Another 11 a.m. football game in Dallas. Must be bowl season.
Early Saturday morning – the first day of the new year – I headed over to Fair Park and Cotton Bowl Stadium for the inaugural TicketCity Bowl featuring Texas Tech and Northwestern. I had not seen either team in person, and I had not seen the improvements to the Cotton Bowl, so this was as good a time as any to do so.
I actually love driving the morning of New Year’s Day – there’s practically no one on the road. After breakfast at Whataburger and the light rail ride from my house to Fair Park, I found myself back in front of the great stadiums in college football. Or, at least it used to be.
The Cotton Bowl used to be part of the finest rota of college football bowl games on the planet – Cotton, Rose, Sugar and Orange. It drew the best teams and the best players from around the country to face the Southwest Conference champion. Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, Penn State and Navy (with some young quarterback named Roger Staubach calling the plays) all played in the Cotton Bowl through the late 1980s. Perhaps the last, great Cotton Bowl was on New Year’s Day 1989. That was the year UCLA played Arkansas. Troy Aikman was UCLA’s quarterback, and everyone in Dallas felt like they were scouting the next great Cowboys quarterback. They were.
The rise of the Fiesta Bowl kicked the Cotton Bowl out of the opportunity to be a part of the national championship rota in the mid-90s, a move that stung many locals and eventually prompted the game’s exodus to Jerry World (Cowboys Stadium) in 2009. It’s no longer a New Year’s Day game anymore. The Cotton Bowl is, sadly, just another bowl game.
The Cotton Bowl Stadium is just another stadium. It has no college football team that calls it home (SMU now has its own on campus stadium). The stadium subsists on the Red River Rivalry (Texas-Oklahoma), hosting Division II games, hosting the Grambling-Prairie View A&M game each year and whatever else it can get its hands on. This year, during the last weekend of the Texas State Fair, it hosted Baylor and Texas Tech. But the glory days are gone, and it’s downright sad.
It’s a shame the City of Dallas didn’t play ball with Jones several years ago, when he proposed to improve the Cotton Bowl and move the Cowboys back to Fair Park. The City of Dallas was stung by the acrimonious negotiations to finance the American Airlines Center and didn’t want to go through it again. So while Jerry World hosts the Cotton Bowl and the Super Bowl in Arlington within four weeks of each other, the Cotton Bowl Stadium just sits there and does nothing most of the year. It’s an awful way for this great lady of college football to spent her retirement years, setting on the south side of Dallas in a sea of irrelevance.
A little more than 40,000 showed up to see the Red Raiders defeat the Wildcats, 45-38. Those in charge of the bowl said they broke even. And that’s with a Big 12-Big Ten tie-in. The bowl had tie-ins with Conference USA later in the four-year agreement, and may have to seek another conference for the 2013 game, as they anticipate not getting a representative from the Big 12 when it goes down to 10 teams. This isn’t a knock on the TicketCity Bowl. I’m actually for having a bowl game in Fair Park again, and I hope it’s successful. But did you know there are more than 60 defunct bowls in the history of college football? Many have made a go of it and many have failed.
I guess we’ll see if the Cotton Bowl Stadium’s newest tenant can make a go of it.
Other random stuff:
DART’s new Green Line did not get the new year off to a flying start. When my train got to the Martin Luther King Jr. Station at Fair Park, the doors wouldn’t open. There were plenty of unhappy Texas Tech and Northwestern fans on the car. We went three more stops before they got the doors open. How? Well, the light rail is basically just a big computer. So the driver just rebooted the train. Beats shoveling coal, I guess.
Speaking of the light rail, let’s give it up for the DART cops on my car. Four of them joined our train at the Victory station. One of them, obviously a supervisor, told them she was going to the front of the train to check tickets and that they should do the same in my car. As the supervisor walked away the other three just kind of looked at her like, “whatever.” No one even came close to checking my ticket.
I applaud the TicketCity Bowl’s choice for the National Anthem. They snagged Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson. Yeah, I realize that name means little to most people outside of Texas, but Benson’s smooth baritone was just the ticket on this cold morning.
While walking around the Cotton Bowl Stadium, I spotted a Northwestern fan with a button that said “NUMB mom.” I honestly thought she was trying to make a witty commentary about the temperature, which was in the 40s all day. I saw her later as she took photos of the Northwestern band, and I realized that NUMB stands for Northwestern University Marching Band. So, she was with the band, and I’m a little slow on the uptake.
Speaking of the weather, yes it was in the 40s. But it was sunny all day. Here’s a tip – dress warm, in dark clothing and sit in the sun. I was comfortable most of the game. And with the new upper seating bowls around the end zones, the wind doesn’t whip through the stadium from the North like it used to.
The Northwestern male cheerleaders didn’t have much to do all day. Step One: Hold megaphone. Step Two: Slap megaphone with open hand. Step Three: Yell incomprehensibly through megaphone. Step Four: Repeat.
The Northwestern Mascot, Millie, might have gotten bored during the first half as the Wildcats were falling behind. At one point, she was playing horseshoes with a Northwestern student. That’s an awfully subtle Texas Tech dig. Probably too subtle for the Lubbock crowd.
Both bands were great. They sounded wonderful and did a great job during pre-game and halftime. I think I’d have to give the nod to the Northwestern band, though. They just seemed like they were having a little more fun.
Texas Tech’s game management left something to be desired. Unless Tommy Tuberville has a logical explanation for Tech’s decision to use an onside kick while up 38-17. I mean Tech won the game, but that play single-handedly kept Northwestern alive, as they recovered the onside kick and scored a few plays later.
That said, Tech did have the best play of the game. QB Taylor Potts threw out into the flat to Austin Zouzilak, who took a few steps and then threw back across the field to Potts, who caught the pass and scored. This bit of razzle-dazzle was made possible by the entire left side of Texas Tech’s offensive line. They went low to set the blocks on the defensive line, then quickly got up and formed a wall for Potts to run behind to the end zone. One of the best drawn gadget plays I’ve seen.
When I went back to sit by the Northwestern band in the fourth quarter, I found this guy. He had a camera and a tape player, as you can clearly see. Now, I’ve seen guys with cameras and tape players before at football games. What’s unusual is that this guy appeared to be recording, well, I can only describe it as the game. Yes, he would occasionally take the pause button off and record whatever was going on. He didn’t have a press credential and I’ve never seen him before in my life. But if somehow find a bootleg audio version of this game, I can ID the author in a lineup.
Best Jersey of the day? Well, it was actually a sweatshirt. Found a kick wearing a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs sweatshirt. On the back, it said “You’ve Been Slimed.” Perfect.
Until next time …