Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Bronco Fan in Dallas

This past weekend I attended the Broncos shootout win 51-48 over the Cowboys in Dallas.  I've attended hundreds of Bronco games since getting season tickets as a 12 year old in 1968.  The Dallas trip was special in that it was the first time I have attended a Bronco road game ever!   Here are some pictures I took and my comments on the experience.

AT&T stadium in the Dallas suburb of Arlington was huge!  I took this picture about three hours before game time.  Opening as Cowboys Stadium in 2009, Dallas owner Jerry Jones got a sponsorship deal with AT&T and changed the name this year.  The stadium seats 80,000 with a maximum capacity of 105,000 with standing room only.  On this day 92,857 fans were in attendance.


Before the game I attended a tailgate party with Denver and Dallas fans across the street from the stadium.  While in the restroom a group of Cowboy fans saw our Bronco gear and yelled, "Denver!! The Cowboys are going to kick some Bronco ass today!!".  "Tough crowd," said a bronco fan next to me.  These inebreated Dallas fans were the exception.  In general the Cowboy fans were gracious hosts and congratulated us on a good game afterwards.  One Dallas season ticket holder told me he had never seen so many visiting team's fans at a Cowboy game.  It reminded me of when Pittsburgh plays in Denver where about 1/3rd of the stadium seems to be Steeler fans.

 The tailgate party had an indoor area where Cowboy hall of famer Mel Renfro was signing autographs.  I quickly looked up on my iphone browser Mel's biography and found out his last game was the Dallas 27-10 win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XII - one of the most painful games of my childhood!  I was going to discuss that with Mel but the autograph line got to be too long.

The coach of that 1977 Cowboy team, Tom Landry, is immortalized in this statue outside the stadium.  Throughout the area were tributes to Cowboy greats of the past (I walked through the "Roger Staubach" parking lot).

Once inside I was thrilled with the location of our seats - in the corner of the end zone in the second level.  This is the same viewing angle I have the field as my seats back home at Sports Authority Field in Denver, except here I was even closer to the action.

Most impressive were the huge video boards suspended 90 feet above the field - here showing the Cowboy cheerleaders in their pregame performance.  Even though my seats were in the corner I had a clear view of the video screen, and I found myself watching it often.

The Cowboys make the most of their pregame ceremony - cheerleaders, pyrotechnics, and Cowboy coach Jason Garrett greeting each player as the player is introduced in the center of the field.  The stadium was extremely loud and the crowd was hyped!  No doubt this helped the Cowboys get off to a quick 14-0 lead.

In this game as luck would have it much of the action was on the opposite side of the field from my seats.  The video boards came in handy for watching action near the opposite goal line.  I found myself looking at the video board more often than using my binoculars like I do back at Sports Authority.  I had one problem with the video boards - the Cowboys don't show near as many replays as the Broncos do at their home games.  Instead Cowboy owner Jerry Jones uses the video boards to incite the crowd.  Every time when it was third down for the Broncos, instead of showing the replay of the previous action, large letters would appear on the board "Third Down!!!" accompanied by blaring music, in an attempt to disrupt the Broncos plays with overwhelming noise.  It didn't work - Peyton Manning and the Broncos converted many a third down this game.  Jerry, how about using the video boards for what they were designed for, showing replays and live game action, instead of treating your fans like a bunch of drones that need to be prompted to cheer for your team?

$16 for an in game margarita??  No thanks but this vendor didn't have any problems selling out her inventory.  Dallas calls these "Cowboy-ritas".  I kept my fluid intake to a minimum during the game because of the long lines for the men's room - a 1/2 hour pregame wait for the bathroom was enough for me.  The women had no such problem - my wife reports there was no wait for the ladies room.  I also found the concourses very crowded during the game.  I'm guessing some of the stadium room only people come down to the lower levels for a better view.  I saw fans standing four deep at the top of our section, with the usher carefully checking tickets before letting anyone through to their seats.

