If you grew up in Texas then more than likely you're a Dallas Cowboys fan. You grew up going to church and then quickly home to proudly watch “America’s Team” take on whatever evil dared to show up at Cowboy’s stadium that week.
If you grew up in Houston then things were a little different. You were an Oilers fan. You didn’t go to church because mom said it was “giving up”. You listened to the Oilers play on the radio because dad lost the TV in his latest weekly poker game. But most of all … you despised the Cowboys with every inch of your life.
There are so many reasons to hate the Cowboys if you’re from Houston but for me the true reason for my disdain is the way the 90’s turned out. Everyone remembers the Dynasty that Jerry Jones created that won 3 championships in that decade. The Cowboys dominated the league and when they weren't killing it on the field they were getting coked up in their “White House” with hookers. What’s not to like about that right?
What people don’t remember is that the Oilers were supposed to be right there with them. The Oilers had some amazingly talented teams that consisted of the exciting run-&-shoot offense and a Buddy Ryan led defense. However, when you think of the Oilers in that time period all you remember is January 3rd, 1993 when the Bills recovered from a 32 point second half deficit to knock the Oilers out of the playoffs (I still see Frank Reich throwing touchdowns to Don Beebe and Andre Reed in my nightmares). The decade was filled with Wildcard playoff exits followed by the team exiting Houston in 1998. While the Cowboys celebrated most Houstonians looked for reasons to get up every morning.
15 years hasn’t done much to change my opinion of the Dallas Cowboys. Even though they have essentially been irrelevant since that time period I can’t seem to move on.
So, when Gardale asked me if I’d like to go watch the Cowboys take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Dallas I was less than interested. However, after breaking out my TI-82 graphing calculator I realized that if the Cowboys lose then there is a good chance that they wouldn’t make the playoffs and that is something I can get behind.
Upon arriving at the Death Star (by far my favorite nickname for the monstrosity that is the new Cowboys Stadium) I realized 2 things about the atmosphere outside the stadium:
1 This game somehow was being played at a neutral site in the middle of Dallas because there was at least a 1:1 ratio of Cowboy to Steeler fan.
2 If I wanted to come back for another game there were motor homes available for me to rent and use to tailgate. One motor home even came with a DJ that will “Spin those beats” while my friends and I “pre-gamed” before the game. I couldn’t help picturing Gardale and I standing outside this motor home with a DJ blaring music at us while we debated if New York Style pizza or Deep Dish pizza is the better. By the way, it’s Deep Dish.
After a 3 mile hike, and a free full body strip search, we were in. As soon as we walked through the gate we quickly forgot what we were there to do. Sensory overload is the best way to describe the Cowboy Stadium. Everywhere you look there are cheerleaders or clowns or people lighting things on fire or go go dancers. There was even a rumor that there’s a Victoria Secret store somewhere in the stadium. Nothing says Football like garter belts and push up bras.
Our seats were fantastic. We were low enough to watch the game without having to look up at the jumbotron to see what is going on. By the way, the rumors are true, the Cowboys Stadium jumbotron is amazing. It is huge and the picture is perfect. I can’t think of anything negative to say about it. I want one.
The game was good. I always say that I would rather watch a game on TV than deal with the hassles of going to the games but I might need to rethink that theory. The atmosphere was actually pretty great. Despite half the fans cheering for the Steelers, the Cowboy fans were really loud and into the game. I figured they would be too busy drinking tea and eating crumpets to follow the game but they showed up well. I think losing for the last 15 years has done a really good job of weeding out all of the fans that people think of when they think of Cowboys fans.
That said, I still didn’t clap and I respectfully declined all high fives and daps.
The game ended with a Cowboys overtime interception and game winning field goal. The place went crazy. I was really disappointed but I was proud of myself in the way that I imagine those magicians are proud of themselves after living for 3 days underwater. I had made it through to the other side generally unscathed.
Stepping out of Cowboys Stadium after a win is a lot like stepping into club Hush (or what I imagine it is like to step into club Hush). Hip hop music filled the air and people were dancing. I was doing my best job of keeping my head down and speed walking to the car when I realized that Gardale was bro hugging people and yelling at them to get their tickets to New Orleans (home of this year’s Superbowl).
The Cowboys finished the year not making the playoffs so it all worked out for me in the end but I’ll never forget the look on Gardale’s face as he celebrated with his fellow fans. That little guy had the time of his life (it is now appropriate to listen to “(I had) The Time of my life” from the major motion picture Dirty Dancing starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey).