Captain America is up to no good.
While waiting for his mocha frappuccino at a Starbucks near DFW Airport, the man with one of the metroplex's all-time squeakiest, cleanest reputations gets noticed. Gets approached.
"Hey, you look soooo familiar," the woman working the counter says.
"Well, yeah actually, I... " the man starts before being interrupted.
"You're from Tyler!" she exclaims, growing giddier by the syllable. "Tyler High School! You taught...oh, what was it... ?"
"Chemistry," the man deadpans, suddenly channeling a person he's making up right on the spot. "Mr. Carney."
"Of course!" she chirps. "Mr. Carney. Wow. How are you?!"
"One of my students?" the man inquires with a question he fully realizes has no correct answer. "Were you there when we had the, um, big fire in the lab?"
"Yes!" says the woman. "Oh, my God!"
Before the man dares to spin out his impromptu fish tale—perhaps asking to compare invisible scars from a blaze that never occurred in a phantom teacher's classroom that doesn't exist—he grabs his coffee, is recognized again and high-tails it for the exit.
"Bye, Mr. Carney," she says.
"You do know who you were talking to, right?" the next customer says to the stunned woman.
Roger Staubach never looked back.
"We had this whole back-and-forth thing going pretty good," Staubach says, leaning back and chuckling at the recollection recently in his Dallas real estate office. "I'm sure she was plenty embarrassed...I know, I know. I'm bad about that."
Bad about "that" and, turns out, nothing else.
Staubach, who for decades in Dallas has alternated among Captain America and God's Quarterback and The Dodger and devout family man and successful businessman and pristine role model, is about to atone for a lifetime of sins that—who are we kidding?—would fit comfortably in your great-granny's sewing thimble.
As if bringing two Super Bowl championships and priceless dignity to Dallas wasn't enough, Staubach will host America's biggest and most popular sporting event, one that will attract 93,000-plus fans to Cowboys Stadium, lure 200,000 visitors to the area, generate an economic impact of $500 million and produce TV viewership of 100 million in the United States and approximately 1 billion worldwide. Super Bowl XLV comes to North Texas in general and Arlington in specific in 415 days (February 6, 2011), and the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback just happens to be the chairman of the host committee, the familiar, flawless face of our monumental moment.
"There was really only one person whose presence, aura or mystique best represents football in North Texas. It's Roger," says Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who built the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium and recruited Staubach to quarterback the Super push. "He was the obvious choice to be the leader in this pursuit, because his entire career has been about leadership and getting the job done."
Adds Super Bowl XLV host committee President/CEO Bill Lively: "Roger's the real deal, as close to a perfect human being as you can imagine. You can't spend any amount of time with him without coming away in awe."
Especially, that is, if you work the cash register at Starbucks.
"He made mistakes on the field, sure. Errant throws. Calling a different play than what Coach Landry wanted. Taking off scrambling too soon. But in his personal life, no. He's never made one that I know of. He's classy, upstanding, moralistic, even funny. He's the perfect role model."
—former Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson
Golfer and global athletic icon Tiger Woods, in the midst of his recent extramarital "transgressions," released a statement saying, in part, "I'm human and I'm not perfect." To which Staubach could—but never would—counter, "Dude, that must suck."
"I don't want to get into Tiger's personal life," Staubach says. "I'll just say I've been fortunate to be married 44 years [to high-school sweetheart Marianne], knock on wood. Geez, let's don't jinx it."
He orchestrated 23 fourth-quarter comebacks, started four of the Cowboys' eight Super Bowls and, despite a military commitment that forced him to begin his NFL career as a 27-year-old rookie, is among the franchise's top three all-time quarterbacks in rating, attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards and touchdowns. But on this early December afternoon, Staubach is immersed in his new favorite element, the financial services and commercial real estate offices of Jones Lang LaSalle at the Tollway and Northwest Highway. Heading toward a glass-walled conference room on the seventh floor, Staubach emerges from his office—7R22—and immediately unveils a blemish.