Needless to say, the game was a great one to attend for a Bronco fan with all the scoring and the Denver win at the end.  Afterwards the concourse was jammed with exiting fans - it took over 30 minutes to get through the gates to the outside air.

On Monday we were treated to a tour of AT&T Stadium.  The highlight was a chance to get on the field!  Here I am sitting at what I thought was the spot of Danny Trevathan's big interception.  I was about 6 yards off (thanks Jerry for not showing the replay).  The stadium turf was firm yet flexible - a great surface to play on.  Artificial turf has really advanced over the years.

On the field I got a closer look at the field level boxes which you can see in the distance.  Cowboy fans pay a premium for these, which come with a seat in the first two rows immediately above the box.  On the field visitors were throwing passes and even kicking field goals with footballs they had brought.  Back home in Denver they don't let you near the natural grass turf on Sports Authority Field tours - the artificial turf of AT&T stadium allows fans a closeup experience.

View of the video board from the field.  I would guess players don't even think about the video board during the game - it's pretty much removed from game action.

Fans in the field level boxes have access to this lounge before and during the game.  When the Cowboys are introduced at midfield these fans get a chance to high five the players before they run out into the field.  On the visiting end the field level box fans watch the opposing team from behind plexiglass as they run out on the field.

Field box ticket holders also have their own parking spot indoors.

The elevator to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' suite.  The Jones suite, which holds 100 people, is not shown on the tour.  In fact our tour guide said he had never seen it, and he's been doing tours for three years.

We did get to see one of the other upper level suites.

A great view of the video board and the field from the suite.  Our guide said over 90% of the suites are sold out but there are a few available for public sale for each game.  How about renting a suite for the Thanksgiving game, and then having a catered meal afterwards?  Our guide didn't say how much that would cost - no doubt some Texas oilman will rent it to impress his friends.

Back on field level we saw the room where the Cowboys host post game press conferences - the largest of its kind in the NFL.  Field box ticket holders can watch the press conference from their lounge next door.

Next we saw the Cowboys locker room.  You can see pictures of former Cowboy greats, like Don Meredith, above.  Honestly I was more impressed with the Bronco locker room at Sports Authority Field than this one, though it is good of the Cowboys to allow locker room access on their tours (the Broncos don't show their locker room on most Sports Authority Field tours)

 I had to say a word of thanks at Tony Romo's locker for his big interception at the end of Sunday's game.

And now for something completely different ... the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders locker room!  Lots more mirrors in here compared to the players' locker room.

Each cheerleader had her picture above her locker.

Along with her twitter handle below (sorry guys, no phone numbers)

 Cheerleaders pregame instructions - note each is encouraged to "Shake Your Tailgate"

Overall it was an amazing experience to see the Broncos win in such a great stadium - the best one I have ever been in.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Great Opener for Patrick Roy and the Avs

I attended the Colorado Avalanche's home opener last night, a 6-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov was excellent - the Avs defense was shaky early and Varlamov made some big saves.  Too bad he lost the shutout at the end.  Patrick Roy in his post game press conference said Varlamov was the #1 star.

Ryan O'Reilly had the play of the game with a great steal and score to put the Avs up 1-0.  Good to have Radar this season from game 1.

This was my first look at Nathan McKinnon as I didn't see any of the Avs preseason games.  He's going to be fun to watch.  I was impressed by his speed and he had two nice passes to setup goals.

I heard an interview with Patrick Roy yesterday morning where he said he would be calmer as a coach than he was as a player.  I said to my wife, "we'll see how long that lasts."  Not very long, as last night's post game tirade showed!

I thought the Avs played with a lot of energy and passion, and Roy has to have something to do with that.  It's easy to play hard on opening night in front of a near sell out crowd but I have a feeling we won't see the Avs take too many nights off with Roy behind the bench.

Next week's road trip to Toronto, Boston, and Washington may give us more of an early indication of how good this team is, but last night sure was everything an Avs fan could have hoped for in an opener.