Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

DALLAS -- The summer fantasy that the Cowboys might wind up playing in the next Super Bowl at their own stadium faded weeks ago, but fans here for the Detroit game last Sunday appeared to be on a high that reflected the mood of a contender, not a team that has won only three games.

Even for a noon kickoff, Cowboy loyalists were out early -- three hours or more -- setting up their tailgate tents and firing up their grills. A large portion of Cowboy fans wore the jerseys of their favorite players, including many with No. 12, the number of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who remains a popular figure in Dallas.

The Cowboy experience that takes place inside the $1 billion stadium is a partnership, boasting the latest in technology. The much-talked-about video board, which hovers above, not only fascinates and dominates but provides visual convenience for those sitting in the far corners of the stadium. The giant board virtually puts the action in your lap wherever you sit. The images are sharp and vivid, creating the sensation that you're in the huddle when the quarterback calls the play.

Jerry Jones, the entrepreneurial owner of the Cowboys, and the architects didn't overlook any space for spectator opportunity. There are field-level suites -- actually below field level -- where fans have a unique proximity to the players only a few yards away. Not the best view of the action, but the video board corrects that negative. Jones has influenced a fan friendly atmosphere. Wherever you go, Cowboy personnel and staff are accommodating, greeting you with warm and generous smiles. You half expect them to offer a high-five as you walk by.

While Cowboys Stadium isn't billed as the ninth wonder of the world, it certainly deserves a "must see" label if you are an ardent football fan. The largest stadium in NFL history, the attendance record is 105,121 when the Cowboys played their first regular-season game, Sep. 20, 2009, against the Giants. Super Bowl XLV will take place here in February. The facility has already become the venue for the AT&T Cotton Bowl. The Big 12 championship game was played here last year and will return this year and again in 2011.

If Jerry Jones is anything, he is a promoter. He is a classic marketer, adept at finding maximum revenue streams to promote his team and the Cowboy brand. While it evokes negative commentary from some cynics, he is the rarest of NFL personalities, also being the general manager of the Cowboys. Jones played football at Arkansas, so he should know something about the business of personnel. Naturally, fan approval comes with winning.

Most Cowboy fans, while currently disappointed, seem faithfully bent on showing up on Sunday with high hopes. On the rental car bus to the airport following the game, one loyal fan revealed that he had come from Hawaii for the game. In Delta's Sky Club, a middle-aged mother from New York in her Cowboys T-shirt disclosed that she had brought her son -- a Cowboy fan "since grade school" -- to see the stadium and watch his beloved Cowboys play.

In the parking lot pre-game, Chuck Sharpe arrived early in his Cowboy mobile. A converted mini-school bus, his van is painted blue and silver. Inside he has the names of all the players who have been elected to the Cowboy Ring of Honor lettered around the roof of the bus. The Cowboys' five Super Bowl titles are prominently listed on the outside. Also an Oklahoma State fan, he shrugged his shoulders in disappointment when talking about the NFL Cowboys, but his eyes sparkled when he mentioned his alma mater.

"One of my Cowboy teams has got to do some good this year," he said.