Turns out there is crying in sports. And in demolition.
Late in the third period of last week's game against the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano stood mid-ice, looked around American Airlines Center and put his gloves to his face. Players from both sides stood and tapped their sticks on the ice, the ultimate show of respect in the National Hockey League. Modano, the face of the franchise since its 1993 Dallas arrival, was playing what in all likelihood was his last home game.
Overcome with emotion as the crowd rose to its feet for a standing ovation, tears streamed down Modano's face.
Funny thing. It was only the second-saddest local farewell last week.
Three days after Modano capped his unprecedented 16-year career with the only team he ever knew by scoring two goals and assisting on another in a fitting victory, the metroplex said goodbye to an even bigger icon.
Texas Stadium, rest in pieces.
Just after dawn last Sunday—7:07 a.m. if you need a specific time of death—the world's most recognizable hole in the roof was imploded into a hole in the ground, symbolically tearing a hole in our heart. Christened by Tex Schramm, nurtured by Tom Landry and canonized by Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, Texas Stadium was built by 17 National Football League Hall of Famers and destroyed by 2,700 pounds of dynamite.
In what was more a moneymaking novelty act than a proper burial, Terrell's 11-year-old Casey Rogers—the winner of an essay contest sponsored by Kraft—opened a yellow box and pushed the button that detonated our most beloved sports theater. After some fireworks foreplay, 55 well-placed explosions and a concussive sound you could literally feel in your chest, the stadium that put Irving on the world map went down in a heap.
While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a handful of former players and an estimated 20,000 spectators watched, Texas Stadium was reduced to a smoke cloud and, eventually, a remarkable pile of steel, three stubborn concrete buttresses and a lifetime of memories. In 1971, it cost $35 million to build; in 2010, $6 million to destroy.
"I feel for Cowboys fans today, I really do," said ESPN's Chris Berman, the network's signature NFL voice and emcee for the proceedings. "It's odd. Whether you liked the Cowboys or not, this place was football in America. I can't believe it's gone."
Time wins. Again.
This is Dallas, where we don't cherish and protect our history but rather bulldoze it in the name of capitalism or use it as a video prop in the name of creativity. While Erykah Badu stripped where Kennedy was shot, in the past year we've dealt with the passing of the Cotton Bowl Classic, Reunion Arena and, now, the home of the Cowboys.
Progress, some say, and I get that. American Airlines Center and Cowboys Stadium are state-of-the-art marvels, and we've evolved from Farrah Fawcett beeping your pager to Heather Fox wanting to Skype. (How's this for juxtaposition? While Texas Stadium was coming down, Aikman was running a half-marathon in Arlington, the finish line to which was at the 50-yard line of Cowboys Stadium.) Maybe I've become a sentimental old fool, but it's just sad that where once there was P.C. Cobb Stadium, there is now the Infomart. And where once there was the championship aura of Texas Stadium, last week there was a big Kraft "Demolicious" commercial orchestrated by a kid with no clue of the significance.
"When that roof started coming in it was sad," Jones said. "That's about all you can say. It certainly wasn't fun."
While Jones, former players and long-time fans fought back the tears, others treated the implosion as an intriguing, isolated event merely there for the oohing and aahing.
"Awesome!" said Rogers, a good kid who has established a homeless charity. "It was better than I thought it would be."
Obviously, we'll cut Rogers some slack. His Cowboys memories wouldn't fill a thimble: His trips inside Texas Stadium stopped at one.
I was fortunate enough to attend the first game and the last game held at Texas Stadium. Back on October 24, 1971, the walls were gray and starless, the goal posts sat in the end zone, there was a Cowboys band, there were no upper-level luxury suites and the Kilgore Rangerettes performed at halftime. On December 20, 2008, the Cowboys closed the place with a kick-to-the-crotch loss to the Baltimore Ravens, allowing 77- and 82-yard runs up the gut in the final three minutes.
In between those dates, a chunk of my life was formed. To me it wasn't just a cool building with a hole in the roof so God could watch his favorite team. It wasn't only a formidable home field where the Cowboys went 213-100, hosted four NFC Championship games and grew into America's Team. It was one of my childhood tree houses, inside which I worked (selling souvenirs), played (impromptu late-night touch games) and graduated (Duncanville High School, Class of '82).
At Texas Stadium, I saw Dallas Tornado soccer. Von Erich pro rasslin'. Madonna. Michael Jackson. Farm Aid. I even remember watching Grease at the stadium's drive-in movie in the late '70s. Buddy of mine got married at midfield. I'll never forget Staubach's final comeback win in '79, Emmitt's rushing record in '02 or Clint Longley's improbable touchdown in '74. Texas Stadium was Tom Landry's stare, Crazy Ray's whistle and the cameos in Any Given Sunday and Dallas, making it the most recognizable piece of Texas architecture this side of The Alamo.
In its final years it had a dingy roof, mysterious puddles of standing water and very mediocre tenants, but Texas Stadium should be remembered as the site where legends were born and championships were celebrated. It deserved to lie in state in some grand rotunda before being transformed into a gigantic museum, or at least one of those places adorned with a historical marker.
But, alas, Texas Stadium went up in smoke as a revenue-generating, cheesy public-relations stunt.
"I'll always love that place and I'll always have the memories," Staubach said back in the fall. "But it's time to move on. Texas Stadium had a great life, but it's over."
Likewise, Modano's shelf life has almost assuredly expired. He'll turn 40 in June, is without a contract for next season and has accomplished everything possible in his sport.
Said Modano of his final home game, "It certainly felt like the end."
It just won't be the same around here without No. 9 and that giant, white hamburger at the intersection of Highway 183 and Loop 12. No local team has ever boasted a player who stuck around for 16 years. And no local team has won more than one championship except for the Cowboys, who captured five while playing inside Texas Stadium.
At some point, the Stars will make a run at another Stanley Cup. And, yes, somewhere in the future Cowboys Stadium will outlive its usefulness and be demolished.
But there will never be another Mike Modano. And there will never be another Texas Stadium.
Cue the chill bumps.
Pass the Kleenex. And the Kraft.