Best of Dallas®

Best Of 2008


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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

SPORTS: Space Cowboys

Assume that one day humans overcome physics' celestial speed limit and head to the stars. What shape will commercial space travel take?

If predicting the future were as simple as extrapolating from the present, we could make a few educated guesses: Checking a bag will cost you $1.7 million; you will be scanned by a jaded, cranky robot before you board; and your personal hibernation pod will be situated immediately in front of one cradling a colicky baby.

And the spaceport you fly from? It will probably resemble the new billion-dollar-plus Cowboys stadium rising on the Arlington landscape. It's certainly big enough and packed with enough gee-whiz gadgetry.

When we met Bryan Trubey, design principal for the stadium with HKS Architects Sports and Entertainment Group, we intended to talk about its futuristic, high-tech touches. The stadium's two monumental arches, for instance, weigh 3,255 tons each and span 1,290 feet, rising 320 feet above the playing field—high enough to hold the Statue of Liberty upright. The arches will support the world's largest domed roof, which will cover about 661,000 square feet and include twin-paneled doors that retract to reveal a 105,000-square-foot opening that mimics the opening in Texas Stadium, left there so God can still watch his favorite team. Massive, clear 180-foot-wide doors cap the end zones. A canted glass exterior wall floods the interior with light. The world's largest video boards hang 110 feet above the field.

And so on. The tally proves that the stadium will be, as promised, one of a kind. But what the numbers don't capture is its sleek, futuristic beauty. For all its massiveness, the dome's sweeping arches and canted glass give it the air of a spacecraft. In artist's renderings, the dome appears to be waiting to leap into flight.

That's a long way from the industrial, men-at-work feel of today's Texas Stadium—but then so are today's Cowboys. And that's the point. For Trubey, designing the Cowboys' home was a process that began with defining the team's brand.

"My thing has always been context," he says. "For me, it was never about what my personal expression would be and applying that on every project I get so that I have a branded look. "

That becomes clear when you compare the Cowboys' stadium plans with the recently opened Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, another HKS project on which Trubey was design principal. Where the Pokes' home is a sleek, modernistic ellipse, the Colts' new $720 million digs, with its red-brick exterior, gable roof and exterior trusses, have the air of a Midwestern factory, evoking that city's blue-collar manufacturing history.

For the Cowboys, Trubey and the HKS team had to look beyond the obvious, namely, the team's name. Anyone familiar with the hip, money-making enterprise that Jerry Jones and family have assembled knows that the team that Terrell Owens calls home isn't about Stetsons, piped shirts and pointy boots. The Cowboys are a world icon for sport, says Trubey, whose family has lived in Oak Cliff for a century. Like the New York Yankees and Great Britain's Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys is a name recognizable internationally.

"When companies want to project to the international audience...they choose when they build something to project an image in a very progressive, modern, edgy way," Trubey says. "And so that led us toward a modernist expression for the stadium itself. We wanted the building to project all those characteristics...all under the context of modern architecture."

The Jones family was also committed to building "an important piece of civic architecture," he says, and were willing to commit the money to create it (as were voters in Arlington, which will kick in $100 million toward building the dome.)

Art and marketing. Corporate branding, modernism and football's grungy, high-tech glitz. All of it is blended together and brought to life on a gargantuan scale to create a vision that looks distinctly toward the future while keeping one foot in tradition. You can't get much more "Dallas" than that, and the fact that the stadium will open next year in a suburb midway between Dallas and Fort Worth somehow just seems that much more appropriate.

"Sports teams globally, when they build a building, they're not like a retailer. They don't have 1,500 chances to get it right," Trubey says. "The building will be the dominant physical expression of the team worldwide, especially with a brand like Cowboys."

It could very well be the dominant expression of Texas in the world. Rome has its Coliseum, the icon of Roman power for two millennia. We ask Trubey if he felt extra pressure from the idea that he could be not just creating a really big building—and helping spend more than a billion bucks—but defining a culture for centuries.

