Tom Landry’s Last Thanksgiving Day Game

It was Thanksgiving Day 1988 and my family bucked the usual tradition of staying home and watching the Dallas Cowboys on TV. We all packed up and left for Dallas that day, going to one of a handful games that we would attend. The excitement of a young man of 15 years of age could not be contained that day. I had been a fan of the Cowboys since I could remember and we were going to see my favorite team; my favorite football players, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White. We were also going to see my favorite football coach of all time, Tom Landry.

We also had the opportunity to see our favorite opponent, the Houston Oilers. We live just two hours away from Houston, but our family was a fan of the Cowboys despite the distance. This was actually the second time we had seen these two teams duke it out. The first time was a preseason game in which Tom Landry faced off against Bum Phillips. Looking back, that game could have been easily marketed today as the game between two Texas legends. I had the chance to meet Coach Phillips a few years ago, as he has a ranch nearby my hometown. I mentioned the Cowboys/Oilers game and he said that he didn’t remember the scores or all of the stats, but he always remembered loved playing against Tom Landry. He had said, “Tom Landry was a class act that football will never see again.”

The stadium was unusually full at that time of the year because at the time, the Cowboys were going through a 3-13 season and were on the tail end of a ten game losing streak. And Oilers Coach Jerry Glanville was trying to make his mark as a head coach, as he guided the Oilers to a 10-6 record for the 1988 season. Anytime you get two state rivals, you are bound to have a full stadium. The seats we had were in the upper decks, but it didn’t matter to me that day, I could see everything clearly.

I lived and breathed Cowboys football, even knowing the stats of Tony Dorsett from 1983 before knowing what words I had to know for a spelling test as a young student. My folks even allowed me join the NFL Pro club, which was a kids’ mailing club that sent newsletters and posters of our favorite players. I thought I was a big shot because I had a NFL Pro Club membership card with the Dallas Cowboys helmet on it. I still have those newsletters, posters, and even the membership cards stored away as a part of my memorabilia collection.

The game was exciting despite the fact that the Cowboys lost the game 25-17. We drove back the next day and the entire six hours, I remember talking to my mom and dad about the game. Little did we know, we witnessed Tom Landry’s last Thanksgiving Day game. More than I watched the game, I watched Coach Landry pace the sidelines and looking over his play sheet. It was amazing to see him analyze the play and quickly formulate the Cowboys next move. Tom Landry was an old school coach; he called every single play for the offense and defense despite having a defensive coordinator. Landry felt like he knew more than anyone else what play needed to be called.

Tom Landry’s final win that season was against the Washington Redskins, a rival even more hated than the Oilers. So we have at least that to be thankful for as far as last victories. That day in 1988, I was thankful for the chance to see my favorite team and my favorite coach. It is a day that I will never forget. More importantly, I will not forget the time I spent with my family that day. The smile on my parents faces as we entered the stadium, as they saw their two boys excited about a game on the holiday of thanks, it was something to remember.

This is not my usual article, but I wanted to take the time to give thanks to my family, my sports family here at the Landry Hat, and share a moment in my life from Thanksgiving Day that involved our beloved Cowboys. On behalf of the staff writers of the Landry Hat we want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! GO COWBOYS!

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