End of era: Ode to Texas Stadium
Texas Stadium was the scene for Leon Lett's infamous blunder
Photographers have long hated the shadows the roof causes
Cowboys are moving to new stadium in Arlington next year
You know you're getting old when the stadiums of your youth, the ones that hold your fondest memories, are suddenly up for demolition.
If I ever find out the time has come for UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, I'll fly 3,000 miles and have a fistfight with the wrecking ball. Same with Dodger Stadium. Don't let me find a bulldozer anywhere near 1000 Elysian Park Ave.
While I have no deep attachment to Texas Stadium, football fans of a certain age have to be a little sad to see it go. The Dallas Cowboys have just four more home games there, and then the team will move to its sparkling new digs in Arlington. The old stadium in Irving will fall.
Mac Engel, who covers the Cowboys for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, wrote an excellent book called 'Texas Stadium: America's Home Field,' which chronicles the days and nights of Texas Stadium since it was built in 1971. It's chock full of anecdotes, both strange and familiar.
One of my favorite stories in the book recalls the 1993 Thanksgiving Day game in the snow against the Dolphins. That's the day when the Cowboys blocked a late field goal attempt by Pete Stoyanovich, and Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett tried to recover the slippery ball near the goal line. Lett couldn't control the ball, Dolphins offensive lineman Jeff Dellenbach pounced on it on the 1-yard line, and Stoyanovich nailed his second attempt, a 19-yard field goal with three seconds left, to give Miami a 16-14 win.
I can still hear the voice of one of the announcers: "Leon Lett, oh, Leon Lett!"
Engel also explains how camera crews have long hated Texas Stadium because of the shadows created by the hole in the roof. At the same, though, NFL Films happened upon one of the more memorable shots in league history -- the silhouette of Tom Landry, his chin firm, a Fedora snug to his head, standing on the field.
Who can forget Terrell Owens, then of the San Francisco 49ers, scoring a touchdown during the 2000 season and racing out to the star at midfield and staring up at the sky? And Emmitt Smith following suit after his own score, racing to the star and pounding the ball to the turf as if he was planting a stake? And Owens running out to the star one more time, and the Cowboys' George Teague chasing after him and tackling him on the star?
James Brown played Texas Stadium. So did U2, Madonna, the Jacksons and Guns N' Roses. There were legendary high school championship games and tons of SMU college games with Eric Dickerson, and more NFL playoff games than you can count.
Six years ago, I was assigned the Redskins-Cowboys Thanksgiving Game at Texas Stadium. It was my first trip there. While I was sad to be away from my family on an important holiday, the Cowboys organization put out a nice spread with all the fixings -- turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, the works.
The game on the field wasn't bad either. The Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, one of the best in sports, was especially hot that season. That was the year that new Redskins coach Steve Spurrier promised team owner Dan Snyder the game ball once they defeated the Cowboys. A clip of that comment was played inside Texas Stadium just before kickoff. The crowd booed like crazy.
The Redskins led 14-10 at halftime and took a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter. That's when the Cowboys responded. Dallas quarterback Chad Hutchinson, in one of his few highlights with the team, hit Joey Galloway for a touchdown and a 24-20 lead. Then Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff hit a 42-yard field goal with 4:23 left, giving the Cowboys a 27-20 lead.
The game ended when the Cowboys intercepted Washington rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey's desperation heave in the final seconds. Dallas had its 10th straight over the Redskins.
Unless my travels take me to Dallas one more time this season, my last trip to Texas Stadium was January, when the Giants beat the Cowboys in their NFC divisional playoff. Tony Romo was on the run for most of the day, beaten down by the Giants pass rush.
It was an honor to spend a few more hours in a building where Staubach once roamed, where Bono once sang, and where Landry stood on a sideline in shadow.