"Please bring me a..." he politely asks his assistant. "Can't even remember what I like. A diet something."
Of course Staubach isn't perfect. He has the dry, borderline warped sense of humor. And if TMZ would stop digging up dirt on Woods and Josh Hamilton and Michael Phelps and Dave Letterman long enough, the gossip gurus might just uncover that Staubach has left a couple wet towels on a couple floors, was rumored to have ripped those warning tags off his pillows and once—just once—forgot to floss.
"I'm just not real comfortable tooting my own horn," he says with a shrug. "You're not going to play up the squeaky clean stuff too much, are you?"
Nope, let's expose the warts. All of them. Surely he's been in trouble at some point in his life. Right?
"One time at New Mexico Military Institute [High School], I snuck out with a bunch of guys and went downtown to have some fun," Staubach admits. "Got caught. Had to march 15 hours with my rifle on my shoulder."
Y-a-w-n. That's it? Only Staubach could possess a rap sheet that smells like spring fresh Downy. Transgressions? His oops wouldn't amount to a speck of dust on the wing of a fly buzzing around one of Tiger's tainted stripes.
These days Staubach, born in Cincinnati but a Dallas resident the last 40 years, is 67 going on 17. Despite five children and his scrambling around as a grandfather, he's fit and trim and blessed with more hop and hair than most men three decades younger. He wears a blue pinstriped dress shirt and tie, no Super Bowl ring ("I'm just not a jewelry guy," he says) and looks as though he could beat out Jon Kitna for a job as Tony Romo's backup tomorrow.
He is, in fact, exactly how you remember him, crooked pinkie and all.
"The big, strong quarterback that was everybody's hero?" Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief says. "He's still that same guy. He's still Captain America."
Granted, he did lose his final game as Cowboys quarterback in 1979 and accidentally completed his final pass to offensive lineman Herb Scott. And in his corner office—he's executive chairman of JLL after a $600 million merger with his old Staubach Co. in 2008 netted him a $100 million payday—he has one of his Navy hats, a copy of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and photos of himself with Michael Jordan, Warren Buffett and—gasp—former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr.
But as for cracks in the foundation?
"I've got a weakness," he says. Go onnnnnnn...
"For people wanting autographs. I can't say no. I'm an easy touch. I know some guys are just going to sell it on eBay, but how do you know? I enjoy being recognized. I enjoy taking photos. One of these days pretty soon, people won't care. Most of them don't already."
A-ha, the shortcoming! Roger Staubach is a liar.
Because Lively says not only do fans still care, they are moved by his kindness.
"I've seen him go out of his way to be nice to a receptionist or just a mom in an elevator," he says. "I remember him bringing tears to the eyes of a maintenance man by remembering his name. He just makes common folks feel special, and that's a unique quality. Roger's one of a kind. They don't make them like him anymore. He's a rock star in airports, but he's also like Walter Cronkite in that he's one of the most trusted men in America."
Whether he's playing in a charity flag football game or politicking in the name of XLV, Staubach is a regional treasure. Not an artifact, mind you. But rather a living, breathing icon capable of instantly instilling hope into Texas Rangers fans when his name is linked to a new ownership group, criticizing Romo without sounding cantankerous and somehow making the impending implosion of Texas Stadium—the house that he and Tex Schramm and Tom Landry and God built—feel more sweet than bitter.
Chicago has Ernie Banks. Cleveland has Jim Brown. Boston has Larry Bird. Atlanta has Hank Aaron. We have Staubach.
On Texas Stadium: "The physical structure will go away, but we'll always have the memories. Just because it's gone doesn't mean we didn't beat the Redskins in there, 35-34."
On his potential involvement with the Rangers: "It's getting complicated. If anything I'll wind up as a sort of local board member. But a minority co-owner or savior? No, I'm not that guy."
