Recap - Cowboys 13, Saints 10
It seemed like just yesterday that the 2018 NFL schedule was released and I, like a dorky 10 year old on Christmas morning, nearly wet myself with excitement going through it and planning out what games I’d be going to this year. Well, that was back in April and today marks the start of my final road-trip of the season.
I’m closing out my season’s visits with a ‘Texas Two Stop’ - First in Dallas (actually Arlington) to see America’s Team then taking a 4-hour drive south to ‘H-Town’ to see the Texans. Say what you want about football fans in other parts of the country, there is no state in the nation that loves their football than Texas. That includes high-school, college and especially their two pro teams.
This being a Thursday to Sunday trip allows me a little extra time exploring these two great cities. On this trip, I was blessed with unseasonably warm weather for December, in the high 70’s – low 80’s and plenty of sunshine. I landed in Dallas/Fort Worth airport yesterday a little after 3 pm and headed over to the rental car area to pick up my overpriced shitty black Mazda, then crawled through the rush hour traffic on TX-360 into Arlington. There is a huge entertainment complex in Arlington that hosts not only the Cowboy’s AT&T Stadium but also the Texas Rangers baseball stadium, a huge Six Flags and a water park called Hurricane Harbor. Outside of this, there really isn’t much going on in Arlington except a bunch of strip malls with chain restaurants and fast food joints.
Arlington is actually the largest city in the country without a mass transit system, so the only way for folks to get to and from this complex are the over congested highways. There also aren’t many high end accommodation options. I made the mistake of booking late and got stuck with a depressing and dirty Motel 6 about 2 miles from the stadium. Normally, rooms in this dump run about $60 bucks a night, but given that the Cowboys were playing, they were charging almost 4 times that! The room had all of the charm of an army barracks and was slightly bigger than a walk-in closet. It had no shampoo, no pens, no batteries in the remote but oddly enough it had three ashtrays. It smelled as if they held the Central Texas regional smoking semi-finals in the room the night before.
I headed out on foot to the stadium around 5:30. As I got closer, more and more fans joined the march. The closer I got, the more I could feel the energy. This being a nationally televised and very important prime time matchup up against the 10-1 New Orleans Saints no doubt added to the buzz. The ‘Boys won their last 3 games and after a slow start, have climbed to the top of the NFC East Standings
At first glance, the stadium was very impressive. Huge, sleek and well laid out.
The seating capacity of 80,000 but Standing room attendees can bring the attendance to over 100,000 – like it was last night.
The atmosphere at AT&T Stadium is alive and electric, and begins hours before kickoff when the tailgaters enter the parking areas. the Cowboys provide pre-game entertainment beginning two hours before kickoff, with two stages located at AT&T Plaza (east side of the stadium) and Miller Lite Plaza (west side). The pre-game entertainment features the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the Dallas Cowboys Drum Line along with the Rhythm & Blues Dancers, and portable bars and food trucks.
If you don’t enter the stadium through the correct gate for you seating section, it is an enormous pain in the ass to get to your seat. I found this out the hard way. The main concourse of the stadium is split in half because of the premier club seating, which prevents you from walking across to the other side, and forces you to go up to the 400 level, and then back down to the main concourse. Given the huge crowd I had to navigate around, this took me almost 45 minutes. It did give me a good chance to check out the different levels of the stadium though
The fantastic artwork located throughout the stadium also adds an interesting touch, and brings another reason any sports fan would enjoy their visit to AT&T Stadium.
Walking around the stadium you can see that there is no shortage of corporate sponsorship There are various clubs and lounges sponsored by Ford, Dr Pepper, Miller, AT&T and others. The Cowboys aren’t just “America’s Team”, they’re also “Corporate America’s Team”
I had a front row 200 level corner end zone seat with a great view of the field. It was a perfect night and the roof was open. Right before kickoff, Rowdy the team mascot came out to rile the fans up. Rowdy was followed up by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders who are in their own way, just as famous and popular as the Cowboys themselves. Then the lights dimmed and the music and pyrotechnics started followed by the introduction of the ‘Boys. AT&T Stadium boasts the largest and most spectacular high def video board in all of US sports venues and a PA system almost as impressive
In a game where the Cowboys were 8 point underdogs to a powerful Saints team who came into town with a 10 game winning streak, their defense pressured Saints QB Drew Brees all game and shut down their powerful running game holding star back Alvin Kamara to only 36 yards.
The teams went into the locker room with the Cowboys up at halftime 13-0 on a Dak Prescott to Zeke Elliot TD pass and 2 FGs
The Cowboys do not retire jerseys to honor their past greats, as they have the Ring of Honor – the ring currently has 21 names of legends. At halftime, they added a 22nd entry to the ring as they honored former director of player personnel Gil Brandt into the team's ring of honor. Brandt was the chief architect that built some of the great Cowboy teams over the past 4 decades. Joining him on the field as owner Jerry Jones gave the induction speech were several Cowboy legends including Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, Tony Dorsett and Randy White. Troy Aikman was in the booth announcing the game.
The Saints fought back in the 2nd half with a Brees TD pass and a Wil Lutz FG, but the Cowboys lead held up for a 13-10 upset victory resulting in a hell of a lot of happy Cowboy fans.
Cowboys fans are knowledgeable, passionate, and they take every win or loss by their team very personally. But while they are loud, Texas is a state of chivalry, and the Cowboys faithful remain respectful of other teams’ fans.
Food wise, there are a lot of concession stands both out in the plaza and throughout the stadium with plenty of variety and local Texas fare, but prices are high, lines are long. One of these unique dishes are chicken waffle sandwiches, Kobe burgers dressed up with either green Chile or BBQ, catfish po-boy sandwiches, prime rib sandwiches, and Frito pie.
The walk out of the stadium to the designated Uber and Lyft pickup area took an eternity and the crowd of folks waiting for rides was enormous. There were Uber employees working the lot trying to keep order, but the line of drivers trying to fight the traffic and get into the lot to pick up their passengers was seemingly endless. This all probably could have been organized better. Eventually I got my ride and made it back to my luxurious Motel 6. Still hungry, I hopped in my car and drove to the nearest Jack in the Box. This is the first time I ate Jack in the Box since I was employed by them in NJ when I was 16. Jack in the Box left the east coast not long after that. The tacos were as wonderfully awful as I remembered them.
Today I got to spend the whole day in ‘Big-D’ spending time at the infamous 6th floor museum where the fatal shot that killed JFK was taken, the Perot Science Center, the Reunion Tower and the West End featuring Wild Bills Western Store. At night I had a great dinner in Trinity Groves then did some bar hopping in my favorite Dallas neighborhood, Deep Ellum.
It’s an early rise for me tomorrow and a long drive down south to Houston.
Fans - B - Very enthusiastic and friendly. Lots of Saints fans in attendance but not a trace of hostility towards any of them
Features - A+ - Lots of wide open spaces and lounges. Huge plazas with food and entertainment at both ends of the stadium. Great artwork. Best video screen & PA in the NFL
Location - C - A pretty decent drive from downtown Dallas. Arlington doesn't really have much else to do before or after the game. The building out of Texas Live will help keep fans happy.
Food - B+ - Lots of options including local Texas fare - but very long lines and expensive
Game - A - great matchup against the hottest team in football. Nice upset win.
Overall Experience - A