Monday, September 28, 2009

The Arrival of Big 'D': Dal 21, Car 7

After eight days of questions, doubts, and disappointment, the Cowboys finally gave their new home an overdue W with a 21-7 win over the hapless Carolina Panthers in the second prime time game in as many weeks of the new Cowboys Stadium. Lots of criticism was focused on Tony Romo's three interception, 120-something yard performance against the New York Giants to open the new venue, but it was the Cowboys defense that had yet to register a sack or takeaway in the first two weeks of the season. Monday night, the 'Boys nabbed three of each, including a decisive pick-6 by Terence Newman, who had been picked on all night long.

It took a while to create the turnovers, and they weren't necessarily tremendous defensive plays so much as offensive miscues, but the Cowboys were still able to take advantage of the opportunities when they arose on the defensive side of the ball. After allowing 27.0 points per game the first two weeks of the season, the allas Cowboys finally found some big 'D'.

The Dallas stoppers had plenty they could have done better -- everyone could have -- but the defense won the game and brought the Cowboys back to a respectable 2-1 on the young season. Throughout the night, the first man continually failed to wrap up on tackle after tackle, but a swarming linebacking corps and defensive backs running to the rescue of their teammates helped fill in the gaps. It's a problem that the Cowboys will have to address at some point if they are going to contend for a playoff spot, but for now they can celebrate success while still having plenty to improve upon.

Cornerbacks Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins will get to see themselves on the highlights for the two interceptions. Jenkins out-leaped an unsuspecting Mushin Muhammed for a deep punt-pass from Jake Delhomme, and Terence Newman snuck inside of a miscommunication play between Delhomme and Steve Smith for an interception he took to the house in the fourth quarter. But what about the miscues that both Newman and Jenkins struggled with all night long?

In Carolina's first drive, Mike Jenkins tried to lower a shoulder into the hip of Muhammed to make a tackle. Instead, Jenkins bounced off and Muhammed gained more yards before being brought down. Smith dragged Newman eight extra yards on one play in the same drive, and he's the size of an oompa loompa in pads! Muhammed also escaped another would-be Jenkins tackle in the second quarter for a first down. There was also the called back 79-yard touchdown from Delhomme to Muhammed where the Panthers WR was flagged for offensive pass interference. Slightly ticky tacky, and frankly Jenkins should have been able to put himself in a better position on the play. Yes, it was negated, but it was still a blunder by the corner.

If the Cowboys can correct a few of these mistakes and continue to put this kind of pressure on opposing offenses, then they have a good shot at recording wins in Denver and Kansas City in the upcoming weeks.

Offensively, the Cowboys played things closer to the vest despite a few trick plays called here and there. Nothing too fancy, but Jason Garrett did get a little cute. Factor in the absence of Marion Barber and that second-string running back Felix Jones got banged up during the game, and the win is all the more impressive. The injuries left Dallas with it's third choice, Tashard Choice. But much like he proved in his coming out party last season in Pittsburgh, the second-year man proved he could get the job done.

Tony Romo's performance was that of an offensive lineman -- he played well enough that we didn't have to mention him doing something bad. Romo played mistake-free football. He did make a few eyebrow raising throws, like a ball he threw away to the sideline that Chris Gamble got his mitts on, or the across the field heave that was about as graceful as his four yard run on the play when the ball was snapped over his head in 2007 against St. Louis. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 255 yards. No touchdowns, yes, but he didn't have any interceptions. Taking two sacks wasn't beautiful, but he was pretty much ambushed on those plays without ample time to make much happen. It's good enough to win. And it wasn't bad enough to lose. It's not what you want to be saying about the starting quarterback, but it's a solid game after his performance last week against New York. It's a bounce-back game. Plain and simple.

A few other thoughts on the first ever indoor NFL game in the DFW metroplex:

+ Tashard Choice has 118 yards on 22 touches (82 rushing yards on 18 carries, 36 receiving yards on four catches) with a touchdown mixed in. That was all well and good. We know he's got talent, but he also helped protect Romo in the passing game. On 3rd & 10 in the first quarter, his block gave Romo enough time to complete a 17 yard pass to Roy Williams to get the Cowboys into the red zone. Only problem: the Cowboys couldn't convert any points on the drive.

