The Home Stretch

From A-Rod to Z-routes, the year that was in Big D sports

I'm not sure when the Alex Rodriguez talks became serious, or even how they began in the first place. In the beginning, I laughed, chuckled at the legions of fools who held close to them the possibility of an A-Rod signing the way children pathetically clutch stuffed animals. (Losers.) "No way," I bellowed, stoning the hopefuls whenever I passed them in the street, then adding a kick to the gut for good measure. "No chance."

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, there he was, just a few weeks ago, at the Ballpark in Arlington. There he was, flanked by the devil, uh, I mean his agent, Scott Boras, and Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks. There he was, adorned with a ball cap and a dark blue Texas jersey that covered a spiffy suit. There he was smiling that $252 million smile.

By bringing Rodriguez to town, some media types said, the affluent owner put baseball on a downward spiral from which it will never recover; they said he essentially killed the grand old game. Others said that the move was ballsy, that the Rangers established themselves as the most outgoing organization--or is it asylum?--this side of Steinbrenner's Yankees.

Whatever. Hicks is the talk of the sporting world, and for that Fair Game bestows upon him the First Annual Mark Cuban Crazy-Ass Billionaire Owner Award. Way to go, Hickie--you earned it, you deluded bastard.

Similarly, since Fair Game's genesis just sixth months ago, I've witnessed countless acts that shouldn't go unrewarded--or unpunished. Thus, we commence with the First Annual Fair Game Awards. (Plus, my editors said I had to write one of these clichéd end-of-the-year columns or else they'd beat me with an extension cord.)

Cool Guy Award: To Tom Hicks. Damn. Again, I was all kinds of impressed with the A-Rod signing, and with the way you just bent over like that and let Boras take advantage. For real, any guy who can get gouged for a quarter of a billion dollars and not need a triple bypass immediately thereafter is OK by Fair Game. Plus, I figure you have some extra flow and might hire me if I say nice things. Did I mention you're quite handsome in an older, balder, stuffier sort of way?

Stoner Boner Award: To Michael Irvin. So, Big Mike finally gets off probation, and just a short time later he's arrested. Oops. But, hey, you've got the wrong idea. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time (he was never charged). Just because he was in a room with a 21-year-old woman, and just because marijuana and traces of cocaine were found in the apartment during a raid over the summer, that doesn't mean he relapsed. He was just there, looking at all those drugs, being a good boy. No biggie, that's what he said. That's what his wife must have thought too. Yeah, she was probably giggling like a schoolgirl when she found out.

Anyway, Fair Game knows how it is when you're all toked up, Michael. It's hard to think of a good excuse. Better luck next time.

Yogi Berra Quote Award: To Don Nelson. Just like the former Yankees standout who regaled countless reporters with nonsensical gibberish, Nellie manages to keep us all on our toes with colorful comments. After a preseason practice, Nellie was asked about Cuban, the Mavs owner, in relation to other owners the longtime NBA coach has known. Nellie stopped, thought for a second, and then beamed: "He's 160 degrees different." You too, Nellie. You too.

What a Waste of Time Award: To the Oklahoma-Texas game. Yes, I got lost, and yes, I got rained on, and yes, I'm an idiot. But that has nothing to do with this award. I'm not bitter. Really. I'm not. Though I wish voodoo worked for real. Then I'd get a doll, think of my editor, and poke it as revenge for making me go that day.

I'd poke it good.

Beirut/Third World Treatment Award: To the Dallas Cowboys. Oh, boy, how Fair Game loves the Dallas Cowboys, particularly the treatment it gets on game day. See, at Texas Stadium, there are two press boxes. The first is like Nirvana. There are big-screen televisions and draft beer and catered buffets and belly dancers and opium and every amenity you might need to cover football. It's for real writers, like scribes from the The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It's not for gonzo journalists like the ones employed by the Observer.

No, we get put upstairs in the auxiliary box with two guys named Jugdish and Mohammed, a la Animal House. Up there, we're allowed--forced?--to feast on cold hot dogs, stare at tiny TVs, and scribble our names on sign-in sheets. That way the Pokes PR people know whether we show up, lest we be banished to equally unaccommodating digs. Like, say, Kazakhstan.

Now That's Entertainment! Award:To Christine Friedel. Or maybe this honor should go to Mark Cuban, who had the bright idea of hiring Friedel as a sideline reporter for Mavericks games. Previously, K104's Chris Arnold handled the duties. Now, Friedel takes care of all things fan- or promotion-oriented, while Arnold sticks to hoops. It's quite the team effort. But let's be real. Aside from being genuinely nice and articulate, Christine is good-looking. Very good-looking. Well, that's the word anyway, and several unnamed sources confirm this to be true. Me, I'm too professional to delve into such crass matters. I'm all about the journalism thing.

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