A Three-Part Series: Expensive Stadiums Bound for Doom?

David GellerAnalyst IAugust 22, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 21:  Dallas Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones (center) talks with two unidentified individuals before the Cowboys take on the Tennessee Titans during a preseason game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium on August 21, 2009 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

For an 18-hour period, Jerry Jones boasted a grin that seemingly spawned from a time capsule set to the mid 90s.


Jones recently admitted to countless sleepless nights during the grueling three-year process of the stadium’s construction. But on August 21st, a night that will be remembered not just exclusively for Dallas, but for an entire sports nation, Jones would reap the benefits of the stress that came with taking a gigantic step in the advancement of building a stadium.


Not so fast.


I personally saw the stadium last December when I was in Dallas for the Sunday night battle between the Giants and Cowboys, and it resembled a spaceship that landed in Texas by accident, not an actual place that 53 football players could deem “home.”


This was merely from the outside. On the inside, jaw-dropping pictures of revolutionary installments made the stadium even more of an enigma. Such a place could not be conceived, nor built by man, correct?


From an architectural standpoint, it is an incredible feat. However, from a football fan’s standpoint, there are unmistakable flaws in the stadium’s design. The scoreboard that makes the Madison Square Garden jumbo-tron look like the tv in your basement in 1968 hangs from the top of the ceiling and extends from one twenty-yard line to the other.


60 yards for those that don’t care to do the math. Without numbers, it can simply be labeled as the biggest television set in the world.


There’s no doubt that this gigantic television screen is an amazing intricacy of Cowboys Stadium. There are just a couple of defects that come with it.


For the fan, it detracts from the game experience. The screen is so massive that it may be impossible for one to ignore its presence and simply watch the game. It’s human nature for a set of eyeballs to be captivated by a 2,100 inch HD television set.


However, this makes a crowd much less inclined to simply watch the game that is transpiring right under their noses. It’s a privilege to witness 22 players on a field at a time in person. Now, thousands of people will be paying big bucks to essentially watch a football game on a giant television.


Additionally, from an actual football standpoint, the jumbo-tron creates a major headache for teams league wide.


It took all but half a pre-season game for controversy to flare for the typically attention-starved Jerry Jones. At one point, Titans backup punter A.J. Trapasso ricocheted a punt off the scoreboard prompting coach Jeff Fisher to chuck his red flag in response.


Earlier this year, Daniel Murphy smacked a ball to deep right field and it landed right in front of Citi Field’s “Mo’s-Zone.”


It was initially ruled a double but the replay confirmed it had to be a home run because the ball suddenly redirected after coming within distance of the bright yellow Subway sign. Therefore, common sense dictated that it had to be a home run and it was ruled just that.


A similar circumstance may occur in Texas Stadium this year. What if a punt strikes the board and the punt returner muffs it, but it is inconclusive if the ball hit the screen? If the game were decided on this play, a storm of debate would emerge regarding the outcome of this game. Think back to Ed Hochuli in Week Two.


Jerry Jones appears to be in denial of this issue, responding harshly to the reporters that question this architectural renovation. He deflected any criticisms in the direction of the Titans punter, in which he claimed that Trapasso’s punt was deliberately kicked into the scoreboard.


"How high is high if somebody just wants to sit there and kick straight up? If you look at how you punt the football, unless you're trying to hit the scoreboard, you punt the ball to get downfield. You certainly want to get some hangtime, but you punt the ball to get downfield, and you sure don't punt the ball down the middle. You punt it off to the side."

There is clear hypocrisy in Jones’s statement. Veteran punters Craig Hentrich (Titans) and Matt McBriar (Cowboys) both agree that five seconds of hangtime likely would lead to the ball coming in contact with the scoreboard.

Coupled with distance, five seconds of hangtime is what punters strive for. In 2004, the average hangtime for a punt was 4.6 seconds. If that’s the average, can you imagine what a Pro Bowl punter could attain?

From what it appears, a punt that goes at least a quarter of the way up the gargantuan scoreboard.

Let’s say the Competition Committee repudiates any adjustments to Texas Stadium. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, it would not grant the Cowboys the homefield advantage that Jones boasts that it will.

Sure, the Cowboys can build their team around the scoreboard (never thought I would say that in a sentence) and preach a line-drive style of punting to Matt McBriar. But what happens on the road playing in a more conventional stadium?

The line drive punts would not bode nearly as well, especially at the Meadowlands or Lincoln Financial Field or any other venue played in harsh weather.

And if the punts hit the scoreboard on a regular basis, then punt return success would fluctuate rapidly. Coverage units would be worn out running down the field, thus allowing the return teams to attain a greater chance of a big return.

So there you have it Jerry. After pouring $1.2 billion into an other worldly stadium for America’s team, this is what everybody is talking about after its debut.


In the coming days, I’ll be commenting on two other stadiums that are near completions of their controversy-laden inaugural seasons in Major League Baseball: Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.