By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Extend your pointer and pinkie for "Hook 'em Horns." Turn it upside down for "Boomer Sooner."
Retract those two and proudly display your middle finger for a reminder to snobby, greedy officials from both Texas and Oklahoma that "Playing in the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair of Texas is a privilege, not a right. Bitches."
Last Saturday's UT 45, OU 12 was the 75th game at the deliciously decrepit Cotton Bowl. Because the short-sighted schools are so blindly committed to style over substance and dollars over sense, next year's meeting will be the next-to-last in Dallas.
Red River Shootout, meet Lame Duck Standoff.
Texas-OU can opt out of its contract with the Cotton Bowl after 2007 and will do so unless the city of Dallas cowers to ultimatums for more seats, more money and more more. Dallas is prepared to spend $50 million for a face-lift on its antique, but not without a 10-year commitment from the schools to keeping playing smack dab in the middle of the Fair on the second Saturday in October.
Too little, too late. The spoiled brats are about to take their ball and go home-and-home.
UT Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds: "[A long-term commitment] is one thing we're not going to do. Their decision on the stadium can't be dependent on us. We'll make our own determination."
OU President David Boren: "We have given Dallas every opportunity, and I think Dallas has really missed the boat."
Allow me to grab the microphone from Mayor Laura Miller and address these bozos accordingly:
In case you've forgotten, it was our Fair that nurtured your rivalry, not vice versa. In the long run, you'll need us more than we'll need you. And just in case you're trying a Texas Hold 'Em bluff, we aren't afraid to fold. Ain't that right Cowboys and SMU and Burn and Texxas Jam? (P.S. We miss you!)
"I just can't envision Texas-OU being played anywhere except Dallas," said Miller, who views losing the game as an unpardonable sin after allowing the Cowboys to escape to Arlington last year. "It's a magical combination you couldn't re-create anywhere else."
Just 18 months ago, UT and OU agreed.
Early in 2004 Dallas sweetened its annual invitation to the teams with $125,000 in travel expenses and $500,000 in stadium improvements.
Said Dodds at the time, "I like the game in Dallas. It's where it belongs." (Using the schools' current what-have-you-done-for-me-lately philosophy, the Cotton Bowl should've actively pursued a more attractive opponent for OU when Texas sucked five straight years.)
But before the ink dried on that deal, officials from both schools were scribbling a bigger, better wish list. The eyes of Texas are now blurred by dollar signs.
"I'm confident they'll stay if we make the necessary improvements," Miller said during a panel discussion on the game's future last week. "They want more seats, some new paint and a jazzy scoreboard. We invest $25 to $50 million, and we'll make the Cotton Bowl the premier place to play college football in Texas."
But even if the schools sign a long-term contract, Dallas has no clue how to pay for the improvements. A bond to voters as early as next spring? Expensive naming rights that would cheapen the place from "Cotton Bowl" to "Southwest Airlines Stadium"? Pass the hat among city leaders who firmly rejected spending $425 million to build the Cowboys a new stadium in Fair Park?
Too many hurdles in building. Too much humiliation in begging.
Besides, more than a few of us think Texas and Oklahoma should play in Dallas becauseof the Cotton Bowl, not in spiteof it.
At 75, the venerable venue is refreshingly old school. No luxury suites, retractable roofs or hi-def plasmas. And how's this for a concept: Fans come to experience a football game, not to tour a state-of-the-art park with all the intensity of the Middleburg Mall. Sure, the Gate 1 elevator is slower than Dr. Phil's caay...dunce, and from the top of Section 5 your view is obstructed by the upper deck overhang. The ambience is of exposed wires, and that wafting bouquet is soiled concrete.
But walk around the joint before Texas-OU and feel more museum than stadium. Tom Landry coached the first Cowboys game here in '60. Sinatra, Elvis and Jim Brown all played here. It's where Brian Bosworth spit, Bevo shit and fans are always split.
"It's not the most comfortable stadium, but that's part of the allure," says long-time Texas fan Warren Hodge, who paid $800 for two seats on the 40. "You don't go to Texas-OU to be pampered. You hear some people complain about the seats being too hard or too small, but I haven't sat down in 10 years."
Says OU freak David Gaines, "This is like a pilgrimage for us every year. If they go to a home-and-home series, it will eventually feel like just a football game."
In a very unscientific poll fueled by corny dogs and common sense, nine of 10 fans questioned at last Saturday's game and post-game parties voted to keep the game in Dallas. Of course they also see the benefits of a playoff system to determine the national champion, further distinguishing themselves from college administrative honchos.
"It'd be a damn shame if they left Dallas," says ABC's Keith Jackson, eternal voice of college football. "Texas-OU is a rare jewel. It's so unique and wonderful. Where else can you take a day and go to the State Fair, ride a Ferris wheel, grab a few cold refreshments and walk over to watch one of college football's greatest rivalries?"
Not if, but when Texas-OU packs its bags, what will the landscape look like?
Texas-OU? As the post-Van Halen David Lee Roth can attest, more money often equals less value. Games in Austin and Norman will be fiercely competitive, but when neither is ranked in the Top 5 it will merely be the Big 12 Game of the Week.
Dallas? Without the game's $17 million, October revenues will plummet, along with occupants at the drunk tank and road rage incidents over incessant honking.
The Fair? It withstood the departures of the wooden roller coaster, the freak show and, this year, the children's petting zoo, so the prognosis for survival seems realistic. But if Big Tex walks, we're outta here.
And the Cotton Bowl? Well, if Harriet Miers can be a Supreme Court justice without being a judge and 28-year-old Jon Daniels can be the Rangers' GM without one day of experience, then surely two teams without perfect pedigrees can play a game that matures into our latest, greatest rivalry.
Ain't that right, A&M and Tech?