got there. Our computers - yes, we had those little Radio Shack jobs way back then - were in the trunk - but no, this car didn't have those trunk leases. All our clothes were in there, too. Now what?
After much consternation, teeth gnashing, cussing and yelling at the poor lady helplessly manning the company's night desk, some late night-worker from the rental car company next door happens by, sees the problem, and like 15 minutes later returns with three keys. Something about the patterns are all about the same for these cars. Whatever. But I'll be, one of his keys works. Nirvana. We were saved - the car, too - from taking a crowbar to the trunk. One hour of sleep later, I was on a flight back to Dallas and those guys back to Thousand Oaks, Calif., for the rest of training camp.
We almost left more than our hearts in San Francisco that night.
You know what, though, to those other guys this was the norm for San Francisco. Hey, they had been there on Jan. 10, 1982 for The Catch. And Frank had seen the Cowboys' ridiculous 30-28 playoff comeback victory in 1972, the Niners' third consecutive playoff loss to the Cowboys.
So guessing neither of those guys thought it odd the Cowboys would return for the 1992 NFC Championship game to beat the heavily favored 49ers, 30-20, in one of the more chillingly memorable moments in Cowboys history.
Or how 'bout that '94 regular-season game there. Troy Aikman throws for 339 yards, but the Cowboys lose, 21-14, thanks to two Deion Sanders interceptions and a final one by Merton Hanks with Aikman throwing for Jay Novacek in the end zone to tie the game at 14 with 6:10 remaining.
But then, what would be more weird than starting off what turned out to be that 38-28 NFC Championship loss to the Niners the end of that 1994 season with three consecutive turnovers? Poor Barry. Was blamed for not having his team ready to play, and the first two turnovers were committed by the two players always most ready to play - Aikman and Michael Irvin. Go figure.
There would be other goofy moments at whatever it's called these days, but always The Stick to me. Like Cowboys middle linebacker Fred Strickland intercepting an Elvis Grbac pass in 1996 to set up the previously-seemed beaten Cowboys with the game-tying touchdown at 17, and then winning the game on the first possession of overtime thanks to Chris Boniol's 29-yard field goal, 20-17.
Or the 2005 game up there, that 34-31 Cowboys victory. Why, the Cowboys had to outscore the Niners 15-0 in the fourth quarter to win that one, giving up 390 total yards to the 31st-ranked offense in the NFL. Remember, that was the day new kicker Jose Cortez almost left his head in San Francisco, ragging out deep snapper Jon Condo for bouncing in the snap on the extra point he missed before Larry Allen stopped him in his tracks with a big-time facemask yanking. Guys might have been sent to Alcatraz for less.
Which brings me to this past Friday night. Basta Pasta has since closed. My place now is North Beach Restaurant, just down the street and around the corner. Been going there for years. You'd half expect Tony and Paulie to walk in for dinner. Great place.
Well we order dinner from the curmudgeon waiter. Older guy. Big. He brings the bottle of wine, shows it off and then starts this mighty struggle with the cork screw and bottle. I mean mighty. Almost to the point I thought he was joking around. No veteran waiter struggles that much opening a bottle of wine.
Uh, buddy, this wasn't a joke. Just before I was going to say, "Dude, chill," the bottle comes flying out of his hand as the cork pops off, crashes - and breaks - on the table, and I'm telling you, I've never seen vino poor out of a bottle faster in my entire life. All over the place . . . including splattering a new pattern of red - of course - on my wife's new pink sweater.
Oh you never seen such a commotion. Waiters, maitre de. Bus boys. Good gosh. Not sure if my wife wanted to cry or slug the big guy.
Well, we moved to a different table, and thank goodness, I think for the big guy's sake, a new waiter. And as it turns out, the people sitting next to us were from the town right next door to where my wife grew up in Louisiana.