ARLINGTON, Texas – The swaths of red, San Francisco 49ers red, spread and leached through the stands at AT&T Stadium. It was all over the end zones. It dominated the third deck and standing room areas. It even scattered through the most expensive club seat sections.
Red here. Red there. Red everywhere.
It didn't just speak to the traveling might and national appeal of the Niners. It wasn't just about the power of a Super Bowl contender that would cruise to a 28-17 victory that was far more lopsided than the score suggests.
It also said plenty about the willingness of Dallas Cowboys fans to unload their tickets, or never bother to buy them, for the opener of a season that seems to carry so little promise.
Fifty-percent red? Sixty-percent red? Whatever it was, the number was big, shockingly big for the first game of the season when seemingly every team has hope and the excitement of a live game and a full tailgate is in full swing.
Jerry Jones said he didn't notice.
"Did you count," he asked of the number of Niners fans in attendance?
He owns the Cowboys and owns the building so he was getting paid no matter what. There were 91,174 here, so it was a good day for business.
He's also the team's general manager, so from his luxury box where he entertains friends and business contacts, he says he's watching like an actual football executive and that requires tunnel vision.
"I just pay attention to the field," he said.
Maybe it affects his hearing because in the first quarter as the Niners kept taking Dallas turnovers and scoring touchdowns, the roars for the visiting team were, you'd think, impossible to ignore – 7-0 just 54 seconds in … 14-3 with 5:54 to go in the first quarter … 21-3 not 90 seconds later … 28-3 just before the half …
"I didn't have my eye on the crowd," Jones said. "I had my eye on those turnovers … I don't have any knowledge or information about red shirts or anything."
What Jones can't seem to see or hear or fathom – that this Cowboys season appears bleak and long and hopeless – his fan base has apparently come to accept.
It isn't unusual for customers to bail on a loser and save money for an autumn, but Dallas hadn't lost a game yet when the fans decided to stay home or go fishing or just not care.
Of course, their lack of faith was rewarded by the dreadful start that saw a fumble returned for a touchdown followed by three Tony Romo interceptions, each seemingly worse than the last, that killed any fleeting hope.
"We are not good enough to come back from that kind of start," Jones said. "We won't be coming back from many starts like that."
No they aren't and no they won't. The question is whether there is any way for them to get good enough to make anything out of this season. Yes, it was just one game and you never really know how the team will respond, but suddenly one of coach Jason Garrett's patented 8-8 campaigns seems like a long shot.
The issue begins and ends with Jones the GM. He's joked/admitted for years that his performance in putting together the team has been so poor that he would get fired if he didn't also own the team.
He reasons that as owner he'd have final say anyway, so it's all semantics. Mostly though he remains consumed with the lack of credit allotted to his football acumen for the Cowboys' three titles in four seasons during the early-to-mid 1990s. He thinks then coach Jimmy Johnson, who he fired after winning consecutive titles, gets too much of the hype.
Since then though, other than the 1995 title won with new coach Barry Switzer but the same old core of talent, Jones has done little to inspire Cowboys fans. There's no question he wants to win, he just hasn't shown he's capable.
This season looks like the latest bottoming out, with Garrett seemingly doomed to be fired unless he can pull off a magic act.
Sunday was about self-inflicted wounds making it easy for the Niners to cruise.
"You know," Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant said, "there's no way around it: it was us, it was us."
"That's not the way you want to play," Romo said.
Jones has lamented not drafting Texas A&M star quarterback Johnny Manziel, but that doesn't seem like a real solution. Manziel is the backup in Cleveland. Besides, Jones is the same guy who gave Romo a $55 million guaranteed contract extension in the 2013 offseason for reasons no one is exactly certain. That deal made using such a high pick on another QB foolish.
This sinkhole can't quickly be escaped.
This all seems obvious to the rest of Texas, which figured this afternoon was destined for misery and ditched their seats to the Californians. Jones, perhaps all alone, expected something different.
"I certainly am disappointed," he said. "That was not what I thought it would be ... I regretted it. I regretted it for our fans. I thought we could be more competitive out there.
"But when you start out there [like that] it's a hard challenge to come back," he continued. "Even if you've got a better team."
Dallas doesn't have a better team and hasn't for years and years.
Jones tried to remain positive. He noted that the Cowboys fought in the second half, ran the ball fairly well and the defense got some stops. He was also honest enough to acknowledge that San Francisco may have just gone conservative to nurse its huge lead.
He said the circumstances of the game prevent him from truly assessing these Cowboys. Get rid of the turnovers and maybe they weren't so bad. Sure, maybe.
"I wish I could tell you from looking at that ballgame," he said. "It's a tough one for me."
It wasn't for the fans watching at home. Dallas is what they thought they'd be.
"We're going to have an uphill [battle] if we don't play better," Jones said. "We'll see next week how we are going to play."
The game is at Tennessee. Once again the Cowboys will have the minority of fans in attendance.
And Jerry Jones will still be the general manager.