Trubey modestly demurs. He knows he's been blessed with the chance to work on major projects in a profession he loves. He emphasizes the role of patrons like the Joneses in supporting massive projects such as the stadium.

"Well-maintained," he says simply, "the building could last indefinitely."Patrick Williams

Best Futbol Player

Kenny Cooper just may save American soccer or at least take it to the next level. At just 23, Cooper has all the skills to develop into a premier-level striker, the one thing the U.S. National Team has always lacked to go from middling to elite status. Unlike Landon Donovan, the current poster boy for American soccer, Cooper has not just speed, but also brawn, making his game a good fit for the bruising international stage. This year Cooper is an MLS All-Star and one of the league's leading scorers.

Best Athlete That Made You Proud to Live in Dallas

We assume it's easier to part with an Olympic gold medal when you have four more on your mantel, but still, the legendary Dallas sprinter made us all proud when he dashed toward integrity in June. After learning that four of his U.S. 1,600-meter relay teammates had admitted to taking steroids in preparation for the Sydney Games in 2000, Johnson announced he would return his medal because "I know the medal was not fairly won and that it is dirty." Johnson, who maintains he's never doped, still owns the world record in the 200 and 400 meters and still has a burgeoning training facility in Mc-Kinney. Thanks to his class act, he also still possesses his good name.

Best Athletic Director

SMU's AD, turns out, could sell green bananas to an astronaut headed for the International Space Station. After all, he's got the Methodists again believing in big-time sports. In his two-year reign, SMU has constructed the $13 million Crum Center basketball practice facility, spent $1 million upgrading Moody Coliseum, splashed Dallas with a $750,000 "Pony Up" marketing campaign, drawn blueprints for a new outdoor tennis center, eased admission standards, maintained a 97 percent graduation rate and hired former national coaches of the year in basketball (Matt Doherty) and football (June Jones). To pay for Jones' unprecedented five-year, $10 million contract, Orsini persuaded a "Circle of Champions" to invest $100,000 for five years. Miracle on Mockingbird, indeed.

Best Cowboy

It's OK. Your heroes can still be Cowboys. Best buddy Tony Romo has more famous girlfriends, and Terrell Owens has more shiny endorsements, but no player was more important to the Cowboys last season than Witten. Already with a spot reserved in the Ring of Honor as the franchise's all-time best tight end, the Pro Bowler caught everything thrown his way and yanked us off the couch with his helmet-less gallop against the Philadelphia Eagles. Precise routes. Nimble feet. Pillowy hands. But the best reason to be smitten with Witten: He balances his $28 million contract with a 28-cent ego. A night after rubbing elbows with Jamie Foxx and Serena Williams at T.O.'s birthday party last December, Witten spent the day making friends at Carrollton's Rainwater Elementary School. Oh, and also, Witten's smart enough to realize it's not a good idea to sing at Wrigley Field when you can't, in fact, sing. Right, Tony?

Best Decision

By all accounts, the manager was as good as gone in late April. His team had baseball's worst record (9-18). The Bad News Bears displayed better fundamentals. Washington was this close to getting axed. Owner Tom Hicks admitted it was "pretty close." But just as management began constructing a contingency plan and even a list of potential successors, the Rangers suffered injuries to front-line veterans, began getting production from unheralded youngsters and shockingly climbed back into playoff contention by the All-Star break. One of Washington's strengths is his patience and his unflappable demeanor. The Rangers deserve credit—albeit barely—for giving him the chance to display it.

