the crowds I spotted about 45 different items I'm going to have to talk my wife into letting my buy, starting with a Dallas Cowboys grill that attaches to the hitch on your truck. We saw a ton of great setups and some hardcore fans breaking open the beer coolers early but overall it was fairly tame.
You can also tell that the tailgating scene has really been affected by the new rules about the parking around the stadium. It's sad that the best tailgating has to happen about a mile away from the gates. Last season I was at the Cowboys and Giants game in New York and that was one chaotic and fired up parking lot that was a little dangerous to walk through as a Cowboys fan. The Dallas scene is a bit more easygoing, which is actually kinda refreshing.
Texas Stadium, from the outside. Perhaps the awe of seeing the stadium up close was diminished a bit because I used to drive past it everyday, but it was still cool as hell. Just the history and magnificence of the stadium and knowing what has taken place inside makes the experience a bit more gratifying than I thought it would. I will say this though: it is painfully obvious that a new stadium was needed. The place just feels plain, nondescript and honestly a bit boring. Like I said, it's mainly the history of the team inside that gives it the most feeling and not the stadium itself. There is also a noticeable lack of flashiness and self-promotion about the stadium that seems a bit odd. Nowhere are there giant murals or pictures of past players or teams around the stadium like you see in other pro venues. It's actually a bit refreshing to see and one thing I'm sure that the new stadium won't have going for it.
Waiting for the gates to open.
My dad and I arrived to the stadium about an hour before the gates actually opened and decided to take a walk around. Our trip took us to the pro shop which had a fairly long line outside the doors just to get in. As we stand there waiting to enter we head a voice shouting above the crowd that Mel Renfro is available for autographs. We glance across the narrow street and there he is, just standing all alone inside this little tent with the majority of folk just strolling by clueless. I glance at my dad and both of our eyes and wide with amazement and we immediately leave the line and head straight for the tent.
Let me tell you folks something. Meeting Mel Renfro will go down as one of the all out coolest things I have or ever will do in my life, but at the same time I felt a bit sorry for him. He seemed a bit shaky on his feet and just not all that great, but his handshake was firm as hell. It was just sad to see this great hall of fame player relegated to selling autographs in a little tent while 95% of the Cowboys fans that walked by were absolutely clueless about who they were passing.
He was a very, very nice guy and I literally had chills going up my spine standing next to him. That was just so very, very cool.
After that we kept making our way around the stadium until we came across a huge crowd surrounding a fence. Right away I realized that this was where the players came through on their way to the stadium. Fighting for some space I was able to secure a spot right on the fence and get some unbelievable pictures of the players as they made their way from the car to the locker room. Many of them were friendly to the crowd, raising their hand in acknowledgment when everyone cheered. Keith Davis was by far the most open, walking along the fence and talking to the fans briefly. Terrell Owens drove his car all the way into the tunnel, which kinda sucked. Mike Jenkins has a Tahoe with rims so sick his truck almost looks like a stagecoach from the Old West. Dave Campo talked to the crowd a bit and tried to get everyone amped up.
The coolest part of the whole thing was seeing Romo roll up in his old Expedition, the same one he bought when he was first signed by the Cowboys. For some reason its refreshing to see a man who has it all stay humble and not need a flashy ride to get around. I don't even think it had much of a tint.
Heading inside. Apparently you aren't allowed to take a telephoto lens into the stadium because it's deemed too "professional". Once again, the extremely friend event staff let us know just how they felt about us trying to take one in. So on our way back to our car to drop off the offending lens, we just happened to find ourselves back in line at another gate, where this time the bored looking gate attendant completely ignored the camera. Oh well.
The inside of the stadium matched the outside. Boring, sterile and narrow but still nowhere near as bad as Giants Stadium. Once again it was obvious that it everyone knows there's a new stadium opening next year so there's no need to make anything flashy at the last second. And I'm not complaining either, just observing. I was there to watch a football game, not get happy pants about the interior decorating. And this place is setup perfect just for that. No frills, nothing to distract you; just get in and buy a beer then make your way to your seat.
I was also perplexed by the complete lack of stadium security and ushers. There was not one usher checking tickets as you head to your seat, neither upper level or lower level. That was a bit odd considering that every other pro game I had been to elsewhere had people checking your ticket each time you left and came back to your seat. The lack of ushers also complicated some issues that arose later in the game.
The food and drinks were about normal. Expensive and bad for you, like everywhere else.