+ Does Wade Phillips no longer have confidence in Nick Folk? Folk went wide right on his first attempt of the game, a 40-yarder. He did come back to kick a 19-yard chip shot (more on having to settle for this field goal later) as well as a 24-yarder, but several times it looked like the Cowboys could have realistically sent him out for a 50-and-change yard attempt but each time sent out Mat McBriar to punt it away. Sure, sure, a miss would mean good field position for the Panthers, but let the man show off the leg. We don't really see too many missed kicks from this guy.

+ Patrick Crayton is no longer playing like someone who doesn't want to get hurt. He looked aware on his 14-yard run on the end around, and on each of his three catches, he resisted the temptation to duck out of bounds and instead went back toward the hash marks in a quest for additional yards. It's the little things like that which toughen up a team. Crayton's role on this team might be the most under-valued this season. Everyone is looking for Roy Williams to replace Terrell Owens, and the three running backs will all combine to pick up for each other, but if Crayton can make himself a weapon to be accounted for, Williams and Jason Witten will see their numbers balloon as a result. Who knows, he might even be able to play to the level of his mouth this season. That little shimmy to get away from would-be tacklers en route to a first down in the second quarter was nice.

+ Crayton also looked good in the punt return game. Four returns for 58 yards (14.5 per return). Considering the ineptitude of the punt return game last season (something about an arcade game), it's nice to see the Cowboys with an edge in the field position battle.

+ Sticking with receivers, Roy Williams has to catch that lob to the corner of the end zone. He's got the height advantage, and he needs to make the play. Terrell Owens had his drops too, and we were frequently reminded of it, but that ball hit him in the hands. This isn't a pick up game with your buddies in the back yard where to pretend you can make those types of plays but laugh it off once you butterfinger the ball away. Make the play.

+ Offensive coordinator calling for the jump ball / fade to the corner of the end zone on two straight plays from the one yard line. Everyone of the 90,000+ in attendance knew it was coming, but the Cowboys failed to execute each time. First the drop by Williams, and then a ball that Martellus Bennett wasn't close to. Bennett tried to work the DB inside before releasing to the corner, but didn't get there quick enough. Romo took three steps and threw it, and the ball landed helplessly in the corner to bring up 4th & goal from the 1. Send on the field goal squad and cue the lonely violin music.

+ It's too bad Wade Phillips doesn't have any real authority over the offense. When Garrett's 2nd & Goal and 3rd & Goal from the one-yard line failed to bear any fruit, Phillips was shown on the sideline next to Garrett with a look of confusion. Maybe he was upset with the execution of the plays, but he's got to be wanting more from his offensive coordinator. This is not the same guy who was at the head of the line for the Ravens head coaching job two offseasons ago.

+ Two interceptions?! Three takeaway?! Wow. Nice to see the defense get into that ball-hawking mentality. By the way, when was the last time the Cowboys had three interceptions? Would you believe two years and six days ago when the Cowboys picked off Rex Grossman three times in a win in Chicago over a team that was thought at the time to be a big NFC contender. Just something to think about. Lord knows the Cowboys have thrown three interceptions plenty of times since.

+ Kudos to the rookie Victor Butler who notched a pair of sacks and forced a fumble that halted the Panthers in the fourth quarter. Not only did the Cowboys come up with takeaways, but they came up with them at key parts of the game. Forcing two turnovers in the fourth quarter go a long way toward winning ball games.

+ Another comeback win for the Cowboys under Tony Romo. Dallas was behind 7-0 at the half, but 21 second half points gave the Cowboys their second win of the season. It's good to be able to come from behind, but in the future (especially with the likes of Denver and Kansas City coming up next), let's not get behind in the first place.

The Cowboys won the first ever indoor NFL game in North Texas. Under a closed roof for the first time ever at home, the Cowboys righted the wrongs of a week ago, getting the team's first win at Cowboys Stadium. Now it's off to the AFC West against a pair of teams that are each off to surprising starts. Did anyone expect the Broncos to be 3-0? Sure, they had that tipped pass jackassery in Week 1, and Matt Cassell pre-season injury has lead to plenty of inconsistency early for the 0-3 Chiefs.

The Cowboys have four very winnable games ahead with a bye week mixed in as well. If the Cowboys can get to 6-1 on the season, they'll be in prime position for a playoff berth. With Denver, Kansas City, Atlanta and Seattle ahead, the Cowboys can't get caught up in their own self-inflated hype. They have to continue to find ways to get better. The defense looked good tonight thanks to Carolina giveaways, and the sluggish offense provided enough points to win. Now is the time to break from a going-through-the-motions routine and hit your stride. Plenty of trap games lie ahead for Dallas. Don't get caught looking ahead.

