Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
It may no longer be the newest venue in the area, but the 50,000-seat masterpiece is still the most enjoyable spot for the sports fan to visit. It's comfy, clean, fan-friendly and, face it, you can't beat fresh summer night air when you're watching a game. Often called one of the best parks in the big leagues, it's fun even when the hosting Rangers bullpen is off its game, which, we know, means three out of every four on a homestand. (Insert your generic Rangers pitching joke here.) But the reason the park is so wonderful is that there is so much more to it than the baseball being played on the field (much to Tom Hicks' eternal gratitude). There's the Game Baseball Museum and Children's Learning Center, the Grand Slam Gift Shop, Bullpen Café and Friday's Front Row Grill, plenty of rest rooms and concession stands. Opened in 1994, The Ballpark remains as much an attraction as the games played inside. Check that: more so.
How unimaginative, right? How formulaic, even? See, you've been reading the Morning Yawn too much. Finley, the franchise's most identifiable player for years, wins the award, but not for the obvious reasons. Not because he averaged 20.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game as a Maverick last season. Not because he makes slick commercials. Not because he's constantly on the trading block. No, he wins because he was the lone Mavericks representative on the underachieving, embarrassing U.S. squad that inexplicably failed to medal at the World Championships in Indianapolis--a team that lost to Argentina, Yugoslavia and Spain. Hey, when you get punked by Pepe Sanchez and still show your face in public, you ought to win some sort of award. Perhaps he just needed the steadying hand of his coach. Which brings us to...
Lone Star Park's live Thoroughbred racing season is painfully short, but you can always get a horse-racing fix or just blow many hours and many dollars at the track's simulcast racing restaurant and bar. With two giant video screens and 175 small tabletop televisions, the place looks a bit like a Las Vegas-style sports book. It's open just about all year, and you can bet on tracks across the United States, depending on which ones are open. Racing form sheets from the various tracks are for sale, so besides the smell of horse shit, it's almost as good as being at a real live track during racing season. The restaurant offers passable food, so entertainment during a late lunch is a good and legitimate excuse to go. Plus, gambling is fun. And always profitable. Trust us.
Most of the stars from the Super Bowl glory days have retired or faded, leaving but one player at Valley Ranch who plays the game at a level few attain. Offensive lineman Larry Allen, all 6-foot-3, 335 pounds of him, continues to dominate the opposition like no one else in the league. And he's living, breathing proof that it isn't just the big-name colleges that provide NFL talent. All-Pro Allen came to the Cowboys via Oroville, California's, Butte Junior College and Division II Sonoma State. Besides all that, he's got some sort of Fu Manchu facial-hair thing working this year. Which is sweet.
Once again, Mike Modano was the biggest star on the Stars, a team that woefully underachieved. He played great two-way hockey (offense and defense, for those who don't follow this great game, and woe is you) and could still dominate a game with his speed and strength. But to our minds, the man who played the best hockey--when he was on the ice--was backup goalie Marty Turco. Sure, being the backup goalie is like being the backup quarterback; everyone loves you until you become No. 1. But Turco didn't just put up great numbers (15-6-2, with a save percentage at .920 and a goals-against-average of 2.09) against bad teams, like so many backups do. He had wins against Colorado, San Jose, Chicago, Phoenix and other playoff teams. He gave the franchise hope for the future. And when Tom Hicks "suggested" that Eddie Belfour be played down the stretch so that the team could make the playoffs and make more money (oh, it must be true, you know in your heart it must be true), Turco didn't bitch. He just bided his time until the team told Belfour to puck off. The mark of a classy guy, one who should help this team for years to come.
OK, their team logos do resemble each other, but is this the sort of nonsense our court systems are supposed to waste time with? The soccer team, the Dallas Sidekicks, has long had this cute little soccer ball wearing a cowboy hat and a bandanna that looks like something the old B-Western bad guys wore to hide their faces. The arena football team, the Dallas Desperados, has a guy on the logo who also has his face covered by a bandanna. So, natch, the Sidekicks called the lawyers. Not the sort of stuff that's likely to be aired on Court TV, but a good example of the competitive nature of Dallas' pro franchises.
We bet you didn't know this, but the Professional Bowlers Association is trying very hard to make bowling hip again. We're not sure how they're doing, although we suspect a Legends Tournament with Britney Spears and that hunk from Dawson's Creek would be a good way to start. But we like bowling because it's tragically unhip. To us, it is a sport that invariably conjures up fond memories of Laverne and Shirley, not to mention icy cans of Milwaukee's Best. Maybe Coors Light is a better choice in Texas, but the theory is the same: Bowling is an easy, affordable entertainment option for all ages, and Don Carter's All Star Lanes is the city's best place to roll away a night or, if you really get hooked, sign up for more committed league play. Who knows? That Burleson gal from American Idol may be on your team.
When we were young, we swore we would never golf. We saw the sport as Mark Twain did, "a good walk spoiled." Of course, we also thought our metabolism would keep us at 175 pounds, no matter what we ate. Age changed both of these ideas. So when we decided to take up golf this year, we were--and are--forever thankful we found the Golf Academy of Dallas, located at The Range at Tenison Park. Director of Instruction Scott Robbins and his crew (we also worked with former LPGA player Kelly Holland, who was wonderful) make even the most uncoordinated golf beginner feel comfortable. They specialize in the beginner but also have classes for intermediate level and private lessons for whomever needs his or her swing tinkered. If you ask nicely, Robbins will also teach you the lingo you'll need to appear cool on the course (for example, they're not golf clubs, they're sticks). All the info you need on The Range is online at www.rangeattenisonpark.com. Nothing for you to do now but golf it.
Nobody, but nobody, tries to "buy a game" the way golfers do. You say this Fred Flintstone-sized titanium driver is longer, straighter, truer and it's played by the guy who won on the Tour last week? I'm down. Wrap it up. You say these new $39-a-dozen balls will keep me on the short grass? I'll take two dozen. With the prices club makers want these days, it doesn't hurt to save a few bucks on this kind of habit. An even bigger plus at Wally's is having sales guys who are knowledgeable enough to help you pick the right stuff. We found them at the branch we frequent on Stemmons Freeway. This is a locally owned outfit, in business since owner Wally Arbuckle began selling clubs out of his garage in the 1960s. The trade here is pro-line clubs, meaning the kind used by good players and countless hackers who think a sweet shot is only a $400 driver away.
We found this place on the Net, and it's a haven for golfers on a budget (like us). Dallas Golf has a fantastic selection of used clubs they sell at their four stores around the metroplex or online, either through their own site or on auction sites such as eBay. They also have new clubs--the folks in Richardson set us up with a great set of a knockoff brand, since we've just taken up the game--so don't be surprised if you go to pick up a great used value but just can't help it when you come outta there with that never-been-swung titanium driver.
This popular sports bar has seven coin-operated tables and free pool before 7 p.m. It might not be for purists, but the place is usually jumping. There's a regular Saturday tournament and plenty of non-pool diversions, including Foosball, darts and shuffleboard. Bar food ranging from sandwiches to sandwiches--pastrami, roast beef, turkey and ham--complements the main course at the bar.
For sheer size and variety--and that friendly YMCA atmosphere--it's impossible to beat the big Y, which at one time not long ago billed itself as the biggest Y on the planet. There's a pool, indoor track, squash courts, racquetball courts, hoops courts and machines of every description: rowers, cycles, runners, weights and stairs. Combine that with all the classes, and pretty soon you'll be what our old Y instructor said we should be, back when it might have been true. As he put it: "Be proud of your body." An Observer staffer who belongs said make sure to mention the covered smoking area outside--but we won't.