Best Drama

Next to Jimmy Johnson vs. Jerry Jones, and Mark Cuban vs. Don Nelson, the divorce of Dallas' most popular sports talk radio duo proved one of the most compelling in recent memory. Williams initiated the destruction with Rhyner—his longtime host on The Ticket's The Hardline—via habitual lying and drug use. But the dismissive treatment of Williams by station management and former co-workers escalated the story from a regional phenomenon into national news. The feeding frenzy was unprecedented, generating almost 400 reader comments on our Web site. Or, about 400 more than the following week's dissection of the Rangers. In the final analysis, Williams ruined his career, a radio show and almost his life through reckless, selfish actions. But 15-year friends ignoring him only inflamed the situation. And two wrongs don't make a right. They just make us all sad. For everybody involved.

Best Golfer

Justin Leonard may have the best résumé of any pro golfer living in Dallas (two majors and 11 PGA victories), but nobody in the area has had the year Anthony Kim has had. In May, Kim won his first PGA Tour tournament, the Wachovia Championship, with the lowest score (-16) in the tournament's history. Two months later, he won the AT&T National, becoming the first American younger than 25 to win twice in one year on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods in 2000. Plus, he wears belt buckles on the tour with his initials AK inscribed on them. Now that's Texas.

Best Hire

Unless we're totally cross-eyed on this one, SMU football coach June Jones will be accepting this hardware multiple times in the future. But for now, no personnel transaction has positively affected a franchise like the return of Big Tex to Arlington. While it's difficult to accurately quantify Ryan's influence, there's no denying the Rangers are pitching quicker, playing harder and winning more with him as team president. Attendance isn't exactly overflowing at Rangers Ballpark, and the stagnation of Glory Park doesn't sit well, but don't we all feel a little better with Ryan calling the shots rather than John Hart? Ryan doesn't get all the credit for Josh Hamilton's homers or C.J. Wilson's dramatic saves, but he is the main reason the Rangers are again becoming a relevant franchise with undeniable credibility and, dare we say it, even a bright future.

Best Horse Trainer

Questions about doping aside, there's no taking away from what Steve Asmussen's done in the last year. He's gone from the guy who takes the leading trainer crown every year at Lone Star Park to the guy who's training the best horse in the world. That horse would be Curlin, and earlier this year, after the 4-year-old had won just about every race Asmussen put him in, he decided to run him on grass, just for the hell of it, against some of the best turf runners this side of the pond. The big chestnut came up just short. It won't be the last we hear from him or Asmussen. Expect to see the Arlington resident in the winner's circle for years to come.

Best Imitation of What We Wished Dallas Was Like

This just in: Dallas has moved to Arlington. Inexplicably, it left us with only John Wiley Price's "black hole" and half-assed plans for the Trinity River. Thanks a lot. If you're keeping score, the new $1 billion stadium once targeted for Fair Park will now host Cowboys games starting in 2009, the Cotton Bowl starting in '10, the Big 12 football championship game in '09 and '10, an annual Arkansas-Texas A&M football game starting in '09, a Notre Dame-Arizona State game in '13, a potential NBA All-Star Game in 2010 and, of course, Super Bowl XLV in '11. Don't look now, but our sports epicenter has moved 20 miles west. Dallas, last we checked, was rolling out the red carpet for Division II football between East Central State (Oklahoma) and Texas A&M-Commerce. No shit. Couldn't make up something that lame.

Best Intimidating Answer to a Legitimate Question

The highest-paid running back in Dallas Cowboys' franchise history received a seven-year, $45 million contract in the spring despite starting just one game and never producing a 1,000-yard season. How's that, you ask? Because Marion Barber is a badass, forged out of muscle, menace and downright mean. He's the NFL's toughest, scariest runner, fueled by the disposition of a traveler about to check six pieces of luggage on an American Airlines flight. Proof? Barber made a habit last year of violently stiff-arming potential tacklers in the kisser. So effective, and so unfair, was the move that the NFL Competition Committee deemed it illegal for the upcoming season. Told of the league's new "Barber Rule," prohibiting him from going for opponents' facemasks, the Barbarian never looked up and immediately growled "What about the throat?" Shiver.


SPORTS: Space Cowboys:

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