Whitney was released from the hospital at 1:00 Saturday afternoon. Wheelchair. Walker. Pain meds. Lots of cards and balloons. By 5:30 I had her in a luxury suite at Texas Stadium, getting ready for the last Cowboys game ever at their historic football home. Thanks to Doug Deere, a good friend here at Legacy, Whitney and I were able to take in the excitement of the game, the history of the evening, and the time spent together doing something we both love: watching the Cowboys.
As most of you know, Whitney’s a huge Cowboys fan. She doesn’t remember any of the Super Bowls of the ’90s — she was born 18 days after Super Bowl XXVII — but she knows enough to be huge fans of Troy, Emmitt, and Michael. Of course, she adores all the current crew (I keep telling her she’ll grow out of it) and knows everything about every one of them. She ate up every moment of our night together. And she made her usual lame excuses for Romo and Terrell Owens and Jerry Wayne throughout.
Glen and Karen and Crystal and Lexi, Doug’s great friends who actually own the suite, were outstanding hosts. What a great family. They pampered Whitney and catered to her every need. Plenty of Ruffles and Dr Pepper. A corner seat down front. And somehow Glen even arranged to have two Cowboys cheerleaders come up to the suite during the third quarter and take pictures with Whitney and sign her cast. (She would have been more impressed had it been Brady James or Anthony Henry. I didn’t notice them doing anything on the field that would have kept them from coming up for a quick visit.) With all of that PLUS!!! Dallas getting to within two points twice in the final four minutes and those huge gut-wrenching, record-breaking runs that sealed it at the end, I don’t think Whitney blinked for five hours.
Thank you, Doug! Thank you Glen! Thank you, everybody in the suite.
My interest in the event was in recalling my childhood and early adult memories made at Texas Stadium. My first ever Cowboys game with my Aunt LouAnn against the Saints when I was eleven. Paul Baron taking me there to see Steve Grogan and the Patriots, the man sitting in front of us asking Paul to tell me to stop cheering so loudly. A Sunday night game against the Raiders with my high school friends. A high-profile Thanksgiving Day duel between Glenn Carano and Chicago’s Vince Evans with my whole family. A freezing, sleeting, Saturday afternoon playoff loss to the Rams with Todd Johnson two months after I got my drivers license. A loss to the Dolphins in 1989 with my college buddies, but a free dinner from Mike Osburn because Aikman threw for over 300 yards (the last time I bet on anything).
I’m blessed to have had a mediocre broadcasting career that allowed me for almost five years to be at Texas Stadium for another 30-or-so games. Roaming the sidelines before kickoff. Watching the stadium fill. Visiting with assistant coaches. Hanging out in the locker room before and after games. Being overly rude and sarcastic with other reporters and hosts. Watching up close the drama of what’s said and not said during postgame news conferences. What a privilege to be there the day Emmitt passed Payton. Only time I’ve ever seen a pressbox give anybody a standing ovation. What a blessing to be there for all those games, to make all those memories, from the endzone nosebleeds in 1977 to the sidelines and up and down the players’ tunnel in 2004.
I wanted Whitney to remember this night as much as I will. I kept pointing to all the names in the Ring of Honor and telling her about each player. I talked to her about the differences between Tom Landry and every other coach the Cowboys have ever employed. I explained the significance of the hole in the roof. We talked about the championship banners and those Super Bowl teams from the ’70s and ’90s. The white stars that rim the field. The big blue star in the middle. The pressbox where I sat as the Sports Director at KRLD.
She looked up at me at the two-minute warning and said, “Dad, even if they lose, I still had a good time.”
So they’re tearing it down. After 37 years, Texas Stadium’s not big enough, not fancy enough, not new enough. In about four months, the only ties the current Cowboys will have to the Clint Murchison-Tex Schramm-Tom Landry beginnings will be at their office headquarters and practice facilities at Valley Ranch. But nobody ever sees that. The offices are being moved to Jerry’s new place in Arlington. So is the little museum and the five Super Bowl trophies. The championship banners are being moved. And it’s only a matter of time, maybe just three or four years, until Valley Ranch is abandoned, too.
That new stadium in Arlington is amazing, no doubt. And for at least two or three generations of Cowboys fans, it’ll become a great place of lifelong memories. For me, though, that new stadium is one more reason not to like the Cowboys.