Dallas Cowboys Legends and Winspear Save Glory Days Taping From Disaster

Categories: Arts, Sports

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Photos by Sam Merten
An eclectic mix of folks packed the Bill and Margot Winspear Opera House last night as a jaw-dropping group of former Dallas Cowboys players reminisced during the taping of Glory Days, a television pilot scheduled to debut January 30 on KTVT-Channel 11 prior to finding a national outlet. Audience members could be seen in everything from formal wear to vintage No. 12 jerseys -- even fatigues, as more than 100 Fort Hood soldiers were on hand for the unique event.

Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Randy White, Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson and Mike Ditka took the stage after Cliff Harris placed the Lombardi Trophy in between six leather high-back chairs, and Pat Summerall provided spectacular introductions for each gridiron legend. Lee Roy Jordan, Gil Brandt, Jay Novacek, Leon Lett and Alicia Landry were just some of the other big names on hand as Lesley Visser and Spencer Tillman asked questions from various areas in the audience.

For the most part, the evening consisted of rehashing stories that most die-hard Cowboys fans know by heart, but there was no denying the electricity of so many greats in such an impressive venue talking about a game they all clearly loved. And while it's doubtful anyone left dissatisfied, the three hours felt like being trapped watching The English Patient at times, and the Visser-Tillman combo proved to be nearly fatal as their questions showed a glaring lack of preparation and knowledge of the team's storied history.

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The most horrific gaffe came from Visser as she posed this doozy to Staubach: "Did Don Meredith really sing in the huddle?"

Of course, Captain America kindly reminded her that Meredith retired before he joined the team. Whoopsie.

Visser also asked Pearson for his thoughts on Super Bowl VI, and Pearson said the question would be better for someone like Lilly, since, well, Pearson was a child growing up in New Jersey at the time.

Not to be outdone, Tillman grabbed Harris during one of a few interviews with those not on stage and asked him what it was like to write a book with someone who supplanted him as a starter, referring to Charlie Waters.

"Well, actually that's not real accurate," Harris said as the crowd erupted in laughter. Harris then explained that Waters only replaced him for six games in 1970 when he left the team for military duty.

And when the duo weren't sullying the star, Visser and Tillman were trying to trick up something that definitely didn't need any more awkwardness. The prime example occurred when Visser pulled out her iPhone and announced that "Mr. Smith" had submitted a question via Twitter.

The three-pronged question included: What's the best tie to wear with a yellow blazer? What are you most proud about being a Cowboy? And, How do you want to be remembered? And then Visser tossed it to Dorsett, who was paying the least attention of the bunch.

Needless to say, it could have gone much smoother, and the constant TV breaks despite not filming live added to the frustration. It also seemed criminal to have talent like Summerall in the house and not let him run the show. However, for any Cowboys fan, blunders from the on-air talent or poor production couldn't ruin the night.

While discussing their fondest memories of Tom Landry, three cited his compassion during the deaths of family members. For White, it was the death of his father shortly before a game against the Denver Broncos in 1980 when the two shared tears. Lilly said Landry reached out to him when he lost a baby girl in the 1960s.

For Pearson, it was the death of his father during the halftime of a game when Landry consoled him and his wife. Pearson also mentioned the 1984 car accident that severely injured him and killed his brother. He said Landry was by his side in the hospital along with Staubach and Harvey Martin.

Ditka said of Landry: "He controlled his emotions, and I don't have the ability to do that."

There were plenty of laughs as well, including White recalling his favorite memories of Super Bowl X: Thomas Henderson "going after" one of the Pointer Sisters, and Joe Namath sitting next to him at a bar.

Predictably, Lilly was asked just how cold it was during the Ice Bowl, prompting the infamous story about the referee taking the whistle out of his mouth and his bottom lip ripping off. "It almost froze us to death," Lilly said. "We were thankful to be alive."

Alicia Landry, Tom's widow, explained that the idea to put the star on the helmet was hers, one she got from the 1956 Republican National Convention when she saw the "I Like Ike" slogans worn on the attendees' hats. She didn't know the Rams were the only team with logos on their helmets at the time because "we didn't play them."

As the crowd grew restless, Tillman urged everyone to stay for the grand finale, which consisted of the soldiers standing in front of a large American flag while signing "God Bless America" with all of the Cowboys, merging the heroes and legends.

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