Why call out your kicker?

After hearing the post game frustrations of Seattle Seahawks coach Jim Mora Jr. lambasting his kicker for missing two field goals in a loss to the Bears on Sunday, I went back for a second look at the game. Seattle lost 25-19, a six point margin that could have been made up by the two missed field goals. Kicker Olino Mare went 4 for 6 on field goals. He made kicks of 46, 37, 39 and 46 yards while missing from 43 and 34 yards.

Now here's the question I have for the Seahawks. Why are you kicking six field goals and unable to keep drives going once you get within striking range of the end zone?

Granted, the two missed kicks were well within Mare's range, but kickers will miss kicks over the course of the season. Two in one game? Doesn't happen much, but then again, how often do kickers attempt SIX field goals in a game? Seattle converted 7-of-17 3rd downs. 41% success rate. Eh, kinda want a little more consistency than that.

Seattle Seahawks 3rd Down Plays:

First Quarter
3rd and 19 at CHI 39 (10:35) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass short right to J.Jones for 39 yards, TOUCHDOWN. 0 6
O.Mare extra point is GOOD, Center-K.Houser, Holder-J.Ryan. 0 7

3rd and 8 at SEA 33 (4:26) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass short left to B.Obomanu to SEA 44 for 11 yards (Z.Bowman).
3rd and 4 at 50 (2:31) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass short right to N.Burleson pushed ob at CHI 34 for 16 yards (A.Afalava).
3rd and 4 at CHI 28 (:50) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass incomplete deep right to N.Burleson.

Second Quarter
3rd and 10 at CHI 47 (13:43) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass deep middle to N.Burleson to CHI 27 for 20 yards (H.Hillenmeyer).
3rd and 3 at CHI 20 (12:13) (Shotgun) J.Forsett right end pushed ob at CHI 19 for 1 yard (H.Hillenmeyer).
3rd and 9 at SEA 26 (7:41) (Shotgun) S.Wallace sacked at SEA 19 for -7 yards (L.Briggs).
3rd and 13 at CHI 26 (:27) J.Jones right tackle to CHI 25 for 1 yard (M.Anderson).

Third Quarter
3rd and 5 at CHI 16 (8:17) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass incomplete short right to D.Branch.
3rd and 11 at CHI 46 (2:23) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass short middle to T.Houshmandzadeh to CHI 33 for 13 yards (N.Roach).

Fourth Quarter
3rd and 10 at CHI 21 (14:56) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass incomplete short right to N.Burleson (K.Payne).
3rd and 1 at SEA 27 (11:35) D.Branch left end to SEA 19 for -8 yards (N.Roach).
3rd and 1 at CHI 30 (7:02) J.Jones left tackle to CHI 28 for 2 yards (D.Manning).
3rd and 10 at CHI 28 (5:24) (Shotgun) S.Wallace pass incomplete deep left to T.Houshmandzadeh (A.Afalava).
3rd and 2 at SEA 28 (1:25) (No Huddle) J.Jones right guard pushed ob at SEA 48 for 20 yards (K.Payne).
3rd and 1 at CHI 43 (1:12) J.Jones right tackle to CHI 43 for no gain (A.Adams).
3rd and 2 at CHI 29 (:33) S.Wallace pass incomplete short left to J.Carlson (A.Afalava).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

USC 27, WSU 6: Barkley bites back

One week after the Trojans fell asleep at the wheel against the Washington Huskies, Pete Carroll turned the keys to the car back over to Matt Barkley. The true freshman QB threw two touchdowns coming off of a shoulder injury en route to USC's 27-6 win over the Washington State Cougars on Saturday night.

Barkley's impact was immediate - both on the field and in the minds of the fans. He entered the huddle to chants of "Barkley! Barkley! Barkley!" and completed his first pass on a roll out for a first down. Two plays later, Joe McKnight pulled into the end zone for a 7-0 Trojans lead.

Last week's offensive ineptitude was surpassed in the first quarter. Barkley's second TD pass of the quarter, a 57-yard strike following a surprise onside kick, gave the Trojans 136 passing yards compared to Aaron Corp's 110 yards against UW in Seattle. Barkley finished the game 13 for 22 with 247 yards with no interceptions. Yes he had a few throws that seemed off the mark, but nothing that was going to cost the Trojans in this win.

