Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
OK, we were wrong. With last season's 11-5 record, NFC East championship and playoff-game victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the guy we labeled "Dead Man Coaching" not only made it through the season but also became a winning head coach. Phillips took over as defensive coordinator in 2009 and his unit allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL. His press conferences still feed into our narcolepsy and he starts almost every friggin' answer with "Well, um." But the head coach who lost 40 pounds in the off-season also got the monkey off his back last season. With a 33-15 record and two division titles in three years, it's hard to call him "Stumbledoofus" anymore. So we'll give it a rest.
Randy Galloway has a prominent radio show and Tim Cowlishaw a gig on ESPN's Around the Horn, but nobody in this market spins an ink-stained tale like Gil. Case in point: Who else could piss off not just a fan base, but an entire country? LeBreton's February 28 column was 1,235 words, not a one of which was "Nazi" or "Hitler" or "effyouhosers." Why, then, did seemingly all of Canada show up with fire and pitchforks, demanding an apology? Because Gil made a clever, daring—albeit controversial—analogy comparing the superfluous spirit and unbridled jingoism of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics to those held in Berlin in 1936. While LeBreton compared and contrasted a spirit, he reminded us all that the whole world has grown oversensitive, wholly oblivious to common sense yet simultaneously in detailed tune with the smallest speck of political incorrectness. Kudos.
Can we retire this trophy already? The giant German is pushing our policy on term limits with his unprecedented streak of consistent greatness. Again last season he was good; his surrounding cast not quite good enough. His critics call him soft and a playoff choker, but we call him the best player in Mavs franchise history. And it ain't even close. Last year he surpassed 20,000 points, set a franchise record with a dazzling 29-point fourth quarter in a memorable win over Utah, made his ninth NBA All-Star team and led the Mavericks to the playoffs. But the moment we all finally appreciated Dirk was in July when—if only for a day—we pondered life in the lottery without him after he opted out of his contract via free agency. Typical Nowitzki, however, he re-upped in Dallas. For less money.
The Mavericks traded for Caron Butler and the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant, but no local athlete made an immediate and lasting impact like Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee. Acquired in a July trade with the Seattle Mariners for a handful of prospects, Lee's first four starts were the stuff of legend. He came within two outs of pitching four consecutive complete games while striking out 25 and walking only one. Lee's command of the fastball is dazzling, as if he is placing marshmallows atop a cake. His emergence provided the Rangers with the pitching ace they coveted for, oh, 40 years and prompted them to bury their American League West foes. With Lee on the mound, for the first time in a long time the Rangers felt like a real, live Major League Baseball team.
Love him or loathe him, you watch him. Whether he's unplugged in the Channel 8 studios or underdressed in a funky Hawaiian shirt down at Dallas Cowboys training camp, what Hansen says matters. The other local sports talking heads deliver the highlights and insights, but Hansen shapes opinions by voicing his. He's got the ego to chastise Jerry Jones and the balls to ask this question of Cowboys' offensive coordinator Jason Garrett: "What does it say about a coaching staff that it had no idea what it had in Miles Austin? There's this talented guy right under your nose, but if it weren't for an injury you would have never given him his chance." That, my friends, is Hansen-style.