Is it Ok to Buy the Dallas Cowboys with the Intent to Close Them Down?
No one person alone gets to decide what is culture
I saw the news earlier today that a house in Fort Worth was demolished. Per the article by Mark Lamster in the Dallas Morning News, the house is a modernist masterpiece by architect Harwell Hamilton Harris with landscape by Thomas Church, and it was preemptively demolished before preservationists could get organized.
Many of the comments to the article show a similar disregard for the house, citing (often contemptuously) either that it is unlovely to their eyes or that it is private property and therefore the new owner can do with it whatever they wish.
So let me put this in terms that may be more meaningful and direct to some of those commenters: Is it acceptable for someone to purchase the Dallas Cowboys with the sole purpose of closing them down? And to do so quickly and surreptitiously, without anyone knowing? Without someone else, someone who cared about the Cowboys, being given the chance to come along and make an offer?
You certainly don’t own the team. The fans as a whole don’t either. The city of Dallas doesn’t own the team. The owner does. And this hypothetical new owner paid fair value. So the new owner can do whatever they want, right? They can sell the players and scatter them to the winds. They can rename the team to the Dallas Cowgirls. They can give naming rights to some New York company, say Donald Trump. Now they are The Trump Cowgirls. The new owners can even burn the whole Jerry Jones stadium down the ground, though this might be the least of the damage.
Make no mistake, on a smaller scale that is what is happening here. In the article, Lamster calls it an “act of brazen philistinism”, but I doubt they are philistines. Per Bloomberg Business,
Mr. Ardon E. Moore is the Chief Executive Officer and President at Lee M. Bass, Inc. He is the Vice Chairman, Member of Compensation Committee, and Member of Risk Committee of University of Texas Investment Management Company. Mr. Moore is also the President at Fort Worth Zoological Association and Past President at All Saint’s Episcopal School of Fort Worth. He is the Member of Austin Development Board at The University of Texas, Dean’s Circle, The University of Texas McCombs School of Business, and Stanford Graduate School of Business Alumni Association. Mr. Moore is also Trustee at Cook Children’s Hospital, Director at Siemens Water Technologies, and Past Trustee at Texas Water Foundation.
Most likely they are just being opportunistic. Regardless of being philistines or not, they almost certainly know the significance of the house and did when they purchased it just this past year. It is their desire for the land, and to do what they want with it, that trumps this knowledge.
The house was originally owned and commissioned by Ruth Carter Stevenson, certainly no philistine, and indeed a very important benefactor of the community and founder of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth. The house was established and recognized, given meaningful awards, and the architect is also considered to be a great if not very well-know architect.
Here is the thing. It is ok if you don’t like or care for architecture. That isn’t all that important to the discussion. Whether you personally do or don’t, there are many people that do, and they recognize that architecture is a cultural artifact with significant importance. You might not like a particular book, or for that matter any book, but you know it isn’t right to burn books. It hurts, it shows the willful destruction of culture with all that those acts imply.
It is possible, even in Texas, that you might not like football, god forbid. Clearly, however, many do, and they love their Dallas Cowboys. I presume many of those who commented with disregard for the willful destruction of a worthwhile house would be utterly outraged if someone bought the Dallas Cowboys just because they wanted to shut it down and use the stadium for something else, like say 24/365 Justin Bieber concerts. Because the Dallas Cowboys are culture, big culture, “America’s Team”. They matter.
Even if you don’t like football, or even if you don’t like the Dallas Cowboys, you get it. This is our culture. The owner of a team like that isn’t just an owner, they are a custodian. They have the duty to shepherd it in a way that benefits the community that supports it. They may have the right to ignore that duty, but then they will be reviled, because they are impacting something that is bigger than them.
When you purchase a cultural artifact that has value, you have that same duty. You may be able legally to do what you want with it, but there are some unwritten rules too. You don’t really have the cultural “right” to buy a Pablo Picasso because you like the canvas and want to use that for another painting. Similarly, you don’t really have the right to buy an outstanding and critically acclaimed building just to tear it down because you like the land. Outrage will ensue.
No one person gets to decide what is culture. We, the people as a whole, do. It is terrifying what we choose sometimes, but all these little acts add up and determine who we are. We have property rights, yes, but there are “cultural” rights too. You would be outraged if someone tried to erase the memory of your mother or your grandmother from the world. You would be outraged if someone took our flag and tried to burn it. You would be outraged when the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is banned. You would be outraged if someone bought the Dallas Cowboys and moved them to New York or Los Angeles. And you should be outraged when a valuable house is bought to be condemned. It is our culture. It matters.
However, just so you know, I would totally be ok with someone buying the Dallas Cowboys with the intent to destroy them. I am a Chicago Bears fan, through and through.