Corp got a chance to mop up for Barkley in garbage time, during which the Trojans called a steady stream of running plays. It's clear who the Trojans #1 QB is and will be for the next era of Trojan football.

A few other notes from the game that proved why no one wants to be seen with a Cougar:

+ The defense swarmed the field on Saturday. The Trojans snagged the ball away from the Cougars three times including an interception that halted a Wazzu drive that should have resulted in a few points. USC totaled 4.5 sacks on the day and put constant pressure on the quarterback. The Men of Troy also held the Cougars to just 1.8 yards per rush.

+ Wazzu missed another chance for a few points at the end of the first half. The Trojans defense sacked Cougars QB Jeff Tuel on 3rd down with 25 seconds left in the half. With the clock running, the field goal unit sprinted onto the field, go into position, and with 6 second left in the half, kicker Nico Grasu couldn't connect as the half ended.

+ Grasu had a rough night for the Cougars. He also missed an extra point after the only Wazzu score of the game.

For the Trojans, they next go to Cal with a 3-1 record and a chance to prove they have put the ugliness of Seattle behind them. Cal is coming off an embarrassing blow out loss at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. Two Pac-10 teams who each have plenty to prove. Get ready for the weekender.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boosting butts in the ballpark

Looking at pictures of an empty Pittsburgh Pirates ballpark this afternoon, part of me hopes/wonders if our little-engine-that-could operation of the Long Beach Armada can rid ourselves of days like this next season. After working three years in independent baseball for the Golden Baseball League, stadiums with this look of a sold out "dress as a seat" night theme may be a bit too common. On the plus side, I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now's the time where we get to fight to make a difference. The Armada and the GBL have just hit the offseason, and for me as the team's broadcaster, that's when I take off the headset and put on a tie. Time to sell, sell, sell. So is the world of all minor league baseball.

From now until the first pitch of the season, all efforts revolve around finding ways to get people through the gates of Blair Field here in Long Beach. And I get the feeling it's happening. Personally, I've already set up 10 meetings coming up in the next week with either local little leagues or sponsors. Gettin' an earlier start than last offseason. It's not a situation where we can just give tickets away (as much as people often suggest), for two reasons: 1. We've gotta make some money, and 2. If you do that, you lose all possible value of what you actually have.

This offseason I'm trying to find a way to build some value in what we can do for the community. Maybe it's get our players out to talk to the little leaguers more often, or getting the mascot to be the guest-umpire for a tee-ball game, or have guys out to dedicate the new local playground or something. Whatever it is, there has to be some sort of focus that we're doing is something to give back. If not, if we're just in it to sell tickets, then you end up with a stadium like the one pictured above. People know when you're just out to try to sell them something, and it's an extremely off-putting feeling when you get those phone calls.

With eight months until our season starts anew, we've got a find a way to make people want to answer the phone when we call. It's all about the baby steps. Last season the local newspaper finally covered every one of our games. No exception. Each game had a write up in the paper. Now if only they would publish the GBL standings so people can see where we rank (actually, after the sluggish season we had last year, maybe it's better that they didn't).

This is when the difference is made. The offseason.

Just as players work year-round to improve their on-field abilities to improve year by year, now is the time when our organization must improve. I get the feeling we're doing it. And the motivation? To not end up as an attendance punch-line that gets outdrawn by little leagues. Looking at that picture of the Pirates game says that somewhere along the line, someone has lost that drive (and lost a lot of baseball games). In Long Beach, we can't fall victim to those same traps. It's great motivation for us here. Geez, I'd hate to be like that.

Sure we had some lighter attended games this past summer, but it was leaps and bounds ahead of what things looked like at Blair Field in 2008. And with as much progress as (I felt like) we made from '08 to '09, to reality is I know there is plenty more to get done. Now is the time when we can make that sort of thing happen. We are making it happen. Mascot visiting schools. Meeting with little leagues and churches and others. The hype has already started.

Worst case scenario, at least we're not stuck in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An inside look at Cowboys Stadium

This weekend's journey into the new home of the Dallas Cowboys was one that I will certainly not forget anytime soon. For any person who has ever set foot into a sports venue - new, old, historic or otherwise - unless you have been to Cowboys Stadium, you have not experienced anything of this magnitude.

It's got several nicknames: Jerry World, Jonestown Coliseum, the Death Star, Jones Mahal and several others, but one thing is for certain, this place is as grand, lavish, over-the-top, first-class as any stadium or any building ever for that matter.

