Beware of chasing after superlatives. Those seeking to create “The World’s Whatever-est Thingie” sooner or later learn a lesson about hubris. Sooner or later, someone else will end up making a Thingie that is more Whatever than yours, and your creation will be relegated to the ash heap of other Thingies that are less Whatever. But on some occasions, the lesson takes another form, and often is the result of failure. The Spruce Goose, the giant seaplane built by Howard Hughes that never flew is one example. And now the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League have given us another example.
The new Cowboys Stadium boasts a 600 ton display hanging over the center of the field, spanning the distance from about one 20 yard line to the other. The LED side displays show full color 1080p video, with 48-foot wide displays at each end for the less fortunate fans in the end zones. And this whole contraption is hung 90 feet above the field. (Apparently, the NFL rules require that all overhead obstructions be hung at least 85 feet above the ground, but apparently the league wasn’t contemplating some stadium designer hanging a cruise ship over midfield.
So what happened last week in the new stadium’s first pre-season NFL game? The punter from the Tennessee Titans bounced a kick off the giant display. And the best that the referrees could come up with was to run the play again.
According to some sources, the average hang time for an NFL punt is 4.6 seconds. Calculating just on the basis of gravitational acceleration (the ball spends as much time going up as coming down), then this yields an average height of about 85 feet. And this is the average hang time, folks. A six-second hang time is not out of the question, which would yield a height of nearly 97 feet. This is a calculation well within the reach of any high school physics student, so it’s a little startling that the Cowboys apparently did not do the math.
The NFL is going to review the situation, but for now, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is adamant that he will not raise the display. Jerry has never been one to shy away from chasing superlatives.