Our seats were 2nd row of the upper level, directly between the goal posts. I love end zone seats because you can really see plays develop and this game a lot of the action was at our end, which was great. Just incredible seats.
The Fans. I just want to say that the fans at the game were great. It was just absolutely incredible to finally be able to be able to watch a Cowboys game in person and be able to cheer with fellow fans. Everyone was friendly, accommodating and really into the game. Too many times I've seen people pay hundreds of bucks for tickets and then sit there like they were watching a cricket match, then get annoyed when folks stood and cheered.
I was also impressed by how loud it got in that place. For a noon kickoff against a non-division foe that place was rocking in the first half. Both first quarter goal line stands were at our end and the crowd was going nuts. When T.O. made that 75 yard catch early in the 2nd I thought the roof was going to come down because the place was literally shaking.
All my life I've heard about how bad the crowds at Texas Stadium were, how they cheered too loud when Dallas had the ball and didn't cheer enough when the Cowboys are on defense. Well, maybe things are changing because this place was electric, and at all the right times. I can't imagine what the atmosphere was like for the Eagles game in week 2. Another kinda cool thing was that the crowd got the wave going when things were boring in the second half. Dated, but cool nonetheless.
The fans in our section were great, everyone standing and really getting into it. Every time the Cowboys made a first down some folks in row 1 lead the section in a first down chant. Everyone just got along great, which is another thing you don't see at a game up North.
The only bad mark on this whole thing was the guy who sat next to me. The game was already down to the end of the first quarter and these two guy come strolling down the row to their seats like they didn't miss anything at all and sit down in the seats to my left. Both of them had these plastic cups with what smelled like straight Tequila in them. The guy next to me seemed like he had already had way too much to drink and he was downing that tequila like it was water. After jumping up following the T.O. touchdown, this guy sat down, put his head between his knees and buried his face in his hand. He didn't move from that position for about an hour until all of a sudden he starts yakking up all his liquor without moving one muscle. Just let it go all over the place and everyone one below us. You never seen people move that fast before. So now we need to find a staff member and there isn't an usher to be found. Eventually someone came and the paramedics escorted him out.
What a day.
The game. Here's some random thoughts from the game:
- It's painfully obvious Romo is bothered by that splint. He's struggling on the quick throws where he doesn't have a lot of time to adjust his grip on the ball. When Romo is able to start making all of his throws again he is going to light teams up. He has his confidence and swagger back, along with that uncanny ability to avoid pressure.
- Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware are inhuman. I made it a point to really watch them play and Ware was destroying the offensive line in the 2nd quarter. He was pulling every move in the book but my favorite was when he flat out pushed the LT so far back he tripped over his quarterback. Ratliff is amazingly quick and was all over the running game. Later in the game Ware was getting triple teamed, a couple times I saw him get picked up by two guys and tackled to the ground.
- What horrible officiating in this game, for both sides. Anthony Henry got away with PI in the end zone and T.O. had a blatant pushoff on one of his long catches. Then there was the phantom play whistled dead shenanigans when Zach Thomas should have been able to score a touchdown. I don't understand these refs, just let the plays develop and then change it after it's over when you confer with each other. But calling a play dead while it is still a live ball is inexcusable.
- Marion Barber is going to desperately miss Felix Jones.
- Marion Barber needs to hit the holes and stop trying to bounce it outside.
- Marion Barber is still a beast.
- Tashard Choice is a firecracker, and seems like he always on the verge of doing something hug. A couple of times he stumbled after a catch when he had nothing but daylight in front of him.
- I heard the hit on Witten. And I sat on the opposite side of the field.
The game was great, slow to start but being able to watch one of T.O.'s greatest games ever was awesome. Here are the best pics from the trip.
"Hon, I know what I want for Christmas this year..."
The traveling pro shop.
My dad, me and Mel Renfro
"When's the next trip to Cabo....I need to 'rest' my ribs....yeh that's it!"
"Head, shoulders knees and toes....knees and toes.....
The Great Dat
"Man, I can't believe they ran out of glazed...."
"Hopefully, you get to see daddy actually play well today......"
"Man...now I got to change the scheme and everything!!!"
"I can't wait to show T.O. my new dance!"
"Do you have any clue how long it takes to do my hair?"
Before the game.
Late 2nd quarter.....
Hold off on that blitz.......
One last interesting tidbit about this pic.....After the TD pass to Bennett, Romo sprints to the sideline and attempts a chest bump with Henry. Didn't go so well and they missed, and Romo came down a bit awkwardly. That caught my breath for a second.