It was electric, is was surreal, it was an amazing experience. "It" was my first ever trip to a Dallas Cowboys game, and it was their Monday night game against the Eagles.
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I only moved to Sherman 3 years ago, and I don't exactly have a lot of free time on Sundays to get down to Irving to see a Cowboys game. But, about a week or so ago, I decided that I needed to figure out a way to get down there to see America's Team in person. I got some decent lower level tickets and headed down.
What an experience.
I was first struck, honestly, by how decrepit Texas Stadium has become. You'd think that for all of the history that has been made there over the years that the club would have taken better care of that facility, but that's just not the case. The stadium is dirty and parts of the concrete are crumbling off. The level of uncleanliness was exacerbated by way the concessions staff handles their beer sales. Beer is sold in plastic bottles that are kept cool by being placed in giant beer troughs. As the staff refilled the beer troughs, the empty cardboard boxes were that the beer was packaged in were just thrown into a corner on the concourse. This created various mountains of wet, torn up cardboard boxes in plain sight of anyone headed to the concessions or the restrooms. Furthermore... water run-off from these numerous beer troughs (hardly any beer is served on tap) collected in pools along the concourse that I had to navigate around just to get to my seating section.
Inside, the noticeable lack of video screens was the first thing to jump out at me. Football in-person is not like baseball or basketball, in that, at a live football game, your seat gets better or worse depending on where the ball is on the field. So, sometimes the only way to see what's going on is to watch the video board. Texas Stadium has only 2 and they are, in comparison to what they'll have at the new stadium, tiny. My tickets were actually behind the endzone where TO scored his first touchdown, where Romo fumbled the ball, so I actually lucked out that a lot of the action was right in front of me, and I didn't have to rely on the video monitors.
Also, for some reason, the referee microphone wasn't tied into the same speaker system that the Public Address announcer's was. I NEVER ONCE heard anything that the ref said, and was constantly having to guess about what various penalties were.
However, even with all of that... the game experience was amazing.
I wasn't expecting to be standing up to watch the whole game, but that's exactly what we did. Only for TV time-outs, did we actually sit in our seats. As soon as play resumed, we all stood up again. It had the feel and passion of a college game (something uncommon across much of the NFL landscape). It's an atmosphere that I hope is not lost when the team moves into it's new stadium next season. It was truly unique.
I stood screaming when TO caught that long bomb from Romo for the touchdown. I stood screaming when DeSean Jackson flicked the ball behind him before crossing the goalline. I groaned when Stanback muffed the kick-off, and a play later when Romo fumbled in the endzone. And I cheered when McNabb was tackled late in the 4th as the Cowboys sealed the deal.
Growing up in Houston, I went to several Houston Oilers games, and I even made it to a Texans pre-season game a few years ago, so I'm comparing my first ever Cowboys experience with games that I saw in the Astrodome and Reliant Stadium. I'd say 2 things about my trip: 1) That was the best NFL experience I've ever been a part of in person, either covering a game as a member of the media, or as a paying customer. 2) I'm glad the Cowboys are moving into a new stadium, because Texas Stadium's best days are well in the past.
Mark Van Paasschen