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It Appears the NCAA Is Domed

I did not know what to expect here in Dallas, home of the steak-fried chicken, or whatever it is, and mosquito cooking, or whatever it is, and of course the Ewing family--which, in case there are college basketball lovers who never watch anything else on television, refers to the Ewings who wear cowboy hats, not to the Ewings who wear gray undershirts.

I did not know how Dallas felt about basketball. Y’all liked fut-bawl down here, I figgered.

Little did I know that professional basketball’s Mavericks had been packing them in, more than any other franchise, in fact, and that the NBA All-Star Game had turned into the biggest social occasion hereabouts since Ronald Reagan got renominated.

When the national college tournament circus rolled into town, Dallas intended to prove once and for all that there was more to the city than cowboys and Cowboys.

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For years, folks from Big D have been erecting classy, glassy towers and wearing Yves St. Laurent fashions over their lizard-skin boots, if only to show the world that culture had come to Texas, and that the local citizenry did not spend all of its time scraping cattle-pen remnants off of them there boots.

One of the television critics of Dallas, a gentleman obviously distressed with the notion that people here could appreciate Shakespeare only if performed by Larry Hagman and not Larry Olivier, castigated CBS-TV during the weekend’s NCAA basketball coverage for perpetuating Dallas’ stereotype. He believed that many of the mamas here did not raise their babies to be cowboys.

A young CBS calf got untied and promptly threw herself back at this critic, demanding to know that if Dallas was so dadgum angry about its image as a cowtown, why did it toss NCAA parties at the Southfork ranch featured in the TV show “Dallas,” dispensing red bandannas to everyone who passed through the gate? Why serve Big Billy Joe Don Bob’s barbecue and sponsor rodeos if you want tourists to think of you as Beluga caviar and ballet?

Dallas does not have a real tourist attraction, alas. Gift shops still peddle postcards identifying the 1963 presidential motorcade route and the Texas Book Depository, with little circular insets of John F. Kennedy’s face. Dallas does not have a Disneyland or a Busch Gardens or a French Quarter or a Fisherman’s Wharf, and although it does not need one, it thinks it needs one.

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You cannot fault Dallas for attempting to put forward its best face. The recognition and word of mouth that manifests from a great American sporting event like the Super Bowl or World Series can generate considerable good will for a city, but this place has never had one of those.

Texas Stadium is a tad small for the Super Bowl and is too likely not to be a neutral site, the Cowboys being as good as they usually are. As for major league baseball, the day the Texas Rangers reach the World Series will be the day Pervis Ellison VI is telling people how well his great-grandfather played in the 1986 Final Four.

Dallas was treated to a splendid tournament of basketball, and did a splendid job as host of same. There were three suspenseful games, there was Dale Brown and his mouth of renown, there was the Kansas center who looked like the Russian who fought Rocky, there was the ever-clever Duke cheering section, and finally there was Pervis Ellison III, the human pogo stick who came to fame 26 hours or so from his 19th birthday.

Much to talk about in Dallas for years to come. Much to remember.

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But due to technical difficulties beyond their control, this probably was the last such tournament these Dallas folks will have in their north 40. There are several reasons for this--supply and demand being one of them, greed being another. Even though Reunion Arena is a superbly designed, immaculate place to play basketball, it cannot sell 30,000 or even 20,000 seats per session, and other places can.

New Orleans can, and will next year. Kansas City and Denver cannot, but they, too, will have trouble regaining the Final Four, no matter how well they stage it in 1988 and 1989. After that it goes to Seattle, for the second time in six years, and then to Indianapolis or Minneapolis for 1991. The other apolis metropolis will no doubt have the thing in ’92.

You will have to have a Superdome, Kingdome, Hoosierdome, Metrodome, Astrodome, Silverdome, some sort of dome, or a flexible football stadium, at least, to throw the big hoops party in years to come, it is suspected.

Perhaps the NCAA will fool everybody and keep bouncing the ball all over the map, in Lexington and Albuquerque and St. Louis and other cities that have demonstrated the ability to run the tournament expertly. Personally, as someone who attends these functions, I think Maui deserves a shot.

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But if the NC-double-A decides never to bring the dance back to Big D-little a-double L-A-S, I do not believe the urban cowpersons here should concern themselves about it.

They did nothing wrong. They did everything right.

Dallas is a dang fine place for a sporting event, and when the Rangers do have the World Series, I intend to travel here on an American Airlines spaceship with a 21st Century senior-citizen discount coupon and have a real fine time.


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