Lives Bulldozed Away and All for the Love of Football.

The Stadium
The Stadium

The drumbeat was on.

The countdown was with us.

One hundred and twenty-one days until the worshipful Super Bowl would come.

One hundred and twenty days . . .

One hundred and nineteen . . .

Soon the Big Game would be here. Then we would be rewarded in full measure and then some.

Roger Summers
Roger Summers

The world’s adoring attention.

Dollars so numerous they would  be impossible to count. Dollars freely drifting about for so many among us to grab, cling to.

Hotels filled.

Restaurants at capacity.

Private jets, one behind the other, gleaming and  gliding into the expanded  municipal airport,   bringing  not  only a  diverse  array  of   VIPs,  but  even  abundantly more  dollars to  add  to  the  already  mountainous  stack.

Fun. Joy. Celebration.

Jobs.

Football heaven.

Ah, yes, football.

Are you ready for some football?

And the planning for it had been so collectively   successful, so superior, so standard-setting, that surely  this bowl of bowls might come again in no time.

But even as the drumbeat, the countdown went on, the rich rewards already were ours.

What the football team owner had built — with the  major assist of a deep, deep reach into citizens’  pockets —  already had enormous impact.

NFL football games.  College football games. High school football games.

But it would be much, much more than  that —  boxing,  basketball, soccer, bull riding,  concerts.

Why, some would dream that someday, the stadium of stadiums might even serve as the centerpiece for a  national political convention.

The possibilities would be limited only by the imagination.

So, a good case could be made that the football team owner would emerge as kingpin of the venue men.

And so the stadium was here.

Here to enrich, reward, enthrall, entertain, captivate.

So, I would go see football at the stadium.

I marveled at the vastness of it all, the ingenuity, the  engineering,  the construction.

Washboard RoadI was struck by how there did not seem  to  be a bad seat in the house, the comparative ease with which  this gigantic,  enclosed place accommodated swarming crowds.

I watched the roof magically open in no time at all.

Presto.

Shazam.

My eyes went often to the enormous video screen – indeed perhaps more focused there than the game on the playing field itself.  Nothing like it. Absolutely nothing.

I sat there in my comfortable seat, the ticket for it costing  more than I once made in a week.

And I suddenly wondered:

Whose living room am I sitting in?

Whose back yard?

Was the place I occupied once the middle of the cozy little neighborhood street where children rode their  bikes or aging couples – hand-in-hand – took  their  daily  strolls?

For, let us remember,  this once was a  neighborhood of  hundreds of people, of many scores of modest homes set on gently-rolling  terrain with  mature,  shading trees and promising flower gardens of varying success.

A place of dreams and memories.

Of living.

Of yesterdays and todays and, had the stadium not come, awaited tomorrows.

For those who called this home, it was  their  oasis,  a place of  quietude  and solace surrounded  by the  growing  busy-ness of a  city on the move, a city on the prowl.

It was their place of living, this neighborhood was.  And all that that means.

I have lived in this same city for some  half  a  century.

I occasionally drove through the little  neighborhood that  occupied  this  place – this place where the stadium now stands — for decades.

And,  living  in  a neighborhood  not  far  away  that  is  my  own  oasis,  I could  imagine  when  those  who  called this place home heard  those  two awful,  disquieting,  unsettling  words:

Eminent domain.

Then one day I could  no  longer  enter  the  streets  of  this quiet little neighborhood chosen by others as the perfect location for the big, dominating stadium.

Barricades said no, blocked me, turned me back.

The bulldozers came.  The big trucks came.

And, one home at a time, one debris-hauling truckload after another, quickly took this oasis  neighborhood  away.

Homes became rubble.

Gone.

Supplanted by this massive stadium, this place of wonder and excitement where now I would sit to watch football.

As I sat there, I wondered  where all of  those people of the displaced neighborhood went.

What happened  to them?  Where do they stroll these days, where do they bike, where do they garden, what  happened  to neighborhood  friendships established and nourished over months and years and decades?

Oh, I know,  I  know.  They got dollars.  Eminent  domain is not totally devoid  of considerations. Those who take what is yours do have to pay for what they extract, though the fairness of the payment amount often is debatable.  The law says payment must be made.

But dollars are not the sum of it. Not nearly the sum of it.

For what once was here were families,  people,  lives, hopes, dreams,  memories. And so much more – so much irreplaceable more.

Things for which dollars cannot really even begin  to  completely and fairly compensate.

At another time,  in another place,   I  talked  to  members  of  a family  that  had   been  dislocated   through  the  sheer,  raw, even  ugly  power  of eminent  domain.

The father, in his eighth decade, had died. The family attributed his  cause  of  death  to  the  stress and strain and pain and turmoil that  had  been  brutally thrust  upon  him  by  the  fact  that  the  city  in  which  he  lived  was taking   his  home  —  through  eminent  domain – to make  way for  expansion  of  a  shopping  mall.

His home.

The home in which he had spent most of his life, the one he cherished, the one where he was comfortable, the one where he had planned to spend all of his remaining days.

Gone.

The medical community assigned other reasons  for  his cause of death.

But his family knew better; his family knew the real reason, for surely there are those who die of broken hearts.

Eminent domain continues to be hotly debated ad infinitum  in our  courts, in Congress,  in  our state legislatures, at  city  halls, in school administration buildings, at courthouses and in officialdom elsewhere.

And in peaceful little neighborhoods  where  the  tranquility  sometimes  is  threatened – and sometimes is brutally broken —  by  the  encroaching, incessant onrush  of  what is called  progress.

This debate is ongoing  and  will,  of course,  be  with  us even after hundreds of football games are played here.

We will watch some of those games and we will  enjoy and we will celebrate.  But we will spend  some  moments  too wondering  where  those  who  spent   years  living  here  in  the  onetime  neighborhood  oasis  where  the  wondrous  stadium  now  lives  are just now.

And what their lives are like and how they have been  affected  and  how  they  have   adjusted, or have not,  to  being  on  the  receiving  end  of  those  two  powerful,  disruptive, dreaded words  — eminent domain — that  immeasurably changed  their  lives  forever.

Yes, we gave those now-gone neighborhood dwellers dollars.

But — as surely as the stadium excites, as surely as it is worshipped — we still owe those who called that now-gone neighborhood home these moments of consideration, these moments of reflection for their involuntary contributions too.

Please click the book cover to read more about the short story collection of Roger Summers on Amazon.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    When we lived in Ennis, South of Dallas, my wife loved to shop at the Parks Mall in Arlington. After it was announced that neighborhoods were being razed so the stadium could be built and after she learned that it was being built with sales tax revenue, she never went back to the Parks again and swore to never spend another dollar where the owner of the football team could his hands on part of it. Hers was one small protest for mankind.

  • Don Newbury

    Another beautiful piece worthy of ongoing thought.

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