Time was, Texas cared about the Big Game

Posted Saturday, Feb. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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kennedy Twenty years ago, Texans cared about a Super Bowl.

The young Dallas Cowboys were in the Ultimate Game for the first time in a generation. Every media outlet sent a dozen reporters to California, back when freeways there were worse than ours.

It was a week when Michael Jackson led 4,000 schoolchildren at halftime singing We Are the World and when the Cowboys won a championship with a lineup about the same age as the cast of Beverly Hills 90210.

In a snapshot of that how-'bout-them-Cowboys craze, the team arrived to a mob scene at the oceanside Loews Santa Monica hotel as a tall man stood unnoticed in the background, swirling a white wine.

"They told me this hotel would be crowded," actor Gene Hackman said, completely ignored by fans shouting at Nate Newton and Mark Stepnoski.

He was there for the Golden Globes, Hackman said. (He won both that and an Oscar for Unforgiven.)

He was remembering the Cowboys' 1960s heyday when somebody in the lobby caught his eye.

"Hey!" he said, pointing.

"That's Dave Wannstedt."

On the hotel patio, KXAS/Channel 5's Jane McGarry and WFAA/Channel 8's Tracy Rowlett lined up nearly elbow to elbow to do newscasts with Pacific waves crashing in the background.

That week, every California TV newscast included at least one shot of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders practice.

(Trivia: They were paid $15 per game.)

At Cowboy Sushi in Westwood, chef Andy Kim knew the former UCLA quarterback's name: "Aik Troy-Man."

In the Rose Bowl, thousands of children rehearsed daily to form a rainbow around Michael Jackson during Heal the World.

Less than a year after the Los Angeles riots, gang members from Watts put aside their gang colors in favor of new caps for the week, Jordan High School band director Philip Simms said: "We're all for the Cowboys."

By week's end, the Cowboys celebrated their 52-17 victory over Buffalo with a party and Jerry Lee Lewis concert in the Santa Monica Civic Center.

The bar selection was limited to beer, wine and frozen drinks, to make sure nobody tried to do shots or down too many bourbons.

A few hours earlier, in the Rose Bowl crowd, Colleyville attorney Steve Weinberg had given thanks for coach Jimmy Johnson and owner Jerry Jones.

"Tomorrow," he said, "either one could be elected king."

It definitely was 20 years ago.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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Twitter: @budkennedy

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