Here's a brief walk through of my personal experience of the new stadium, including everything except the game, which was the only major disappointment of the evening.

Arriving at Cowboys Stadium, we pulled into our assigned parking lot, a great deal easier than the old Texas Stadium parking cluster where all "Blue" parking was in the immediate area. Here assigned lots corresponded with your section for your tickets. Of course there were cash parking lots for the nimble amount of $60. Then again, if you've paid $350 per ticket, is the extra $60 where you're going to fall short? Definitely a steep price to park, but as I emerged from the car, I couldn't help but grin at the site of what I had only seen in sketches and graphics. The stadium dwarfs it neighboring Rangers Ballpark to the same degree that the Cowboys dwarf the Rangers in interest.

The giant glass walls and spaceship-like dome were a reality in front of me. You can see the reflection of your car in the parking lot on the glass sides of the building. I found my customized paver brick ($150 well worth it) in the Jim Jeffcoat section of the Legacy Walk. Nearby this fans paver expressed the sad truth that accompanies the price tag of this new stadium. Not too far down, my father found his brick.

Walking to one end of the stadium, our tickets were scanned, and we were within the stadium grounds. The end zone ends of the stadium are fenced off where ticketed fans can enjoy pre-game music and watch other games on massive TV screens that Jerry Jones and the Cowboys plan to rent to other venues in the offseason.

When entering through the giant glass doors - the world's largest - in the end zone, the Cowboys did a great job of anticipating capacity crowds with very wide concourses. Wide as they were, however, with more than 105,000 fans packed into the stadium, it was still a crowded walkway on the ground level. Many party-pass holding fans made their way to one of the six party decks that combined to hold over 30,000 standing room only fans, or one and a half American Airlines Centers worth of people. The Dallas Mavericks and Stars can eat their hearts out. Each party deck had its own unique experience. The Ford Deck had cars displayed on it. The Miller Lite Deck has the Rhythm and Blue Dancers which frankly pale in comparison to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. These poor man's versions of America's Sweethearts weren't as pretty, couldn't get on the same beat, and looked like some sort of captive dancers in Jabba the Hut's den.

Looking up from the end zone, I got my first view of the Jerry-tron, also known as Godzilla-vision, also known as the largest HDTV screen ever. It's as tall as a seven-story building as is the equivalent of suspending a Boeing 747 over the field. It's massive and it's amazingly clear. The screen is larger than life.

Think about all the times that sports teams have the lame "watching parties" at their stadium or arena when the team is on the road in the playoffs or for a big game. I have never once in my life attended such a watching party because I know the type of picture I'd get watching on those screens at Texas Stadium or American Airlines Center or the old Reunion Arena (which will be missed). But if the Cowboys called for a watching party at Jerry World, I'd be all over it. The owner's goal was to ensure that fans who stayed at home to watch the game did not have a better view of things than fans who invested their time and money to be in attendance. Mission accomplished. Not only did a replay follow each play, but following the main replay, the massive video board then became a four-shot showing of the replay with four different angles of the play at once. It was almost information overload but still gave fans plenty of opportunity to dissect the previous down.

I took several pictures of the video board, and it's as if I was right there on the field with my camera. It's too clear and too big to ignore. That video board guarantees a great view of the field for any fan regardless of where their seat (or standing-room-only square foot of space) may be. Even if you aren't facing the field and the mega-vision video board, it's extremely difficult to avoid eye-contact with an HDTV in the stadium. Close your eyes and spin around five times. When you open your eyes, even though you won't be focused in any specific direction, you'll still have plenty of HD screens to comfort your dizzy brain.

The seats in new Cowboys Stadium are not the hard plastic folding pieces of rental junk from your neighbors summer pool party. These are cushy comforts for every fans' fanny with armrests and legroom as well. Each row of seats is affixed to a sliding base that can have additional seats squeezed in for larger events if the armrests are removed. Hello Super Bowl XLV!

After the game I snuck into a luxury suite to test out what looked like the captain's chairs in mom's old minivan. Not quite. Instead, they are more like dad's recliner, welcoming your entire body with the warmth of a winter blanket. I've always criticized and doubted the fanhood of people in suites like this who I feel don't cheer as loud or as hard as people in seating sections. After demoing the new digs at the Death Star, I almost want to rescind those harsh words. If I had plunked down in a seat like that to watch a game at Cowboys Stadium, it would take some sort of fire/child-being-born/imminent-nuclear-disaster to get me out of there. Heck, even though there are private bathrooms in each of the suits, if I was sitting there, that's a Screw it, I'll hold it situation if I've ever seen one.

