In a meaningless September game, after the Texas Rangers got behind early, manager Johnny Oates decided to manufacture some history. He had utility infielder Scott Sheldon play all nine positions, including pitcher, in one game, becoming only the third player in major-league history to do so. Then Oates chastised those who criticized his move as tricked-up. (Pinch-hitter Jeff Liefer, who struck out against Sheldon, rightly said, "I don't understand the logic behind it.") "For a guy that doesn't have a lot of major league service, he can say how many thousands of men have played professional baseball and only three have done it," Oates said, confusingly. "It's something to be proud of." No, Johnny O., a winning season is something to be proud of.

Surrounded by 400 rolling acres of the Las Colinas hillsides, this is hands down the best golf course in Dallas. This Tournament Players Course hosts the PGA Tour's GTE Byron Nelson Classic, the only tour event to honor a golfer. It opened in 1986 and is a cart-only golf course. But it doesn't matter to you anyway, because you can't golf here. It's only for hotel guests of the Four Seasons and members. Hotel guests pay $142 plus tax per person per round.

Fans will forever be upset that to acquire Finley, the Dallas Mavericks traded future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. At the time, the trade made no sense--you don't give up a superstar for a blossoming player. But that shouldn't keep fans from appreciating what Finley is doing. (Because folks are quick to mock Don Nelson's moves as general manager, signing Finley to a long-term deal three years ago also deserves props.) For starters, look at Finley's numbers last year: more than 22 points, six rebounds, and five assists a game. Of course, that doesn't speak to his total value to the team. He plays tenacious defense and he is intense and focused but isn't so self-absorbed that he's insufferable. Look for a breakout year from the All-Star, if for no other reason because look-a-like Chris Rock has been seen wearing a Finley jersey.

We've tried the downtown Y, the Larry North hot-bod shops, the gym-rat dives. None has satisfied us as completely as Premier. It's got a bit of everything you'd need: great training staff, the latest in workout equipment, a pool that's never too full to find a lane, and the latest-craze fitness classes (spinning, chisel, that yoga-stretch thing that starts with a "p"). There's a nice mix of average-looking folks so you won't feel embarrassed, as well as eye candy, both male and female. There's even a celeb sighting or two possible (it's where Dennis Rodman worked out during his brief Mavericks stint; you'll sometimes catch Mark Cuban playing in a pick-up game; several radio dorks from The Merge Radio Project work out there; and so on). Go see and pump for yourself.

No question, the man is a freak, a cross between Frankenstein, a frat boy, and Frankie Avalon. He says things that would make a goober shudder--like offering All-Pro asshole Bob Knight a job with the Dallas Mavericks as soon as Knight was fired from Cuban's beloved Indiana University. Nevertheless, in the words of an ancient sea chantey, "Only a loon could save the Mavs. Arrgghh." The Mavericks were the worst professional team in the '90s and a recurring joke on late-night talk shows and in Reunion Arena. Cuban's fantasy-league style may not have won the admiration of fellow owners--he throws money around like Highland Park teens at NorthPark--but he has done the seemingly impossible in making Dallas excited about basketball again. Well, as excited as a town can get with a team that includes Shawn Bradley on its roster. But what do you expect? Cuban's just a miracle worker, not a god or something.
It's not uncommon for well-known people, when they get in trouble with the law, to start playing the "Do you know who I am" game. The hope is that the police officer will then recognize the movie star or athlete or politician and say, "Oh, my, I'm so sorry, sir or madam. Please continue your illegal activity unabated. And, hell, take my gun. You may find use for it." Needless to say, that rarely works. So when Eddie Belfour was busted for assault, resisting arrest, and general crazy-ass behavior at The Mansion hotel late in the hockey season, he rightfully tried a new tactic: the straight-ahead bribe. Not just any bribe. Not some WNBA, watered-down sport-type girlie bribe, either. To forget the whole thing and undo the 'cuffs, he offered the cops one billion dollars. Now, since the officers said he was, you know, schnockered, they took the bribe as less-than-serious. Either way, whether he had his wits about him or not, something tells us Eddie's contract has some kinda hidden jail bonus in it if he can offer that kind of scratch.

A friend was once asked what he would do if he won a lottery amount that would give him more money than he could ever spend. He said, "I'd travel around the country and pay strangers to do stupid things for money." It was a moment that foreshadowed the coming of billionaire Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Dallas' own Magic Christian. On the air, Cuban offered to pay Ticket radio personality Gordon Keith more than a $125K (with half of that going to charity) if he would legally change his name to Dallas Maverick for one year. Gordon agreed to do so, then reneged (a.k.a. "chickened out"), saying a name is sacred. We think that means Keith makes way too much money. Again, the offer stands: We'd change our name to Markcuban's Bitch if he'd offer us the same deal.

Best Dallas athlete with Olympic record-breaking ambition

Michael Johnson

Speed. Dedication. Endurance. Endorsements. These are the traits of the modern Olympic athlete. Is it such a departure from the Greek tradition? After all, the word "athlete" is an ancient Greek term for "prize-seeker." Greek athletes would be set for life if they brought back honor from the games, including lifetime pensions and immense status. Athletes could also be bought and sold, like cattle or NFL kickers. The concept of "amateur athletics" was only developed in the 19th century. Wasn't this item supposed to be about Michael Johnson? Well, who cares? Haven't we heard enough about him already?

Yeah, none of us are students either, but if you can sneak in there (like we do), then it's the best pick-up ball in Dallas. Here's how you get in: Invest in an SMU T-shirt. When you walk in the doors and meet the ID checkers eye to eye, confidently say "Hey" and walk right on in like you own the place.
He faded late in the year, when the strain of trying to carry a leaden team became too much, but he was still the lone standout veteran among this disappointing bunch. But before then, he was his usual bulldog self, finding ways to win games, even when he didn't have his best stuff. (At press time, he'd won 15 games on a bad team. And yes, Ivan Rodriguez was his usual stud self this year, but he will have missed the last third or so of the season with a bum thumb.) Hell, even Helling's best stuff isn't that great--average fastball, a breaking ball that hangs too often--but the man just battles. It's remarkable when you consider that he was once traded by the Rangers and that, after he returned, stubborn automaton manager Johnny Oates didn't give him the credit he deserved until this year. Helling never let it get to him, never lashed out at the hordes that doubted him. Which makes it all the more inconceivable that Helling was booed by Rangers fans after one bad game this year. Hey, idiots, news flash: If everyone gave the effort Helling did, perhaps the Rangers wouldn't have languished in last place for much of the year.

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