Cotton Bowl: Goodbye, Dallas. Hello, Palace.
And now, we wait a year for the divorce to be final.
Endure patiently, football fans; even fake it if you have to. It's just one last half-assed embrace. Just one more lame—and lame duck—season of our Cotton Bowl suffering as a second-tier game in a fourth-rate stadium.
On January 1, 2010, the game that nursed Dallas through 72 New Year's Day hangovers will morph from artifact into asset. By moving to the Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington. By moving up the hierarchy of college football. By moving closer to hosting the BCS National Championship Game.
Until then, this. This is what we're stuck with.
Like most 72-year-olds we know, the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic gets up way too early and has totally lost touch with the cool kids. Shunned by the BCS and shoved by Fox into an ungodly 10:40 a.m. kickoff, even Missouri-Arkansas couldn't salvage our first memories of 2008.
Tigers 38, Razorbacks 7? Pig-Sewwwerrrrr!
We turned out and tuned in to watch Darren McFadden run hog wild and instead witnessed the Cotton Bowl's hallowed rushing record snatched by somebody named Tony Temple. In a game that's boasted the likes of Jim Brown, Doak Walker, Eric Dickerson, Bo Jackson and Ricky Williams, it's Tony the Tiger who ran for a record 281 yards and a record four touchdowns. Who does he think he is, Quentin Griffin?
Fitting, actually, because the Cotton Bowl has grown as stale as the popcorn at the midnight movie.
This year's game—though it sold out in 24 hours—will only break even thanks to Dallas yanking $700,000 worth of funding because of the bowl's impending move to Arlington. Mayor Tom Leppert and City Hall employees actually turned down free tickets. Fox analyst Brian Baldinger Freudian-slipped his way into referring to the game as the "Cotton Field." By the end players and referees looked like lawn boys having mowed 20 spring yards, their green-smeared shoes, socks and jerseys the victims of a dead field painted in an attempt to somehow make the event more visually appealing.
And then there were outmoded Cotton Bowl officials, sending off retiring Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles with—cue exaggerated eye-rolling—a cowboy hat and spurs. WTF? Deep Ellum isn't worth saving, but somehow we cling to the tired old tradition of the Kilgore Rangerettes and foster the stereotype that, yep pawdnuh, we s'rnuff all ride horses to work.
Thanks to former Mayor Laura Miller and a stubborn bloc of Republican county commissioners who in 2004 refused to even let Dallas taxpayers vote on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' new stadium proposal, the Cotton Bowl will be the city's eyesore only once more. The game, that is. The stadium stays. With, get this, a $50 million facelift.
I know Texas-OU is committed through 2015, but isn't pouring money into the Cotton Bowl tantamount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? Even with a fresh coat of paint and an upgraded scoreboard, the old place will still have narrow seats and cramped concourses and obstructed views and no January 1 game and...
Meanwhile, 18 miles to the west and 730 days down the calendar the future beckons. On a brisk New Year's Eve morning I toured this modern mecca. How did it feel?
Like the Romans first laying eyes on the Colosseum. Like the immigrants first spotting the Statue of Liberty. Like Wade Phillips first stumbling upon the buttermilk 'n' biscuits buffet.
Yes, in fact, that is a tent in my sports britches.
The structure is only half-finished and it's already the biggest, baddest stadium on the planet. You can see the thing for miles, rising from the wasteland formerly known as the Arlington intersection of Collins and Randol Mill roads. It dwarfs the landscape, reducing the city's once garish landmarks into subtle accessories.
With Jonestown hovering in the background, the loop-de-loops of Six Flags' Shock Wave appear little more than earrings on a giant. The Rangers' Ballpark looks like a fleck of dust on the wing of a gnat resting on the ass of a rhinoceros. And just think, at one point we were all intimidated by that orange oil derrick observation tower.
Appropriately, the construction entrance to sports' Taj Mahal is Chapel Street. One billion dollars. 100,000 seats. Countless oohs. Unfathomable aahs. When it opens in the summer of 2009 it'll be fit not for a consolation scrimmage between middle-of-the-packers from the Southeastern and Big 12 Conferences, but rather mega-event showdowns to decide the champions of college and pro football. It will host Super Bowl XLV in 2012, a Final Four, a political convention, a religious revival and maybe even Hannah Montana's "Look, I Got My Boobies!" tour.
Like it or not, the new stadium will be our area's most important new building since DFW Airport opened in 1974.
But for now, it looks like that time travel thingamajiggy Jodie Foster creamed her panties over in Contact. There are seven giant cranes at work. The two mammoth arch trusses—the anchors of the world's largest column-free room—are 75 percent installed. Sorry, St. Louis, but your arch is suddenly about as impressive as a croquet wicket.
(Early guess on the joint's name: Jerry Jones Field at Texas Stadium brought to you by Miller Lite, Ford, Southwest Airlines and the ghost of Tom Landry.)
And, sure, with Cowboys prices escalating about 150 percent, the $90 Cotton Bowl ticket will be history. But, trust me, Fare Park will mute your yearning for Fair Park. Tradition and loyalty be damned, you wouldn't stay married to Bea Arthur if Jessica Alba came texting. So stop your whining and ignite your dreaming.
Standing in the west end zone, you can see through the stadium out toward Johnson Creek, future home of Rangers owner Tom Hicks' Glory Park development of hotels, restaurants and really crappy baseball. You can clearly spot Jones' suite on the second "Ring of Honor" level on the south side's 50-yard line. There's the Cowboys locker room in the southwest corner. The press box is way up there where the "Think Safety" banners flap in the wind. And right there, where that bulldozer is moving dirt, that's the end zone where safety Roy Williams will lose his receiver but somehow find his way to the Pro Bowl.
It's 315 feet from floor to ceiling, big enough to house almost three Texas Stadiums. There'll be padded seats and a retractable glass roof with the beloved hole in the middle and an enormous center-hung scoreboard and a special Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame wing and...
Just one more year.
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