Saturday, April 21, 2012


Directed by: Jonny Mars
Starring: Stan "Tiger" Shults and Cy Ditmore
Synopsis: A documentary chronicling the last year at Texas Stadium through the eyes of the Gate 6 Tailgaters. 

The Dallas Cowboys are one of “those” teams. There’s a fan base and a hate base wherever you live in America. I remember hearing a story about a player who joined the Cowboys from another team, and he was shocked at the droves of people who turned out to watch summer practice. Their practice was in California. And these weren’t fans that traveled from Texas. These were fans who lived in California and are die hard enough to go and watch them in the summer heat. Yes, I am a fan of the Boys too—for better or (like the last couple years) for worse.

From the bandwagoners to the die hards, you can find fans like us everywhere. AMERICA'S PARKING LOT follows the Gate 6 Tailgaters, a group of die hard Cowboy fans who tailgate before every home game. The group has grown over the years with some of the founding members tailgating for 20 years. There's Tiger who lives here in Dallas, and whose first marriage ended because his ex couldn't handle his obsession with football. His daughter was induced a few days early so her birth wouldn't coincide with a home game. The other main tailgater, Cy, lives 240 miles away and commutes with his trailer of equipment (tables, smokers, coolers, chairs, decorations) every week. He estimates spending $700-$1000 every home game between gas and food for up to 100 people. These boys are rooted in blue. They sound a tad too hardcore for most of us, but to them, football is a religion. And tailgating is a deep rooted tradition they cannot break.

So, when Cowboy owner Jerry Jones came up for the plan to move the Cowboys from the traditional Texas Stadium to the brand new stadium, there were some mixed feelings. Since the new stadium's cost would topple over a billion dollars, certain measures were set up to put the cost back on the fans. No longer would seats be in the affordable $30-$150 dollar range. Now you have to reserve your seat with a Personal Seat License (PSL) that start at $5,000 a seat, and THEN are you only allowed to purchase your season tickets. Not exactly an easy sell to middle class America.

In a sense, Jerry Jones took this team out of the hands of the fans and put it into the hands of the wealthy. During this whole hoopla, there was a real animosity between the fans and Jerry Jones. Between PSLs, buying tickets, and now paying for parking, the cost for two people to go to the game every week skyrocketed. Unfortunately for this film, the director Jonny Mars never fully explored this tension. Sure Tiger and Cy were frustrated, but being hardcore fans, we always knew they would cough up the money. But what about all the others? There were many people who bowed out of going to every home game because they just couldn't cough up the money. All of this also happened when the economy was tanking, so this could have been a perfect 99 vs. 1% story. I was really hoping the film would take a turn and focus on the greed of Jones and the animosity of the fans, but it never gets fleshed out.

ESPN did a fantastic series called 30 for 30 where they followed and told various sports stories in a documentary style. AMERICA'S PARKING LOT has a very interesting story to tell about NFL commercialism, but first time directory Mars never delves into it. If this was given to more capable hands, like the people behind 30 for 30, there could have been an insanely compelling film. Instead we get a home video, and somewhat cheap, looking documentary about the final year tailgating at Gate 6. 

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