As a youngster, I often had the opportunity to visit the south, as my Grandmother lived first in Texas (south of Lubbock), and later in Arkansas. I remember long drives across dry landscapes, baking heat, and the pleasant drawls of those we met along the way.
It has often been said that folks in the Southern US are friendlier than those of us north of the Mason-Dixon line. From personal experience, I can tell you that there's probably some truth to the idea.
Most people making that claim, however, probably never spent a game as a visiting fan in Texas Stadium.
Everyone Likes Dogs, Right?
There may have been some extenuating circumstances that caused normal Southern hospitality to fade somewhat last Sunday afternoon. Hard for me to see how, though.
Maybe it's something we said.
Well, sure, maybe some of our gang were travelling along the road to inebriation. And perhaps a few had already reached their destination.
I'll admit that - strictly as a journalist - I felt it necessary to share their experiences directly by joining them on that road. No sacrifice is too great for my art.
And, well, yes, we did have a tendency to break out into chants possibly never before heard by delicate southern ears. There were things like barking and raucous cheering that might have offended some. "Here we go Brownies!" was heard repeatedly.
A large number of our group even went so far as to decorate themselves in various shades of orange and brown.
Our self-generated enthusiasm, coming at the end of a ridiculously fun weekend in Dallas, might have confused and enraged Cowboys fans a little.
But if we baffled the locals, the reverse was true as well. Seeing Dallas Cowboys football in person is a weird experience, most closely corresponding to the fantastical drug trips depicted in those "Don't Do LSD, Kids" filmstrips my classmates and I were forced to watch in mid-1970's Geauga County, Ohio.
I remember one had a disturbing talking hot dog in it, which caused a "hippie drug user" to freak out and run down the road screaming. I don't remember much else about the film, but I can say that a demonic talking hot dog would have been a welcome relief from some of the strangeness inflicting itself on unaccustomed northerners on Sunday in Dallas.
Put Visiting Team on Broil
The first thing you need to know about Dallas, which was revealed in my exclusive scoop late Saturday night, is that it's really, really, freaking hot down there. The Sun is out all the time, without any showers or snowfalls for pleasing relief, and the effect of the heat is to crush most forms of life into inaction.
The designers of Texas Stadium knew this, and architected their Stadium accordingly. The huge concrete edifice contains one football-field-sized hole at the top, which on a late afternoon in September, serves to focus all the sunlight on one portion of the field.
The home team (used to such heat, one presumes) works out and stretches on the shady side. Our Browns, cold weather creatures, are sent to work out on the sunny side, where they could enjoy the reported 120 degree temperatures.
In this version of Southern hospitality, your host holds the magnifying glass and plays the part of sadistic youngster, and your favorite team plays the part of the ants.
One could almost smell the melting plastic of the helmets of Browns players made to try to warm up in the Hot Zone.
Nice job, Dallas. American's Team, indeed.
The Cartoon Commands You!
The second very strange thing about watching a Cowboys home game is that all activities of home fans are apparently controlled by a freakish Jerry Jones doppelganger calling himself "Rowdy Cowboy".
Shown here about to use a high-pressure hose on dissident fans, Cowboys followers have obviously been trained to obey the mascot at all times.
The character appears before the team does prior to kick off, riding out of a Policy-esque giant inflated helmet on what appears to be some sort of lawnmower.
I assume that this is done to show fans that Rowdy - and Rowdy alone - is allowed to operate motor vehicles inside Texas Stadium. The implication of possible vehicular homicide is an ever-present reminder to fans to tow the line and obey the cartoon.
And obey they do.
Cowboys fans have been trained to respond solely to video screens dangling from the corners of Texas Stadium. When Rowdy appears, as he does frequently, chanting "dee-feense", the home crowd picks it up. Right on cue.
When Rowdy walks to an end zone to start the "wave", despite the fact that the Cowboys are on offense and might not need the extra noise, the fans respond.
Whereas stadium video screens in Cleveland Browns Stadium are generally considered a nuisance unless displaying some football-relevant information, in Texas Stadium they control the crowd like a puppetmaster controls his creations.
Not only do the dark and shadowy figures running the Cowboys franchise utilize this strange Big Brother-ish figurehead and video screens to command the crowd, they do a terrific job of demonizing their opponents. By name.
One spot played on Sunday took Van Halen's "Right Here, Right Now" video, replaced the supposedly thought-provoking remarks from the 1990s music video with footage of Cowboys players hitting and blindsiding opponents. On top of this were superimposed comments like "Right Now... The Browns are Getting Nervous" and "Right Now... LeRoi Wants to Hit Someone". This whips the crowd up into a frenzy.
Stadium scoreboard operators continue their display of scorn towards their opponent later in the day, while running one of those "Kiss Cams" you see at baseball games. This is a little sideshow where the camera focuses on a surprised male and female and attempts to use the combined peer pressure of 70,000 people to make them lip-lock uncomfortably in view of a stadium full of strangers.
In Dallas, the "Kiss Cam" is focused on a series of couples, some of whom wisely ignore it, and then is turned to the Cleveland Browns huddle with a heart displayed around a couple of defensive linemen. Many in the crowd find this uproarious.
The Browns fan sitting next to me stands up and salutes the Stadium scoreboard and Cowboys fans using only a single-finger on both hands.
Texas Stadium is filled with this sort of ugly weirdness.
In a Non-Legal, Non-Binding Sense Only
Probably the most confusing thing about watching a game at Texas Stadiums is the constant use of the possessive "your" used when mentioning the Dallas Cowboys.
I understand that this is probably used to try to instill some civic pride in a highly profitable business, sort of like having a weatherman tell us how great is to be in Cleveland during every home game, but calling them "Your Dallas Cowboys" still seems a bit disingenuous.
It's as though simply repeating the phrase "Your Dallas Cowboys" and "Your Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders" is meant to make innocent fans forget about the really rich guy who fired Tom Landry sitting in the owner's box.
Look, I can call them "My Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders" all day long, but I believe my wife will remain unthreatened by my claims of ownership to two dozen scantily-clad women. And I know exactly what would happen if I told them to come over and do some yardwork.
Then again, if you can fool the fans into thinking that it's their team, rather than that of some victim of Brazil-like plastic surgery, maybe they'll pony up later on.
After all, Texas Stadium is showing some signs of age, and it's just a matter of time before Jones starts hopping up-and-down and demanding new digs. Perhaps, if they can pull it off, Dallas voters will forget that they're spending hundreds of millions of their own money to help out a self-centered billionaire.
In the meantime, it's ten-year-old rock tunes, cheerleaders, and abusive video screens for everyone.
Too bad a great weekend had to end in a display of bad football in such a horrid place.
I don't think I'll be visiting Texas Stadium much more in the near future.
They're "your Dallas Cowboys" after all.
You can keep 'em.