Cowboys Sideline Reporter’s Travel Diary: A Special Night for the Team at Freedom Tower’s One World Observatory
Ten road trips a year are among the biggest perks of broadcasting NFL games. Some people don’t like business travel or find it tedious to make trips that are quick turnarounds, but Cowboys road trips are among my favorite parts of the job.
During the 2015 season, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett deviated from the team’s normal travel routine to provide an extra special experience for players and coaches (and a couple of lucky long-time broadcasters, including myself). For the game at the New York Giants in October, we left a day early so the team could spend Friday evening touring the 9/11 Memorial and attending a private team dinner party inside Freedom Tower.
It was a high-brow evening, to be sure. All the players and coaches were dressed in suits & ties. The team’s hotel is in Jersey City, so upon arrival on Friday evening at Newark Airport we took a bus to Jersey City. The hotel is directly across the Hudson River from Freedom Tower, so we hopped a chartered ferry and took a short ride across the river.
As we walked just a couple of blocks towards Freedom Tower, we were greeted by tour guides who took us around the grounds of the 9/11 Memorial. The explained the meaning of the twin reflecting pools which are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in the country. There is a north pool and south pool, each on the exact spot of the North & South Towers of the former World Trade Center. The name of every person who died in the 9/11/01 attacks and the 1993 terror attack are inscribed into panels that rim the edges of the pools.
After the outdoor tour, the guides took us inside Freedom Tower to the One World Observatory Experience which just opened to the public this past year. I highly recommend this experience. Take time to watch the video which features the men & women who designed and built the new tower. It’s inspiring. And the view from the observation deck, which is 1,270 feet above ground, is awesome. Truly, it’s so high! You’re looking down on the Empire State Building.
But the neatest thing, by far, is the elevator ride. It takes less than 60 seconds to ascend 1,270 feet and the ride is completely immersive. There are LED displays, floor to ceiling. As you go up the elevator, there is a time-lapse display which recreates the development of New York City from the 1500’s to today. As you ascend, you see the skyline go up, too. Within seconds, you go from an agrarian island, through the industrial revolution, and then the building of the Empire State and Chrysler Building and Brooklyn Bridge. Don’t blink…just enjoy!
Once we were on the observation deck, a private dinner was set up, complete with white table cloths and plenty of wine and excellent food. It was not in the restaurant that is atop the tower, this was a private party. There was a terrific band playing live music.
Team owner Jerry Jones spoke to the team, followed by Coach Garrett. Their goal was to not only make the evening a team-building experience, but to use Freedom Tower as an analogy because the theme of the tower is one of perseverance and inspiration. It’s about coming together in the face of adversity, rebuilding something that was knocked down, and honoring those who were lost.
Life is about collective experiences, and if we’re lucky, we’ll have a few chances to do something we remember a long time. We’ll have a chance to learn and expand our horizons. That’s what Coach Garrett did for his players with the extra night on the New York road trip.
Like the team dinner at The Tower of London when the Cowboys played in England last November, these are special moments. Most of these players were in elementary school or junior high on 9/11/01. So it’s a chance for them to learn more about our history and see the resilience of New York City and our country.
My hope is that fans who travel to see their favorite teams play take the time to seek out unique and interesting experiences in the respective home team’s cities.
How can you go to Philadelphia and not run (or at least walk) the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? How can you go to Washington, D.C. and not visit one of the Smithsonian museums along the national mall, or at least visit the Lincoln Memorial? How can you not go to Second City (improv comedy troupe) in Chicago, or at least walk the Magnificent Mile? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is a must, and if you have time to drive down to Canton, Ohio for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s worth the visit.
One reason I love our team’s road trips is that I treat them as a free 30 hour vacation. Usually we arrive on Saturday evening, but there are still city sights that are available at night, even if the museums are closed. And there is usually live theatre in the area. Once on a December road trip to Indianapolis, I went to their symphony’s Christmas concert that featured Sandi Patty. It was terrific. A couple of years later, we were in Cincinnati in December so I went to their symphony’s Christmas concert featuring Amy Grant. The ice rink was nearby, so that made it a fun evening.
We did the Hall of Fame Game in Canton two years ago. I had Sunday morning off because the game was that evening. I saw a flyer in the hotel lobby for the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. I thought to myself, “Wow, that building looks like Shawshank prison” (from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption). Well, it is the Shawshank…at least where they filmed the movie. So I hopped in my rent car and drove half an hour to Mansfield and toured the reformatory. That was an awesome day!! Oh yeah, we had a game that night. I don’t remember much about the game, but I loved finding the Shawshank! That was dumb luck, just spotting the travel brochure/flyer.
With a little research, you can find fun things so plan ahead and don’t wait to stumble upon a brochure. Whether it’s Trip Advisor, or Googling the city’s daily newspaper and hitting the “event calendar”, there’s always something to do. Take advantage of every opportunity. Sports may be the reason for your road trip, but don’t miss out on the cultural and historic opportunities that are always available.
Oh, and next time you’re in Green Bay, may I recommend cheese curds. I don’t know if that counts as ‘cultural’, but they’re delicious (think of popcorn shrimp, but delicious bites of fried cheese instead of shrimp).
And please do yourself a favor, if you have the opportunity to visit New York City, please carve out three to four hours to tour the One World Observatory and 9/11 Memorial. Coach Garrett thought it was worth an extra day for his team, and I agree. Be sure to go inside the 9/11 museum, too.
About Kristi Scales:
This month's Sports Traveler guest blog is written by Kristi Scales, sideline report for the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network. Kristi Scales has worked on the Cowboys sideline for over 25 years and is also a contributor for Dallas Morning News. You can read her work at the Dallas Morning News and follower her on Twitter @KristiCowboy