On Romo's pre-New York Giants game Vegas trip: "Perception is reality, and it just doesn't look good. I don't agree with needing to get away from football for a couple of days. I think there's crucial value in keeping the football mind-set."
Staubach claims he's too busy for politics, swears he's forgiven Jones for firing Landry, and still plays golf with Cliff Harris and phone tag with Lee Roy Jordan. For now he's pouring his precious time and boundless energy into XLV, attending meetings, speaking at fund-raisers and even driving singer Faith Hill from the airport to her host committee kick-off concert at Fort Worth's Bass Hall next spring.
"If anyone ever had the right to a large ego, it's Roger Staubach," Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck says. "But he's unassuming. Down to earth. He's still my hero."
Staubach's introduction to the Super Bowl was modest, faint, indistinguishable. In 1967 he listened to Super Bowl I on Armed Forces Radio while stationed on a patrol boat in Danang Harbor, Vietnam.
"Play in one?" he says. "At that point I just wanted to live long enough to see one."
Now, unmistakably, Staubach is one.
"If hosting the Super Bowl were somehow turned into a Hollywood movie, you couldn't cast the lead role any better than Roger Staubach." —Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
When Lively accompanies Staubach and host executive committee member Troy Aikman to local XLV fund-raising events, he must harness and direct the influence of two very different passers, two diametrically opposed pitchmen.
"Troy is meticulous, organized, stays on point," Lively says. "Roger? Well..."
Admits Staubach, "I'm not exactly a stick-to-the-script guy."
When the two former Cowboys quarterbacks walk into a room full of potential sponsors, they brandish five of the Super Bowl's 44 championships. Then they head in opposite directions. As he was as a player, Aikman is calm, calculated, accurate and efficient. At the first hint of opportunity, Staubach scrambles.
At a FAM (familiarization) event at Cowboys Stadium in October, Staubach regaled NFL-partner VIPs from the likes of Motorola and DirecTV with stories of leading and winning and the value of donating money to the XLV cause and...oh, screw it. For Staubach, it's more comfortable to simply wow 'em rather than try and woo 'em.
Wearing a suit and tie, Staubach picked up a ball and motioned for a guy in the group to run a 10-yard down-and-out pattern. And for the next 45 minutes—at distances that eventually approached 40 yards—the audience was mesmerized, watching the old quarterback throw strikes to the lanky dude in jeans and a Stetson, better known as former Cowboys tight end Jay Novacek.
"When it's Roger and Troy, you can bet no one's walking out. You're assured of a captive audience," Lively says. "But while Troy gets right to the message, Roger sometimes wanders around and takes the scenic route."
Says Staubach of his sales pitch-and-catch with Novacek, "It was a lot of fun. But my shoulder was sore for four days."
For almost that long, the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl VI pondered even being involved in XLV.
Jones has won three Super Bowls, but he's dreamed of hosting the NFL's ultimate game almost since the moment he bought the team in 1989. In 2004, the billion-dollar twinkle in his eye manifested in plans for Cowboys Stadium, built, yes, to cement his personal legacy, but also with the hope of hosting a Super Bowl.
In 2005, Jones broke ground on the stadium in Arlington, and by late 2006, he was formulating a formal bid. But he needed a face.
"We decided early in the process that our theme would be to focus on football because, when you strip everything else away, the Super Bowl is about football, and nobody does football better than Texas," says Tara Green, who left her job with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau for six months to be the primary architect of the bid. "It's in the fabric of who we are. We've got an unmatched passion for high school, college and pro football. We had that going for us, but we all knew we needed that last little extra-special punch. We knew who we needed."
While Green and the committee constructed the 244-page, 13-chapter bid in 2007 that promised the NFL things like 24,000 secured hotel rooms, public safety assurances and core support from the area, Jones reached out to his first option. Jones called Staubach.
"I had no idea what he wanted," Staubach says. "I knew the team was a little unsettled at quarterback, but I was prepared to tell Jerry I was just too old."
Marianne called Staubach at his office and relayed Jones' invitation to stop by his Park Cities home. By 6 p.m. Staubach arrived.
