As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I spent much of last week visiting the great state of Texas. My only previous visits had been stopovers at D-FW Airport while I changed planes; but last year for Christmas, my wife gave me two tickets to see the Cowboys play the Bears on Thanksgiving.
While at the game, we witnessed two anecdotes–a silly one before kickoff, and another more serious example after it was over, that help illustrate the atmosphere surrounding the Cowboys’ home turf, Texas Stadium.
When I first became interested in football back in the mid-to-late 1970s, the Cowboys were absolutely peaking as “America’s Team“: they had crushed the Broncos in 1978’s Super Bowl XII, narrowly lost to the Steelers the following year, and had a world famous cheerleader squad starring in made-for-TV movies. More importantly, they had Roger Staubach at quarterback and Tom Landry as head coach, whose powerful image as straight shooting military veterans and Men of God made for impressive role models.
Of course, those Cowboys are long since gone: Staubach retired in the spring of 1980 at age 38 to make his fortune in real estate, and Landry passed away in 2000. Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ current owner, has lived off that legacy of the America’s Team period of the Cowboys, the foundation built by Landry and former general manager Tex Schramm.
Now, I admire Jerry’s business sense, and his ability to amass a fortune large enough to buy the Cowboys in 1989 and keep them one of the most profitable franchises in the NFL since.
But this is not a team that the man whom sportswriter Skip Bayless dubbed “God’s Coach” would recognize.
For proof, check out exhibit #1:
I shot this photo of the Cowboys emerging from an inflatable tunnel with an inflatable Cowboys helmet attached to it as white dry ice oozed out. The air being pumped into it made the whole thing sort of…bob…and vibrate. And both the tunnel and the helmet have large Levitra logos on them.
(Levitra is a competitor to Viagra; both are drugs to cure what is politely called erectile dysfunction. The big difference is marketing: while both are built around dark-haired spokespersons, Levitra’s is a sensuous 30-something brunette actress. And Viagra’s is Bob Dole. But I digress.)
Of course, the answer why the Cowboys have a vibrating inflatable tunnel with an inflatable Cowboys helmet attached to it and both displaying Levitra logos is obvious: it’s a little known fact (very little known, actually. In fact, I’m making it all up) that Woody Allen’s largest fan base, by far, resides in Texas. And to appease them, Jerry Jones has instructed his team to recreate the famous climax…of Woody’s 1972 film, Everything Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask at the start of every Cowboys home game.
Not buying it, huh? Well, I can only surmise that Sigmund Freud’s theories aren’t especially popular in the Lone Star State, which is why the Cowboys would risk having their players shooting out of an inflatable tunnel festooned with logos promoting a product designed to cure erectile dysfunction. And that Jerry is a guy who will do anything for a buck. Or six or seven figures worth of them.
When they deflated the whole thing after all the players had emerged, I felt the intense urge to light up a Laramie. I’m not sure why…
Red State; Blue And Silver Tolerance
On a more serious note, especially after the ultra-ugly NBA incident in Detroit the week before last, I was really surprised at how many Chicago Bears fans were visibly enforce at the game. There were several tailgate parties built around cars and vans displaying enormous Bears flags in the parking lot before the game, and many, many people in the stands with Bears jerseys with Brian Urlacher or Walter Payton’s numbers on their chests, and “GSH” logos on their sleeves for “Papa Bear” George S. Halas.
And from what I could see, none of the Cowboys fans hassled them. After the game was over, Nina and I walked back to our rent-a-car parked upteen rows deep in the enormous stadium parking lot on the other side of (I think) Highway #183, and walked the pedestrian overpass to reach that lot along with a crowd of thousands. Ever see one of those History Channel World War II documentaries where they show thousands of captured soldiers marching off to interment? That’s what this crowd sort of looked like as it snaked its way through the overpass, except that they were far more boisterous, given that the Cowboys had just won, 21 to 7. But even in their excitement at winning, nobody that I saw flipped a Bears fan the bird, or got in their faces, or did anything to incite them.
I have no idea if that’s par for the course at Texas Stadium, where I assume lots of fans from distant cities fly in to see their teams play the Cowboys. But having been to my share of games at Philadelphia’s old Veterans Stadium, and having driven through the parking lot of Raider Nation once (and God, what a frightening experience that was), it’s tough to imagine Philadelphia Eagles or Oakland Raiders fans being as tolerant with fans showing up wearing the opposition’s colors as the Cowboys’ fans were.