The roof opened to much acclaim as with each 30 minute interval, the voice over the loud speak, sadly not the same voice from Texas Stadium (a noticeable drop off from George Dunham), announced "The roof will open in 90 minutes." " one hour!" " 30 minutes!" " 10 minutes!" " five minutes!" until finally the time had arrived. The roof and the giant glass doors at each end split as daylight burst through, and the Cowboys Stadium was officially opened. Once the roof had retracted - a 12 minute procedure - looking up through the hole felt like I was back in Irving, Texas, at the house that Clint Murchison built. Exact same dimensions, exact same feel. God can still watch his favorite team play on Sundays ... unless of course bad weather forces the roof closed in which case He'll have to watch the Jerry-tron with everyone else in attendance.

Not only do the Cowboys enter the field through a Hall of Fame level suite-holders club at the field level that allows players to pass through the fans en route to the field, but Jerry Jones even arranged for the visiting New York Giants to have the same experience, rounding up Giants fans to gather for NYG's entrance across the way.

As far as the concessions on opening night, there were a few surprises along with a few disappointments. I went in expecting the prices to be, well, on par with the venue. I didn't find any of the $90 pizzas or $30 burgers (Kobe beef burgers for $13.50 at my local concession stand). With so many registers and stands, I decided to test the limits of snack stands by doing something I never did at Texas Stadium: going for food at half time (after the Ring of Honor ceremony of course). Not only did I walk right up to the register, but the entire process was very efficient. Small monitors on the cash registers displayed my order and the insane price. At Texas Stadium, my heart belonged to a heaping helping of Super Bowl Nachos. I can remember them costing only $5.00 when I was a kid. Last season they were around $9.00 but came with a ladle or two full of melted cheesy cheese with pico de gallo, jalapenos and chili. Once I heard the vendor tell the guy in front of me that hot dogs would be a 5-10 minute wait, I decided that now was the time to go head-to-head with the old Texas Stadium nachos. My first concessions experience at new Cowboys Stadium.

Sadly, much like the game itself, the Cowboys really dropped the ball here. Much like memories of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, I guess there are some "good old days" that are just going to be better than any current incarnation. No offense to Tony Romo or Marion Barber and the new nachos, but I prefer the old entre. The platter consisted of blue corn chips, melted philly cheesesteak cheese (what the heck?! Philly?! We're in Dallas. That's a division rival. Get your head out of your ass, Jerry!), corn, black beans, and the stench of $8.50 wasted. Now I did get a very nice souvenir commemorative cup with a
picture of the new stadium on it, but that's about it.

After the game ended and Lawrence Tynes blew up the Death Star with a last-second field goal, we stayed to watch the post-game press conference on the massive Jerry-tron, a perk that we were sold on in the ticket-buying process. Too bad that our mush-mouthed coach doesn't annunciate well enough for you to understand him over the stadium's speakers. Maybe there was a better auditory experience in one of the clubs or suites, but I hope they can fine tune watching the press conference over the video board for future games.

Traffic exiting the stadium turned out to be what it is at every sporting venue in every city everywhere: traffic. The promises of better plotted out traffic patterns to get everyone in and our quicker didn't appear to come to fruition (and we waited to watch the press conference on the screen which didn't let much of the traffic die down). Eventually our car trudged out of the lot, up the street and onto the freeway. Not quite as simple as Texas Stadium which was surrounded entirely by freeways so your only way out was onto a high-speed thoroughfare. This was a little more daunting, but perhaps it will flow easier after the first few games. Seeing more than 105,000 people leave from the same place all at the same time isn't an easy exit strategy anyway (insert joke about Iraq War here).

The new stadium truly was a sight to behold. Other than some half-hearted nachos, traffic jams and a mumblingly-inaudible Wade Phillips press conference (which come to think of it might not be entirely the fault of the speaker system), the evening was the grandest sporting event I've ever witnessed, including Super Bowls, BCS games, Final Fours, Stanley Cups and NBA Finals. No other single event had the pomp and the celebration of this night. This one regular season game was more highly attended than any Super Bowl ever was.

For a North Texas region that truly sees football as its own religion, credit Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for building a great house of worship.

Cowboys Stadium roof opens for the first time

Pictures from Cowboys Stadium on Opening Night

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