Dallas Cowboys

Texas Stadium: Rest in Pieces


You know it's a weird week when Mike Modano's final home game as a Dallas Star is only the second-saddest story.

Went out to Texas Stadium Sunday morning for a funeral and - hate to admit this - but I cried. For a building. I know, silly.

Or is it?

Just after dawn - 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 money-making novelty act rather than a proper burial, Terrell 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 concussion that you could literally feel in your chest, the stadium that put Irving on the world's map went down in a heap.

And just like, in less than a minute, Texas' most recognizable architecture this side of The Alamo was gone.

While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a handful of former players and an estimated 20,000 fans 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.

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, yesterday there was a big Kraft "Demolicious" commercial orchestrated by a kid with no clue of the significance. His Cowboys memories wouldn't fill a thimble; his trips inside Texas Stadium stopped at one.

I was fortunate enough to attend the first and last game 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, 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 '74. Texas Stadium was Tom Landry's stare, Crazy Ray's whistle and the cameos in Any Given Sunday and Dallas.

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.

Texas Stadium went up in smoke, as a revenue-generating, cheesy public relations stunt. But it will go down in history, as one of our most beloved playgrounds.

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt