Cool Cotton

If anything, now is the time to embrace the Cotton Bowl

Since its inception 20 years ago, the Grambling-Prairie View shoot-out at the Cotton Bowl has evolved into one of the premier black cultural and social events in the Southwest, in no small part because of the battle of the bands. Every year Grambling's Mighty Tigers pit their classic marching style against the irreverent high-stepping innovations of Prairie View's Marching Storm, especially "The Box," Prairie View's wild drum line.

Things have changed. People who are less than black themselves are nevertheless flocking to movies with black stars such as Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles, Anika Noni Rose, Will Smith and Denzel Washington. Give white folks a chance. We can't stay scaredy-cat forever.

I talked to Errol W. McKoy, president of the State Fair, and, man, he and I were singin' the same verse, same song, same hymn book. He talked about the huge potential of the Cotton Bowl as a venue for soccer, based mainly on the region's enormous Latin-American community but with lots of great action for everybody else, as well:

The Battle of the Bands at the Grambling-Prairie View game is reason enough to cherish the Cotton Bowl.
The Battle of the Bands at the Grambling-Prairie View game is reason enough to cherish the Cotton Bowl.

Location Info


Cotton Bowl

1300 Robert B. Cullum Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75210

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: Fair Park

"You know, we've got a huge Hispanic base that's growing by leaps and bounds in Dallas. Just imagine, say five to 10 years from now, an entrepreneur comes along out of the Latino community. Maybe he's made a lot of money in the high-tech industry like a Mark Cuban, and he has the sports savvy of a Lamar Hunt.

"And he says, 'You know, I'm watching Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston grow by leaps and bounds. And soccer, as we know, is the No. 1 sport in Latin America. What about creating a league for each major South American and major city up here for what I would call the Pan American Soccer League?'

"And he says, 'I'm going to go into major metropolitan areas that have a heavy Hispanic base and also have a big outdoor venue that's soccer-friendly.'"

I did a devil's advocate on McKoy: "And why," I demanded, "is this guy not going to want to go to the slick new domed stadium in Arlington?"

Long silence on the other end.

"Because they have to play international soccer on grass," he said. "They have to play outdoors."

Well knock me over with a feather. I believe I mentioned earlier in this column that I am not a walking encyclopedia of technical sports knowledge. (I hope Richie Whitt doesn't read this. He might have to beat me up.)

I talked to Suhm too. She went straight to the idea that the Cotton Bowl Stadium is a "people stadium."

"It's college football in the open air," she said. "It's soccer games. It could be high school playoffs, particularly if it's a 90,000-seat stadium that's going to be completely renovated [under the 2007 city bond program].

"We've made some commitments, and we've got some opportunities. The commitments were to Texas-OU that we would make those improvements in hopes that they would honor the form of our commitment and agree to stay more years.

"But the other thing is, there's a rail line coming out there, and I don't think anybody has a full appreciation of what the impact is going to be. You know, zoo attendance went up 30 to 40 percent [when the zoo got rail].

"People are going to be innovative and take chances and come out there and start businesses or look at new ways to use Fair Park. I think it's going to make a huge, huge difference."

I do happen to know about the Texas-OU football game, because my son goes to UT. His fraternity comes to town on buses for the game. We don't actually see him that weekend.

But I can tell, when he talks about it afterward, that for all the fun he has at the game itself, he and his fellow Woodrow Wilson High School alums may have even more fun being the urban dudes who guide the rest of them around the State Fair and downtown Dallas. I believe at one point my son may have been telling some of his new suburban acquaintances that he grew up in an old hotel downtown and had to survive a lot of knife fights in grade school, which, of course, was not true. I'm sure he has gone back by now and corrected that.

The point is, being from Dallas is cool. It's serious. The city is a rich bounty of culture and experience that will never ever happen out there in 'burbia.

I don't think we should fault the Cotton Bowl folks for taking a hike. It's a winter game that needs to be televised, so it needs to be indoors.

But we need to turn right around, right now, and make the Cotton Bowl everything that nobody else has got, because we are everything that nobody else can be.

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