IRVING, Texas – Look, you don't come to the same place for work 31 years and sum up the highlights in a thousand words or two, and seems as though every time I think I've got this complete list, something else pops to mind.
That's why we split this into two parts. We ran Part 1 last Friday but today I wanted to share a few more funny and interesting stories from my time spent here at Valley Ranch.
Let's see – and sorry, some of this in not in chronological order – there was the first time I met Drew Rosenhaus, a nobody back in 1990, trying to break into the agent business. He had just finished law school at Duke, but had ties to the Miami Hurricanes, having gone to The U for undergraduate school. Cowboys' third-round draft choice from Miami, Jimmie Jones, was maybe his first client. He walked down the track to where I was standing watching a minicamp practice to introduce himself, "Hi, I'm Drew Rosenhaus." Guess the rest is history.
Now this one about caused me to pass out. End of March 1994, and while freelancing after the Times Herald went out of business for this fax publication known as The Insider, along with Skip Bayless, I signed on to work for the new all-sports radio station in town, The Ticket. Believe the date was March 29, my first time to deliver what became known as The Ranch Report. This Jimmy-Jerry ordeal had been going on for a week or so. That morning both remaining newspapers had headlines that Jimmy and Jerry had patched things up, and that Johnson would stay for one more year. A press conference was scheduled for like 12-12:30 p.m., supposedly to announce as much.
About an hour before the press conference was to start I found out, not so. They indeed were divorcing each other. Jimmy was going to leave. The Ticket had set up its broadcast gizmo in my still office. They were on the air, and I basically had to pry the microphone away from the guys in there to deliver my first report – to say this press conference was to announce Jimmy was leaving, and did so with I think my heart in my throat. The guys on air all said, "Yeah but ..." And I'm like, "Hey, I know, but my impeccable sources told me." "Yeah, but this …"
WFAA sports director and good friend Dale Hansen, about to go on the air just after noon, heard what I had reported, asked me if I was sure. Told him, "Hey, this is my first day on the job, wouldn't stick my neck out if I didn't think I was right." So he goes on the air right before the press conference starts at The Ranch, basically quoting my story.
Well, the press conference finally begins, and maybe it took only a few minutes, but it felt like 50 to me, as Jerry talked on and on and on without saying what was up. My blood pressure probably soared to record highs. I'm thinking to myself, come on already. Hansen is staring me down from the back of the room. Back then, unlike in today's media, it was a mortal sin to be wrong. And finally … finally … Jerry spilled the beans. He and Jimmy had agreed to part ways.
Good gosh, almighty.
And you know what? Over the past 22 seasons, I've done that Ranch Report, later called the Cowboys Report, for two different stations from six different locations out here at The Ranch, including the closet where then flagship station KRLD set up a remote broadcast unit. From there, just outside the closet, we'd hook up Jimmy for his weekly radio show during the season. The best part, though, were the breaks. Jimmy would say what he couldn't or wouldn't on the air. Remember those memorable shows, that and the cooler of Heinekens we brought for him that he didn't mind sharing.
We've done Talkin' Cowboys on DallasCowboys.com for 11 seasons out here, starting in 2005. Actually, though, began Talkin' Cowboys in 2004 on what then was known for its one year of existence as the Dallas Cowboys Television 24-hour station, myself and Bill Jones. So many co-hosts and interns to thank for all these years, putting up with me co-hosting, some now back for their second tour of duty, Rob and Nate.
So many other memories: Linebacker Jesse Solomon, staging a protracted holdout, finally gives in and reports to The Ranch after training camp, and while meeting with the media on the track out back after practice, shakes hands with Jerry, and must have called him "boss" at least three times. "Boss" was not a term of endearment.
Or back when Tony Romo was a nobody free-agent rookie in 2003, and we'd sit and talk with him endlessly at his locker at the other end of the room from where it is now. He was particularly despondent this one day, revealing his girlfriend from college was breaking up with him, and his cell phone wasn't working. Someone offered theirs, but he declined. Just bad timing. Reminded him of it the other day, and he had a good laugh. Maybe if she only knew, but hey, even I thought at the time that there was no way this guy could play in the NFL.
