Dallas lets down its hair over Cowboys' Super rise Hungry for a title, city goes into tizzy

January 29, 1993|By Mickey Spagnola | Mickey Spagnola,Contributing Writer

DALLAS -- Let's see if we've got this right.

There was a pep rally at Texas Stadium. Sixty-nine thousand people showed up. There were Hooter Girls at Cowboys Ranch last Saturday, serving complimentary wings in their skimpiest outfits. There is a town in Texas called Buffalo, just east of Waco. Tomorrow and Super Bowl Sunday, Buffalo will officially rename itself Blue Star. All signs will be changed. The water tower, too, for goodness sakes.

The radio stations are inundated with Cowboys commercials and song remakes. All three network affiliates are anchoring their nightly newscasts from the Cowboys' team hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. The usually staid Dallas Morning News ran a front-page story on "The Shark," the dance Cowboys safety Kenny Gant shakes out after big hits.

And last Saturday at a Cowboys autograph signing session in local mall, with hundreds of people lined up, someone coming down the escalator shouted out, "How 'bout them Cow-BOYS?" The entire place erupted in rowdy applause.

Come on. In Dallas? Where glamour rubs shoulders with glitz? Where shimmering glass meets big hair and bigger pocketbooks? Where people are so cool, underground walkways were built downtown to keep the well-primped crowd in search of lunch from sweating during hot summer days?

Get out of here.

It was never this way before, not before these young, unassuming Dallas Cowboys went 13-3, won the NFC East division, then consecutive playoff games over Philadelphia and San Francisco to land in Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills. And the old-timers insist it was never this way back in the '70s when the Cowboys went to five Super Bowls and strung together 20 consecutive winning seasons between 1966 and 1985.

"This compares only to 1966, the first season they broke through," says columnist Frank Luksa, formerly of the Dallas Times Herald and now of the Dallas Morning News. He has documented the Cowboys' play since their inception in 1960.

"Sort of like first love," Luksa said. "The crowds were lively to an extreme at the Cotton Bowl.

"Now this time, it's a new wave."

A new wave because of an old drought. And the losing wasn't just the fault of the Cowboys, who haven't played in the Super Bowl since the 1978 season. No major sports team in Dallas -- not the NBA's Mavericks or baseball's Rangers (sorry, Sidekicks, indoor soccer doesn't count) -- has qualified for the ultimate game or series since the Cowboys lost Super Bowl XIII, 35-31, to Pittsburgh.

And suddenly there is an infectious appreciation for winning, something that vanished in the late '70s when the Cowboys spoiled their well-to-do fans by winning all the time.

"There's more excitement now because there's a newness and freshness to it," Luksa said. "The fans were jaded to success back then. Excited, but a ho-hum excitement. Fourteen years was long enough to restore the sheer giddiness."

Giddiness? A local restaurant chain, taking the lead of a grocery store that took Philadelphia Cream Cheese off its counters the day the Cowboys played the Eagles, bought large newspaper ads to announce it was banning Buffalo wings from its menu this week.

Songwriter Rich Holly has produced the "Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl Fight Song." One verse says of coach Jimmy Johnson, "What he promised in five, he did in four." A local DJ has turned the Beach Boys' "Little Old Lady from Pasadena" into a Cowboys Super Bowl ditty.

Ticket brokers -- scalping is legal in Texas -- are having a heyday. Super Bowl tickets costing $175 face value are going for anywhere from $500 to $1,000. And people are paying cash. These guys have become so bold, some walked into the Cowboys locker room last Thursday when the players received their tickets, trying to do a little business.

Sales of Cowboys T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, pennants, earrings and baby bibs are hot. T-shirts are being sold in grocery stores, upscale department stores, and gas stations. On street corners all over town, sales tents have sprouted like fruit stands. Even in way fashionable far-North Dallas.

Former Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, still in Dallas, can be heard on the radio doing a commercial for a merchandising company, saying, "This is da Babe talking about da Cowboys . . . ."

Never have the Cowboys heroes of old -- Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson, Preston Pearson, Randy White and even the Texas trinity of Tom Landry-Tex Schramm-Gil Brandt -- received so much attention.

But the biggest bash occurred Jan. 14, the Thursday before thCowboys' NFC title-game appearance in San Francisco. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came up with this idea to stage a free pep rally at Texas Stadium, complete with Cowboys, cheerleaders, coaches and former players.

The local CBS affiliate decided to pre-empt prime-timprogramming to broadcast the rally live from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Press passes were issued to media members. The concession stand beer tappers were opened.

Some 69,000 people turned out, not only filling a stadium of 65,000, but also spilling outside into Jones' tented bar, "The Corral." Even Staubach spoke of the chills he felt hearing such a howling reception for these newest Cowboys.

And putting the biggest smile on Jones' face: 58,000 season tickets have been sold for next year.

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