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Happy birthday, Astrodome! Thanks for 50 years of wonder

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Let's talk about awe.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

How many of you legitimately get awed any more?

I'm guilty of overusing the word. Everything is awesome. Everything is cool.

But do you ever get legit "awed"? I can't think of the last time I was. Maybe the birth of my son? My wedding day? Even on the latter, I was less awed than overjoyed.

So many wonderful things pale in impact as we get older. Is the Apple Watch awe-inspiring, or just a better form of the wearable tech that already exists? Was the iPod revolutionary when it came out, or just in retrospect? What awes people today?

Fifty years ago, the Astrodome did.

Thursday is the 50th anniversary of the first game in the Dome. The park has fallen far enough that it's hard to remember just how awesome it was when it debuted.

For a kid growing up going to the Dome, there may not have been a more awesome sight.

Driving toward the Astrodome and slowly seeing the rise of that crescent shape in the distance, that was awesome. Seeing the circular majesty as you walked into the building, that was awesome. Looking up at that great curved ceiling, that was awesome.

It wasn't just kids who were so easily wowed by it, either. The Astrodome was called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" for a reason. People had never seen anything like it.

Playing baseball indoors, under this giant, man-made creation was revolutionary. It inspired hot takes galore, I'm sure, for those who thought it was robbing the game of its purity, just like statistics do now.

But, there was no more singular structure in sports for a long time.

The Astrodome was awesome.

It was filled with less awe over the years, as other domed stadiums were built. People in New Orleans were blown away by the Superdome. The Kingdome in Seattle inspired so many great memories. The Trop in Tampa is, well, not awe-inspiring at all.

None of them carried the cultural cache of the Astrodome's premiere.

Imagine going from Ebbetts Field to the Astrodome in less than a decade. That must have been something.

Minute Maid Park is a nice stadium. It's got great views from nearly every seat. The retractable roof means fans can experience outdoor baseball on the five days a year when the Houston weather allows it. There are quirks and toys and all sorts of things that make it stand out.

But, does it provoke a sense of wonder?

Maybe I'll talk to my son about that, see if he gets the same rush for seeing the stadium that I did from the Dome.

What I do know is that the closest I"ve gotten to feeling awe for a modern stadium is when I saw the Texans' new home from the air. I couldn't believe how then-Reliant Stadium dwarfed the Astrodome.

How could anything be that much bigger than the Dome?

Maybe the reason awe has left modern parks is because they're so similar. A retractable roof isn't that different from a dome. A train in left field is only a slight step up from Bernie's slide in Milwaukee. Heck, even Wrlgley's new Jumbotron is only "awesome" because of it's uniqueness. The first of its kind at that venerable ballpark, but far from the first of its kind ever.

That's the best part of the Dome, and the part we should be remembering on this anniversary.

The Dome is broken. It's abandoned and abused, too trashed to tour and too expensive to turn into something useful. It's days are likely numbered and that's a shame.

But, oh, in it's day? The Dome was a wonder. Fifty years ago, there was nothing else like it.