Awkward moment the day after Chan Gailey was fired, our paths crossing just about when he was going out the side door at The Ranch for the final time. I had just written for that morning that the guy he tried to run off, Michael Irvin, was the guy he needed most to save that 1999 season, only to have Irvin suffer the season-ending – ultimately career-ending – injury in Philly with the Cowboys off to a 3-0 start.
I panicked, didn't know what to say to Chan, and should have just said "good luck." But instead I go, "Well, sorry about what happened. Just hope you thought I've treated you fairly." He looks up, and as he was walking out the door, says, "You did until today." Felt like I had just pulled a Chris Farley character faux pas, wanting to hit myself in the face while saying, "Idiot."
OK, told you this was impossible. Gosh I remember WFAA-TV's Gerry Oher hiding in the bushes out here, trying to see who was going into Jerry's office through the back door, the same guy who signed off every report with an annoying-sounding "… at VAL-leeee Ranch."
The time I got into a semi-wrestling tussle with a TV cameraman in the locker room over something. Bill Parcells hanging mousetraps in the locker room, with the message to his suddenly successful team, "Don't eat the cheese." Michael Irvin, with his world caving in on him during that 1996 offseason, sitting down in my office, closing the door and pleading his case with me. The time deep snapper Dale Hellestrae, before Dude Perfect shots ever became popular, outside the player entrance on the sidewalk to the parking lot deep snapped a ball through a slowly moving car's window.
All those Friday afternoons during the season after practice wasting time listening to Nate Newton expound on whatever the hot topic of the week was, be it basketball, college football, boxing, you name it. Same with Michael.
Or the time Irvin returned after his protracted contract holdout from training camp, marching through the locker room stark naked, from one end all the way to the other, holding his hands up and telling his teammates, "Now, I know you guys missed seeing me."
Or Michael throwing a hissy fit and the garbage can through the locker room curtains after Jimmy left and Barry was hired. Or the time Switzer told a reporter after being asked a really dumb question following practice, "You know what, you don't know what you don't know, and believe me, you really don't know." Priceless.
And lastly, maybe most indelible, was that day, May 2, 2009, when the indoor practice facility came tumbling down during that rookie minicamp practice from what they said was a microburst storm. We were trying to get out the backdoor when all hell was breaking loose, but because of the high winds creating suction, the folks in front of me couldn't push the door out. In so many words not fit for print, and what would have been my final ones, I was urging them on to push harder. Suddenly the doorframe broke as the canvass, metal beams and air conditioner ducks came crashing down.[embeddedad0]
Not sure what took place after that for maybe 5-10 seconds. Who knows? Have no earthly idea. But next thing I knew I found myself buried in this cave of mangled beams and canvas on the ground, lying next to PR assistant Jancy Briles. Just the two of us, safely covered, as if in a miraculously built tent. It was dark. Wet. Seemingly nowhere to go.
Righting myself, I spotted some daylight on the other side of this shoulder-high beam, though the slick canvas draped over and taut had made a slick slide, impossible to climb over. Finally I muscled myself up and over to the other side, falling to the ground while hearing Jancy say, "Mickey, don't leave me here."
Five words I'll never forget.
I told her I wouldn't, but that you've got to get yourself over this beam. She kept trying, finally getting one leg up high enough, parallel to the beam. I think, with the adrenalin rushing hard, I just bench-pressed her the rest of the way over, as we tumbled to the ground. Lifted our exit hatch and we scrambled out, up onto the track, running for fear more was coming down. Unreal, because when we turned around, it was as if we were running from some ghost. There was nothing chasing us. The building already had completely collapsed.
In retrospect, when going back the next day, looking for where I thought we were buried, there was this huge air conditioner unit right next to the spot. Darn lucky that wasn't prematurely my last day at The Ranch.
That last day now should occur sometime around July 20, if Star construction goes well. Happy to start something new. Sad to leave behind this place where I've spent nearly half my life working. But if I've learned anything from being at The Ranch oh, these many years, it's this: You've got to keep moving forward. You've got to be resilient. Nothing stands still out here.
As Stephen Jones said to close our Cowboys Legends Show: Valley Ranch, that aired this past January, "There is some emotion, and I'm sure that will build as we get closer to moving away from here. It will always have a warm place in our hearts.
"You'll never forget the old term, Valley Ranch."