"He asked me to be the face of the game, to help him make the formal bid," Staubach says. "But my company was in the middle of a merger. I needed a few days to think it over."
Staubach, who at the time was a co-owner of NASCAR's Hall of Fame Racing with Aikman, called and consulted good friend Roger Penske, a long-time NASCAR owner who had helped Detroit's successful bid to land and organize Super Bowl XL in 2006.
"It didn't take long for me to realize what a huge impact this game could have on our area," Staubach says. "Plus, football is my life here. In the end, it was an easy decision."
Staubach joined the committee in January 2007 and led the North Texas delegation to Nashville that spring, where he made an impassioned 45-minute speech to NFL officials.
"I'm pretty sure I went off-script a couple times," he jokes.
On May 23, 2007, North Texas was awarded Super Bowl XLV, beating out Indianapolis by a vote of 17-15.
"The other cities had new stadiums and nice plans," Green says. "But they didn't have a Roger Staubach selling their product. You hear a once-in-a-lifetime guy talk about a once-in-a-lifetime game, and it's pretty powerful stuff."
Staubach fought in Vietnam. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1963 at Navy and is a member of the Cowboys' Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He led the Cowboys to frantic rallies and landmark victories. He grew The Staubach Co. into one of the metroplex's most powerful and omnipresent real estate brands.
But, just like that, the shy man who sneaked off to watch Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry instead of hitting Bourbon Street on a night off in New Orleans before Super Bowl VI in 1971 was suddenly the grown-up CEO of a multimillion-dollar, abstract thing enveloping the world's most prominent football game.
Surprise—he's the perfect man for the job.
"He is the most competitive person I know," Jones says. "He absolutely will not settle for the North Texas Super Bowl effort being anything short of the very best that there has ever been."
Cluck says, "If this thing doesn't work with Roger as chairman, then it's never going to work."
"I'm convinced this will be the biggest, best-run Super Bowl of all time. It's going to be absolutely the greatest thing to happen to North Texas in my lifetime. And none of it would be possible without Roger Staubach." —host committee President/CEO Bill Lively
Staubach enjoyed the luxury of Hall of Fame teammates during his 11-year career with the Cowboys. Tony Dorsett. Bob Lilly. Rayfield Wright. Bob Hayes. Randy White. Mel Renfro. Tom Landry. But these days, although XLV is attracting everyone from George W. Bush to Ross Perot Jr., his go-to guy is a mild-mannered, physically unimposing 66-year-old who played quarterback at Adamson High School "because I was the only one who could remember the plays."
"I thank God every day that Bill Lively is Bill Lively," Staubach says. "We'd all be lost without him."
Staubach, Aikman and Jones may be XLV's style, but it's Lively who for years has provided Dallas' substance.
"Put me in a room with those heavy hitters," Lively says, "and I redefine the word 'superfluous.'"
With a history of fund-raising at SMU and, most notably, the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts—he raised $334 million, including 130 separate gifts of $1 million or more—Lively is the answer if your question is along the lines of "How the hell do I squeeze more blood from my economic crisis-challenged turnip?" On a mid-November afternoon, Lively is leaving XLV's headquarters offices in Turtle Creek (PlainsCapital is donating the space for two years) and driving his sleek, gray Lexus to the Four Seasons Club and Resort in Las Colinas to make yet another Super sales pitch, this time to the decision-makers at NASDAQ.
"I did this 1,159 times over eight and a half years with the Center for the Performing Arts," he says. "But the Super Bowl? It's a different entity. That was a tangible structure, something people could feel and touch and take a tour of. This is an event, with a football game as a catalyst. But it takes much the same kind of hard work. I'm driving about 1,700 miles a month. I've been to Fort Worth 41 times this year. And we're just getting started."
