Instead of spending money on the hapless cowboys, the city should reprioritize

Given this, the Dallas Cowboys and I have a conflicted relationship. It began in the heady seasons of the '70s when I, an anxious preteen, worked endlessly to divert my father's Sunday attention from the TV and towards that strange father/daughter distance that seemed to be widening between us. As a girl in Texas, the '70s-era Dallas Cowboys made for a formidable opponent against my father's affections. The glory of Roger Staubach, Tom Landry, and Tony Dorsett were tightly wound into his heart.

Yet, I don't begrudge his attachment. My dad was a poor Texas Mexican kid from McAllen who became a career non-commissioned officer in the Army to escape the migrant songs of the valley. Wherever he went, whatever country he was stationed in, he could always conjure Tejas: Just find a Cowboys game, and unfamiliarity would melt away for two-and-half to three hours. In points across the globe, the hope he found in his beloved Cowboys mollified his loneliness.

When the Cowboys held training camp here last summer, my father thrilled in the details of each day's session. They were so close he could almost see the twinkling of silver and blue emanating from the horizon. But, unlike the thousands who flocked to the Alamodome, he never went to see his team.

Although he's an insatiable fan, he has never been to a Cowboys game. It just never seemed right to him to travel to Dallas and front the big-money ticket price for a football game.

Instead, he somehow put this kid through college, paid all his bills on time, and faithfully cheers on Judson High School most fall Friday nights. He is still a working man trying to squeeze out some last pennies before he retires soon, and is left to survive on the meagerness of his career Army pension. His Cowboy fanaticism isn't measured by attendance.

Like the fury of Fiesta, by the time this column appears, the City Council will have decided the fate of the Cowboys and the Alamodome. Yet, the sentimental and economical reverberations of both will remain with us.

Like Fiesta, the Cowboys evoke strong symbolic power over San Antonians, helping many to forge a part of their identity. Proponents of Cowboys at the Alamodome have played on this "home field" advantage. Their idea manipulates our emotional ties, which in the end, results in a hefty sum of money spent on a fleeting moment of pure entertainment and sentimentality. Yet, after looking over the fiscal numbers from last July, this daughter of working-class man can't reconcile the meager returns of the expense against the dangers of our economic moment.

Regardless of the decision reached, it seems the San Antonio has roughly somewhere between $600,000 and $800,00 tucked away to spend for Cowboy wrangling. Moreover, the fund this amount derives from, our beloved hotel/motel occupancy tax, not only feeds line-item concerns of our convention and tourism industry, but also the vast array of cultural arts organizations within the city.

Instead of paying to buy fresh turf for the Alamodome, why not put the money toward the many cultural orgs whose budgets have been withering on the vine since 9-ll, caught in a national drought of dried-up well springs; $800,000 divvied up to these agencies could go far.

Remember, these places produce the fine and folk art, colorful dances, and trumpeting musicians that tourism spin-meisters twirl in front of tourists' burning wallets. These are the same organizations that pick up where abysmal school budgets leave off in teaching our kids how to become the future talents of the cultural attractions our city exalts.

The returns would be tenfold and last for at least a generation, as opposed to one mere summer month. Or, as my Cowboy crazy, career-Army dad has often said: "You have to learn how to save your money, mija." Either way, these are choices that would make him proud, and he'll still belly up to the TV come this January's Super Bowl XXXVIII. I wonder where the Cowboys will be? •

Irma Mayorga is an artist, a cultural critic, and a native San Antonian.



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