Unless the Cowboys qualify for a home playoff game — not a likely prospect — their game with Baltimore this Saturday will be their finale in one of the league’s quirkiest stadiums and one once considered among the most opulent.

Texas Stadium’s history nears conclusion

The hyperbolic answer, so grandiose and Texas-like, is attributed to D. D. Lewis, a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys when Texas Stadium opened in 1971.

But a regular visitor suspects the question must be on the licensing test for local taxi drivers. They all seem to ask it when they shuttle customers in from the airport.

Driver (glancing into rearview mirror): “Hey, you know why there’s a hole in the roof of that football stadium?”

Passenger (pretending not to know): “No, why?”

Driver (chuckling): “So God can watch his favorite team!”

Unless the Cowboys qualify for a home playoff game — not a likely prospect — their game with Baltimore this Saturday will be their finale in one of the league’s quirkiest stadiums and one once considered among the most opulent.

Next season, the Cowboys will move to a new home in Arlington, between Dallas and Fort Worth. It, too, will have a hole in the roof, but the roof will be retractable, and during bad weather, the movable ceiling will block the view of airplanes, birds and Supreme Beings.

The new stadium has already booked the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, the 2011 Super Bowl and the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four. The current stadium, like so many on the American landscape from its era, may be razed.

Coincidentally, the New York football Giants also helped the Cowboys vacate their previous stadium. The teams played in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 11, 1971, a 20-13 Dallas victory before 68,378 fans. It was the second home game of that season for the Cowboys and their last one there.

Their next home game, at Texas Stadium, was a 44-21 victory over New England on Oct. 24, 1971, before 65,708. One of the great victories in Giants history occurred when they last played here, a 21-17 upset in the playoffs on Jan. 13.

But not too many Giants will miss playing here. Center Shaun O’Hara said he hated the hard turf, and kicker Lawrence Tynes called it “one of the worst fields in the league” and said he would not mind if the whole place was blown up.

Tynes was asked what was so bad about it.

“The big crown in the middle,” he said, referring to the upward slope at midfield. “When you’re kicking, you’re uphill one way and downhill the other. It’s a hard surface. There’s nothing good about it, other than it being enclosed.”

The enclosure made the stadium fan-friendly for paying customers but problematic for those watching on television. Unlike at the current Giants Stadium and the new, roofless stadium being built next door to it, the covering here kept rain and sun off spectators.

But because the field was exposed to the elements, the stark contrast between bright sun and dark shadows made it difficult for television cameras to clearly show plays that moved on clear days from one lighting level to the other.

Even before this stadium opened for football, it hosted a 10-day Billy Graham crusade. Among those called to the stage for that were the former President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird.

Among the characteristics of the place is the Ring of Honor around the grandstand that shows the names of former Cowboys stars, and the big, blue star — trimmed in white — in the middle of the field, on the 50-yard line.

That star became a battleground on Sept. 24, 2000, when Terrell Owens — now a Cowboy but then playing for San Francisco — celebrated a touchdown by running to the star and gazing upward through the hole in the roof.

When Owens scored again and ran back to the star, he was blindsided by Dallas safety George Teague. The fans cheered that, but the 49ers won the game, 41-24.

Last week, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was asked whether he might want a souvenir from the stadium, perhaps even that star. No, Manning said, adding with a smile that Jerry Jones, the current owner, would probably sell it.

Giants cornerback Sam Madison said, “Hopefully, all that tradition won’t roll over” from the old stadium to the new. According to the Cowboys’ media guide, the new stadium will be “the largest NFLvenue ever built.”

“The majestic scale of the stadium measures twice the distance of the St. Louis Gateway Arch,” the book said. “In addition, the Statue of Liberty can stand completely inside the room structure.”

The Cowboys began play in 1960, a boom era for the NFL that brought Pete Rozelle as the commissioner and national network television exposure and a rivalry with the American Football League before the leagues merged.

Another Dallas team, the Texans, played in the AFL from 1960 through 1962 but moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs. The Cowboys hit their stride in the 1970s, and that team and that new stadium seemed to fit the Sun Belt ascendancy of the era.

Books and movies like “North Dallas Forty” were based on Dallas football. The Cowboys’ cheerleaders became big-hair icons on posters, and an aerial shot of the hole in the stadium roof appeared during the opening of the prime-time TV series “Dallas.”

This item originally appeared in the New York Times.