Lively went to the first Cowboys game at the Cotton Bowl in 1960, where, he says, he paid $1 for a ticket and watched in dismay as fans hurled ice at the halftime entertainment, Roy Rogers. For years at Texas Stadium, he was the director of the Cowboys Band. And he's always appreciated the power and panache of Staubach.
"Roger makes my job easier," he says. "But this job is still filled with rejection. You're crazy if you don't expect to hear the word 'no.' It's like baseball. If you hit on three out of 10, you're a major success."
On the heels of Jones building the country's biggest, best stadium, it's the XLV host committee's charge to not only fill it, but surround it and accessorize it with an unprecedented quantity and quality of star-studded, fan-friendly events. To do that—in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression—they need to raise $30 million to pay for security, transportation and game-related proceedings.
So far, so good. XLV has already secured more $1 million sponsors (11, including T. Boone Pickens, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Jones Lang LaSalle and The Texas Rangers) than any Super Bowl in history. Problem is, the committee recently endured a nine-month drought and will miss its initial goal of having 15 sponsors in place by 2010.
The North Texas event dwarfs anything the Super Bowl has ever seen. Last February in Tampa, 25 committee members worked with a $12 million budget. XLV, powered by America's fourth fastest-growing population, fifth-biggest media market and "everything is bigger in Texas" braggadocio, boasts 282 members and a budget almost three times larger.
"We're basically on pace," Lively says. "But I can't imagine trying to pull this off anywhere right now other than North Texas."
While the region's economy may help, its history of selfish, segregated isolationism will have to be melted. Lively and XLV aren't only asking for unprecedented money, they're requiring North Texas cities to work together on a project for the first time since DFW Airport was built in 1974.
"We're at warp speed, from 150 years of nothing to suddenly coming together as one big community," Lively says. "In that regard we're in virgin territory."
Despite the NFL retaining all revenue from the expected 93,000 tickets—a total approaching $100 million given the expected face value of $1,000 (sorry, no $29 Party Passes to this game)—Jones won't be guaranteed any profit other than international exposure for his stadium and team.
Budget, revenue and profit pale, however, in comparison with the estimated economic impact on North Texas of a staggering half a billion. Though the competing teams won't qualify for the game until late January 2011—no team has ever played in a Super Bowl in its own city—and the halftime musical act (Staubach jokes he wants to see old-schoolers The Lettermen) won't be announced for another 11 months, XLV activities officially kick off March 6 with Faith Hill's benefit concert in Fort Worth.
And to think, all this could have been staged smack dab in the middle of downtrodden Dallas.
From April to July 2004, Jones held talks about a new stadium with then-Mayor Laura Miller. They talked about a site in Fair Park and another around the farmers market. Ultimately, Miller scoffed at spending $325 million on a project into which Jones eventually dumped $800 million out of his own pocket.
Staubach is too noble to criticize, much less trash-talk city leaders, but he does roll his eyes at what could have been for Dallas.
"They could've pulled this Super Bowl off in a stadium built on the farmers market site," he says. "It would've been an economic driver that would've revitalized downtown. There are just so many positives that go along with the stadium...with the game...I just think by the time Dallas figured out what it could have, the ship had sailed."
Speaking at a Council of Mayors Committee meeting at Cowboys Stadium in mid-November, Moncrief said it's impossible to look at the stadium and the impending Super Bowl influx as anything but a gargantuan victory for Arlington.
"Dallas let Jerry get away based purely as a business move," he says. "But I can't say anything because we didn't have our bait in the water either. We might have been in the room during negotiations with the Cowboys, but weren't exactly on the table."
Don't look now, but everyone stands to benefit from XLV.
The game, for example, will touch four counties (Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and Collin), 114 cities and 6.5 million citizens. It will require police officers from Roanoke, hotels in Sunnyvale and an airport in Garland. There are plans to rename Interstate 30 "Tom Landry Super Bowl Highway," to use the Union-Pacific railroad corridor for transportation and Lone Star Park for parking. In Tampa—again, much smaller scale—the Super Bowl generated 7,200 taxi rides, necessitated 5,200 limousines and produced 32 takeoffs an hour at the airport.
