The League

Michael Kun

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

In Dallas Size Matters


Let's make sure we put the Dallas Cowboys' enormous, world famous, punt-blocking scoreboard in the proper perspective. Is it a problem? Of course it is. Is it the biggest problem in the history of architecture? Of course not.

In the grand scheme of architectural snafus, the Cowboys' scoreboard probably wouldn't finish in the top 100. At the top you'd probably have to consider Indiana University Library that (supposedly) sinks, foot by foot, because the engineers (supposedly) forgot to account for the weight of the books. (Please note that this may or may not be an urban legend.)

Shortly thereafter you'd have the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which wobbled more than any Hot Wheels track ever did before collapsing, the result of the failure to account for wind vibrations. (Check it out on YouTube if you didn't see it in your high school physics class.)

Somewhere further down the list you'd have University of Central Florida Stadium, which opened in 2007 without any water fountains. Anywhere. (Because, apparently, people don't get thirsty in that part of the state.)

You'd have to go through these and many other architectural problems before you reach, "Scoreboard, Cowboy's Ridiculously Large." So, now that we have put the problem in perspective, we need to address how this happened, and what should be done about it. When the Indianapolis Colts opened their new stadium last year, we didn't hear a peep about anyone smacking their giant overhead scoreboard with a punt. Not a word.

Why not? Because it didn't happen. Wisely, the Colts actually ran a punter out there and tested the place out before setting the scoreboard at a height that would seem to ensure that no punt would touch it. The Cowboys apparently did no such thing. No testing at all, if reports are accurate.

Yes, they set the scoreboard at a height that conforms to league rules, which apparently require that any scoreboard hanging over the field be at least 90 feet above the field. Of course, when those rules were put in place, no one imagined that a team would have an overhead scoreboard the size of the Cowboys' ridiculously large scoreboard. Why didn't they imagine that? Because no one could have imagined a scoreboard that large. And, in this case, size does matter.

Put simply, the larger the object hanging over the field, the greater the likelihood that it's going to get whacked by a punt. If they hung a ballpoint pen 90 feet above the field, it's highly unlikely that any punt would ever strike it. But dangle something the size of an airplane hangar over the field, and you're asking for trouble.

The answer to this problem is simple, at least for you and me. If you and I were asked to resolve this problem, we would simply raise the scoreboard another 10 feet or so -- problem solved, let's go have a beer. And we know that this solution is feasible because it's already being reported that the scoreboard will be raised when U2 plays at the stadium sometime this fall. (Apparently, this will be done as an accommodation for Bono's outsized ego.) But you and I haven't been asked to resolve this problem.

And this problem doesn't involve the Jacksonville Jaguars, or the Buffalo Bills. No, this problem involves the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones, and it involves Roger Goodell and the league's Competition Committee. So, any resolution is going to take some time. There will be meetings. There will be memos. There will be press releases. There will be interviews. There will be updates scrolling across the bottom of the screen during SportsCenter.

Jerry Jones will argue that the league can't make him raise the scoreboard because he spent a fortune building it and it complies with league rules. He will also argue that raising the scoreboard changes the aesthetics of the $1 billion stadium he just built.

The Competition Committee will argue that we can't very well have our games affected by punts bouncing off an overhead scoreboard. And they will point out that the rules don't provide for what happens if and when that occurs. Specifically, while the play can be negated and run over, the rules don't provide what happens to the clock. Do we need a new rule providing that the time goes back on the clock if someone punts a ball off the face of the scoreboard? If we don't do that, don't we have to worry about teams trying to take time off the clock by aiming a punt or two off the scoreboard?

It's 4th down, you're protecting a small lead, and you're on your own 40 yard line with 15 seconds left in the game. Why not punt the ball straight up into the scoreboard a couple times? Game over. You win!

And isn't there also an issue about the fact that none of the officials on the field is paid to watch whether a punt hits the scoreboard? What if the officials don't notice? Does a coach have to request instant replay if the officials miss it? Would that be subject to an instant replay? And would there even be an instant replay to watch? And would it show if the ball just nicked the scoreboard? (And would they show the instant replay of the ball hitting the scoreboard on the scoreboard?)

Sometime before the Cowboys' first regular season home game, this will all be resolved. Jerry Jones isn't going to blink and raise the scoreboard himself, not unless he receives something in return. And the league isn't going to let its games be affected by an overhead scoreboard. In all likelihood, there will be some compromise. Maybe the Cowboys will raise the scoreboard another 5 feet, and there will be a new rule to deal with what happens to the ball and the clock in the event a punt strikes an overhead scoreboard.

Don't worry. No game is going to be affected by the scoreboard. But, if you ask me, we're all missing the bigger issue with the Cowboys' scoreboard. If you were a player, would you want to be playing beneath that thing? No disrespect meant to the fine men and women who designed and installed it. But, still, that thing must weigh a few tons. A cable snaps, a few bolts break. Boom!

I'm sorry, but if I'm playing in Dallas, I'm thinking about that. If I'm a receiver, I'm running sideline routes all day just to stay out from under that thing. And if I'm Bono, I'm staying on the stage and telling the Edge that he's the one who has to play under the scoreboard.

By Michael Kun  |  August 26, 2009; 7:29 AM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , Jerry Jones , NFL , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Don't Kick Jones | Next: Mr. Jones, Pull Up This Wall


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Apparently, the reports that the Cowboys never tested the height of the scoreboard are not accurate.

Jeff Mosier of the Dallas Morning News informs me that the Cowboys had their punters try to hit the scoreboard in the Alamodome, and used lasers to measure the arc and height of punts before settling on the height for the new scoreboard.

Thanks, Jeff.

But you still couldn't pay me enough to stand beneath that thing.

Michael Kun

Posted by: MichaelKun | August 26, 2009 1:58 PM

Mr. Kun,

If you've been made aware that the information in your article is incorrect, why not simply correct the mistake in the original article?
I understand that you added a correction below the original, but it seems a little disingenuous. If you really wanted to correct the mistake, you should correct your inaccurate article.

Posted by: skeeter07 | August 26, 2009 5:05 PM

Skeeter07 --

I don't mean to split hairs here, but my posting was accurate and is still accurate.

I was very clear in saying that the Cowboys "apparently" did not test the new scoreboard out, and added "if reports are accurate."

And I still have not heard or seen anything to indicate that they in fact tested out the new scoreboard.

According to Jeff, there was testing done at the Alamodome, with the punters kicking into the much smaller scoreboard there.

But I've seen nothing to date to indicate that the Cowboys tested out the new scoreboard itself, as the Colts had done with their new scoreboard.

So, I'm going to stick with what I said, with the "apparently" and "if reports are accurate" disclaimers still attached, and with the additional information that Jeff shared.

Sorry if you disagree with that approach.

Michael Kun

Posted by: MichaelKun | August 27, 2009 11:42 AM

I understand that you can justify your remarks by using the disclaimers "apparently" and "if reports are accurate". But your reporting is inaccurate and misleading. The NFL rules state the board must be hung at 85 feet not 90. The NFL also approved the plans and were involved in the process, as they are with all stadiums. As for the U2 concert, you "just happen to leave out a small detail". The board will be raised, but it will be disconnected and inoperable at that height. The Cowboys did their "due diligence" (a term an attorney should be familiar with) when constructing the stadium. I don't want the scoreboard to affect outcomes of games, but the NFL has to take the blame on this one. As much as I don't like Jerry Jones he is not to blame. I believe the resolution will be that the board will be raised and the NFL will and should foot some or all of the expense.

Posted by: mimaurizio | August 28, 2009 10:27 AM

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