A Hole in Their Memories
Sunday, September 28, 2008
It is a symbol of the Dallas Cowboys every bit as much as the stars on the helmet and the cheerleaders. And it is what Joe Theismann recalled more vividly than anything else about playing in Irving, Tex., all those years.
"What I'll remember," the former Washington Redskins quarterback said last week, "is just how stupid that hole in the roof looked while I was lying on the turf."
The Redskins and Cowboys meet this afternoon in a game that's significant in the NFC East standings because no one in the division can afford to fall too far behind, with all four teams having winning records. It's also historically significant because it is the final regular season game between the rivals at Texas Stadium, with the Cowboys set to move into a palatial new stadium in Arlington, Tex., next season.
The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry lost the ambiance of RFK Stadium when the Redskins bolted for the Maryland suburbs and their stadium in Landover, now called FedEx Field, in 1997. Now it is about to lose the uniqueness of Texas Stadium, the Cowboys' home since October 1971.
"Certainly, I'm gonna miss that place," said Dan Reeves, a running back for the Cowboys before his long and distinguished career as an NFL head coach. "I already miss not going to RFK Stadium. There was something special about the atmosphere in that place. It does take something away. Those old stadiums are special. You leave a lot of memories behind when you leave.
"You have to move forward to compete. You have to get these new stadiums where you can make more money and keep up. But it takes time to get those same old feelings."
Texas Stadium was the setting for many memorable games between these teams. There was the Thanksgiving game in 1974 in which unheralded Cowboys rookie quarterback Clint Longley took over for injured Roger Staubach and beat the Redskins with a touchdown pass in the final minute.
"Obviously, there's that one game that ruined Thanksgiving forever," said Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen, the son of late Redskins coach George Allen. "Even if you tried to forget it, you couldn't. It seems like every TV network has to play clips from that game every year on Thanksgiving, over and over."
There was Staubach, in his final regular season game, ending the Redskins' season and knocking them from the playoffs in 1979 with a miraculous comeback and a winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Tony Hill in the final minute. Cowboys defensive end Harvey Martin tossed a funeral wreath into the Redskins' locker room after the game.
The Redskins, in fact, have plenty of bad memories in Irving. In Daniel Snyder's first season as owner in 1999, he and then-coach Norv Turner yelled at each other in a tiny equipment room inside the visitors' locker room following an October loss at Texas Stadium. Marty Schottenheimer's one season as coach of the Redskins in 2001 was doomed by a defeat in Irving that dropped the team to 0-5. The Redskins yielded four touchdown catches by Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens in a loss there last season.
Theismann said a 44-14 loss to the Cowboys in Irving on Sept. 9, 1985, on his 36th birthday is among his worst football moments.
"I remember going over to the sideline and sitting on the bench with about three minutes to go," Theismann said. "I hadn't played very well. I'd thrown a bunch of interceptions, and they were beating us badly, and it seemed like everyone in that stadium was singing 'Happy Birthday' to me. There were some low moments in my career. Everyone thinks it was breaking my leg. But that was humiliating."