The game will be played in Arlington, but Fort Worth will host the AFC team and the NFC team will stay in Irving (Dallas is officially designated the NFC Host City because it's the location of the NFC Fan Party). The international media center will be the Sheraton Dallas, the NFL Fan Experience will take up the Dallas Convention Center, and we haven't even begun to touch on the countless, colossal parties thrown by Sports Illustrated, Maxim, Playboy and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
But the biggest winner may be North Texas' image, which, according to Olympic gold medalist and host committee ambassador Michael Johnson, could be finally, shall we say, modernized. Super Bowls, remember, are where stereotypes go to die. Or at least receive extreme makeovers.
Not that there's anything wrong with horses and oil derricks and muckraking millionaires named J.R. and, well, cowboys. Texas, for better or for worse, will always be associated as much with cattle drives as winning drives.
But with the arrival of Super Bowl XLV comes the chance for the metroplex to not only soften well-worn stereotypes, but also sharpen its worldwide image as a progressive, modern area highlighted with more technology than tumbleweeds, more global headquarters than 10-gallon hats.
"It's amazing what a lot of the world thinks about North Texas," Johnson says. "Trust me, the TV show Dallas is still huge is Europe. Still. So many people see us as oil wells and cowboy hats, riding horses to work. I'm not saying there's not a certain charm to that, and it's definitely a part of our culture. But we're so much more than that. It's a progressive, vibrant place with cutting-edge companies and new urbanism. It'll be nice to be able to put that part on display for the world to see for a change."
To accomplish that radical reconstruction, Lively says, it's imperative that XLV include all surrounding cities, towns and cultures in the process.
"This regional concept can't just be lip service," he says. "It can't be a charade. So far we're getting about 88 percent attendance at our committee meetings, and all the mayors are on board for a common goal. It genuinely warms my heart."
For having let the Cowboys walk twice in its history—to Irving in 1971 and to Arlington in 2004—Dallas is getting more than its fair share.
"Super Bowl XLV is proof of what the cities in this region can do when we pull together for a common goal," Mayor Tom Leppert says. "Not only will it bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to North Texas, but the game will also provide an unsurpassed showcase for the region and everything going on here. We are confident this will not only be the best Super Bowl game to date, but the first of many that will be held in North Texas."
Adds Moncrief, "We do this right, we set the template for how to work together in the future, and you can see not only multiple Super Bowls here but, at some point down the road, maybe even the Olympics."
After a champion lifts a trophy at Miami's Land Shark Stadium on February 7 and the confetti stops raining down on the field, Super Bowl XLV in North Texas will officially be "on the clock." As if his legacy needed a boost, Staubach is ready for one last perfect two-minute drill spanning 12 months.
"I always wish I could do something positive that everyone would remember," Staubach says. "Well, this is it."
The man sitting in first class catches the eye of the flight attendant. Hesitantly, obviously flustered, she approaches.
"Sorry to bother you," she says to the man, "but aren't you somebody?"
His creative, childlike persona ignited, the man excitedly plays along.
"Yes," he says sternly. "Yes, I am. I am somebody."
Confused, intrigued and wholly undaunted, the woman retreats to her tiny nook near the cockpit to commence her mind's roll call while perpetually peering around the corner for another look at the famous face. Finally—armed with an educated guess and a gush of confidence—she returns.
"You're a newscaster," she says, hoping his facial reaction will punctuate her stab with more exclamation point than question mark.
"Yep, you got it," the man says calmly with a sheepish smile. "I'm a newscaster."
Then, as if he hit his overhead call button, the flight attendant's face suddenly lights up.
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"Oh, my gosh," she whisper-shrieks. "Frank Gifford! I knew it!!"
"Frank Gifford...riiiiiight," the man says slowly. "You got me."
God's Quarterback is up to no good.
But truth be told, Roger Staubach is still up to a lot of great.