Starting Thursday, January 8, Dallas was being invaded by folks from Ohio and Oregon for the College Football Playoff at AT&T Stadium. And while thousands were attending concerts with Sting, Lady Antebellum and Lenny Kravitz, a very special dinner took place at the Omni Dallas Hotel on Thursday.
The occasion was the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame in which Father of Aerobics Dr. Kenneth “Ken” Cooper was to be inducted. It turned out to be a twofer event. Voice of the Dallas Cowboys Brad Sham was to be presented with the Blackie Sherrod Award during the weekend’s festivities. But due to a date in Green Bay to announce the Cowboys-Packers game, it was decided to move up the presentation to Cooper’s induction dinner.
Limited to 300, the evening was heavy on all-star athletes and light on body fat. Former Dallas Cowboy Jay Novacek with his wife Amy by his side and his cowboy hat firmly in place opened arms and embraced his old quarterback/buzz haircut partner Troy Aikman.
Dang! Why do Troy and Jay look taller and cuter in person?
A handler pointed to the far back of the reception lobby and said, “They’re back there.”
They turned out to be Roger Staubach, Archie Manning and Brad with Dr. Ken nearby.
In other parts of the lobby were a herd of Sham family and friends like Kristi Scales, Peggy Sham, Chick Sham, Kyla Brinkley, Bob Thomas, Eric Sham, Paul Sham and Marla Sham.
At 7, key folks were directed to the private meet-and-greet with Staubach, Aikman, Manning, Cooper and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
Standing nearby was Lyda Hill, who recalled a dance that she once had shared with Staubach. Was he any good? Sure! And Lyda should know, since she “taught dance lessons at the Air Force Academy.” Her favorite dance? A cha-cha.
At another place in the room, Carol Murphy and Stan Richards revealed that The Richards Group was making the old-heave-ho move from its Northwest Highway-Central headquarters to its new digs on Central between Lemmon and North Haskell the next week.
Veteran football widow Marianne Staubach greeted one and all like a homecoming queen. Everyone was being so copacetic and proper.
But then the Dallas Ballroom doors opened and the guests entered for an evening of toasting and roasting by the super hero types. But it didn’t started until after Daniel Rodriguez sang a stirring “God Bless America” causing the guests to rise from their chairs.
Former journalist/National Football Foundation Executive Director
presented the Sherrod Award to Sham. Brad promised to keep his comments brief since the evening really belonged to Cooper, but in graciously accepting the award, he surprised some and didn’t others by saying the person who had most influenced him in loving sports was his mother Chick.
While some then dined, others like Jennifer Sampson, Tony Fay with daughter Katie Fay, Tommy Bain, Steve Hatchell and Margo and Jim Keyes table-hopped like Easter bunnies. Dinner Co-Chair Laura Leppert was spouseless. Seems husband Tom’s plane was late. The 83-year-old Cooper made his way through the room, finally catching up to 90-year-old cardiologist Dr. Bobby Brown, who was a four-time World Series winner for the New York Yankees. Living in Fort Worth, he was with his daughter Beverley Dale and her husband Larry. Roy Sheldon told a story that has made the rounds about Bobby when he roomed with Yogi Berra. One night while Bobby was studying one of his medical books, Yogi was reading a comic books. When Berra finished his, he asked Brown, “How does yours end?”
It almost seemed like Roy’s tale was just a prelude of what was about to take place on stage.
It seemed rather proper at first. With Brad as emcee, Foundation Chair Archie introduced a video about Cooper’s amazing work in the area of preventive healthcare from his days as an Air Force doctor. It was followed by a video tribute by former President George W. Bush, who happens to be one of Cooper’s patients. Then Manning invited Staubach and Aikman to the stage to present the Hall of Fame ring to the father of aerobics.
That’s when the team of Staubach-Aikman proved to be as sharp at the podium as they were on the football field. Whoever writes their stuff earned their keep.
With Manning to the side, Staubach led off telling the guests that earlier in the evening Manning had ribbed him, asking, “How many Super Bowls have your kids won?” referencing Archie’s sons Eli and Peyton’s two Super Bowl wins. Staubach claimed that he responded, “How many Heismans have you won?”
Then feigning humility, Staubach reported that Ken’s wife Millie had indicated that he had been replaced by Aikman as the No. 1 quarterback in her life. The reason she was supposed to have given? “Well, he’s won more Super Bowls. He’s younger. And he’s better looking.”
But rising above the indignity, Staubach then introduced “my favorite quarterback,” Troy Aikman.
Sauntering up to the podium with a smirk, Aikman added to Staubach’s dilemma, telling him that Millie had told him that Tony Romo was now vying for the No. 1 spot.
Poor Millie without even appearing on stage had become the scene stealer of the night, as Aikman finished up saying that she didn’t approve of his being a part owner in Dunkin’ Donuts (not healthy enough, you know).
Now it appeared to be time for all the antics to end and for the formal induction to take place. As Troy read the official words and Roger flashed the ring for the hundreds to see, Ken stood and received his ring.
Admitting that he was a bit overwhelmed by the recognition, Cooper recalled the early days championing his theory on health. From his days with the Air Force, working with professional football players to going international in Brazil, he proved why the tribute was obviously deserving.
However, even the dedicated physician couldn’t resist having the final laugh of the night, upstaging all the legendary jocks. He told of a competition that had developed between Staubach and former NFL referee Jim “The Dean of NFL Referees” Tunney for a treadmill record. The battle went on and on. Finally, Cooper had to call Staubach and notify him that Tunney had won the competition. Staubach’s comeback? “I knew he was blind, but I didn’t think he could run!”