Sunday morning, the community of Dallas and football fans nationwide said goodbye to the only stadium to host five Super Bowl champions. Texas Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys from 1971 through 2008, was imploded just after 7am, with thousands of fans gathered to pay their respects to a place that has meant so much.
Two generations of Cowboys fans grew up at Texas Stadium. This is the place where the Cowboys transformed from the "next years champions" of the Cotton Bowl, to "America's Team" and a Super Bowl champion in their first season in the stadium with the famous hole in the roof.
I grew up at Texas Stadium. I don't remember my first Cowboys game. The earliest I can remember would be bits and pieces of the 1992 season, being a seven-year-old kid getting to see the hometown team run all the way to the Super Bowl, crushing the Bills and bringing home a third Lombardi Trophy.
I saw too many Troy Aikman to Michael Irvin touchdowns, and even more TD runs by Emmitt Smith. I saw Jay Novacek hold field goals and extra points. I saw Darryl "Moose" Johnston clear running lanes or catch passes to a raucous "Mooooooooose" chant from the crowds. And I saw Prime Time Deion Sanders high-step into the end zone on several occasions.
I was there when George Teague trucked Terrell Owens on the famous midfield star, cheering as loud as I could. And I was there when Terrell Owens helped lead the Cowboys to the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, doing much of the same.
Many Thanksgivings were spent in Section 108, Row 5, with nachos and hot dogs. What was I thankful for? The chance to spend the holiday in Irving, Texas, watching my favorite sports team take the field. My mother even changed our own Thanksgiving tradition of when we ate meals, moving Thanksgiving "dinner" to noon before the Cowboys game to ensure we didn't fill up at the game and not eat our Thanksgiving meal. Texas Stadium shaped our lives, and that was more than okay.
I witnessed many playoff games, including NFC Conference Championship wins over San Francisco and Green Bay. I also saw the Cowboys fall short against the New York Giants in the final playoff game at Texas Stadium in January 2008.
I heard by father yelling at Pro Bowl offensive linemen to "Block! Block! Block!" for Troy Aikman when he would drop back and survey the field, then laugh at whatever comment Brad Sham would be saying through his pocket-radio.
The "Super Bowl Nachos" were an experience, topped with steamy-hot melted cheese, pico de gaillo, jalapenos and Texas chili. Their successors at concession stands at new Cowboys Stadium leave much to be desired. Stacks and stacks of souvenir Cowboys cups take up an entire cabinet in my parents house.
I saw Emmitt Smith become the greatest rusher in NFL history, scampering past Walter Payton on an 11-yard run up the middle against Seattle in 2002, his last year with the club.
I tolerated the lean Dave Campo years, watching the likes of Quincy Carter or Chad Hutchinson lead my beloved Cowboys. A celebrated the arrival of Bill Parcells who helped put the Cowboys back in contention for playoff berths. And I enjoyed every game of 2007, back home in Texas after graduating from college, as the Cowboys racked up a 13-3 record and the team's first Division title since my middle school days.
December 20, 2008, I caught a flight from Los Angeles to Dallas before sunrise on the West Coast. That night, a teary-eyed Saturday in North Texas, I witnessed The Farewell, the final Cowboys game at Texas Stadium, a disappointing loss to the Baltimore Ravens that helped knock the team out of the playoffs.
I was there for great memories, and I have heartbreaking ones as well. But I'm so glad I wasn't there when that contest-winning child pressed the button and the football world said goodbye. It's why I couldn't be in the room when my childhood pet was put down, too. It's hard to say goodbye. And while no one is debating that the team's new palace in Arlington is the greatest football cathedral ever conceived, let alone constructed, Texas Stadium was iconic for so much more. It had notoriety, it had history, and fortunately, we'll always have those memories.