Another year has passed, leaving me older but certainly not smarter. Which is why I acquiesced in our staff meeting when told we were once again putting out a blanket year-end issue, adored by lazy, slow-witted journos everywhere. I figured I fit pretty safely into that category, and besides that, I didn't think I had a choice. If that's what the bosses want, that's what the bosses get. You can't fight city hall, right? Except Jim Schutze does fight city hall, which is why you won't see his byline leading into one of these homogenous reviews--too small-time for him. He's probably out exposing dirty cops or driving Laura Miller mad. That's why he's widely respected and held up as a paragon of quality American journalism while I'm mostly vilified or cast as mildly retarded.
Right. But if I've learned anything from poker, it's that you must play your hand, not someone else's. So I digress.
It was an odd year all around. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson stole headlines, and maybe even the innocence of a few unsuspecting people. We went to war in Iraq, liberated a country, alienated a good portion of the world and ferreted Saddam from his spider hole. Meanwhile, I broke from the restricting role of sports columnist with every afforded opportunity, interviewing the likes of Ice Cube, Summer from The O.C. and the guy who created Girls Gone Wild. (When Robert Wilonsky gets fired, an event I hope will come in the immediate future, I plan on taking over his racket.) And all of that in less time than ESPN needed to hand out the Heisman. Seriously, can someone explain to me why it took two hours of television coverage to dole out one award?
Ah, but I'm getting off track again. Limiting/maddening or not, they pay me to write about Dallas sports, and I'd better get to it before the brass wises up and hires someone who's both qualified and interested in doing just that.
My year-end ExtravaGonza follows. (Like that? No? Well, I only write 'em. I don't read 'em.)
How 'bout them Cowboys?: Around this time 12 months ago, the lot of us were trying to erase another 5-11, Dave Campo-orchestrated debacle from our collective memory. Then, when it looked as though the Cowboys would be consigned to the role of perennial losers, owner Jerry Jones surprised all of us by swallowing his enormous ego and hiring Bill Parcells, one of the best coaches in pro football history. But don't let any of these media types fool you--none of us expected the 'Boys to come this far this fast. The consensus was that he'd eventually lead the Pokes back to prominence, but not until he suffered the indignity of sending out Quincy Carter as the starting quarterback. Who knew Carter would start each game...and that he'd help the Cowboys battle toward the playoffs? Honestly, I think it would have been more fun to watch Carter and Chad Hutchinson in Round 2 of the world's weakest girl fight, but oh, well. Kudos to Big Bill and the 'Boys for their renaissance, because when Dallas is good, it's easier to root for--or, in my case, against--them.
Smarter than you (or I) thought: Turns out the sports editor of The Dallas Morning News isn't as daft as previously believed. Not totally. Last year I caught a lot of flak from the scribes over there for writing that they were a bunch of pussies who only rarely threw down. Shortly thereafter, the DMN made Gerry Fraley a columnist. Since then, the section has had more bite to it--most of that from Fraley's chompers, but Tim Cowlishaw and Kevin Sherrington (who is unquestionably the section's best pure writer) smack people around, too. And good for them--I was tired of being the city's lone (and best, if frequently overlooked) hammer. But let's be honest: Their reformation is the result of my shaming them into it, right? Right. Which means you DMN guys owe me. Send money. A check would be fine. Cash would be better.
Dumber than you (or I) thought: I keep thinking it's impossible for the Rangers to be any more inept off the field than they've been on the field in the past few seasons, but then the off-season comes along and they inevitably prove me wrong. John Thomson wasn't a world beater, but he was one of the best pitchers on this staff--and they let him walk. The year before, the Rangers did the same thing with Pudge. Worse than any of that, though, is the lengthy and botched flirtation with the Boston Red Sox over the Alex Rodriguez deal. I mean, really, can't they get anything right out there? Every time I see general manager John Hart or owner Tom Hicks on television, I feel like one of them ought to be on a unicycle or wearing clown makeup while the other balances a ball on his nose.
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Now that's entertainment: So what if the Mavs didn't win the NBA championship, or even the Western Conference? Fact is, they were the most exciting team going. Sure, they collapsed in Game 6 of the Conference finals against the Spurs, all but urinating in small puddles in the decisive fourth quarter, but damn if they weren't fun to watch up to that point. And after, too. Following that riveting postseason, Mad Mark Cuban and his boys kept pace with the rest of the West and made not one but two blockbuster trades, shipping Nick Van Exel (and spares) to Golden State for Antawn Jamison and Danny Fortson, and sending Raef LaFrentz (and spares) to Boston for Antoine Walker and Tony Delk. You don't get this kind of action in other cities. Plus, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, when not playing sound basketball, gave us plenty to talk about with their hairstyles. The only thing better would have been pictures of those two on the Internet, drunk out of their minds and leaning on fans to remain upright...oh, wait, never mind.
The showdown in Surprise: Forget the drama surrounding A-Rod, the real Rangers story this year was my nearly getting in a clubhouse brawl during spring training with former outfielder Carl Everett. (I swear this is the last time I'll mention it, but you gotta give me credit for getting so much mileage outta one argument.) Long story short, we went nose-to-nose in a shouting match that nearly boiled over into fisticuffs when he threatened to box me. I'm glad we didn't fight for a number of reasons, mainly because I didn't want to bloody him in front of his teammates. What can I say--I've mellowed.
The overwhelming majority of people who read the transcript of the incident were in my corner, but there were also those who thought I was at fault and labeled me unprofessional. One guy even offered to help Everett kick my ass. Around that time--when I was being threatened more regularly than usual--a friend tried to console me, reminding me what Oscar Wilde said: There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
Clearly Oscar Wilde never got jumped by a pack of irate readers.