Best Rivalry 2000 | Mickey Spagnola vs. Craig Miller | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Look, we're Troy Aikman homers. Big-time homers. We're such homers our son is named Bart, our nickname is Long Gone, and we've been known to sign copies of the Iliad on request (rim shot). We think it's silly to think that Randall Cunningham is a better quarterback for this team. But we were still a little embarrassed for writer and Ticket "Ranch Report" filer Mickey Spagnola when he recently got into a pissing match with morning-show co-host Craig Miller. Probably because Spagnola is Italian (as are we; we know, a temper is a terrible thing), he turned an "Is Aikman slipping?" debate into a personal attack on Miller and folks who have opinions but who don't go to every game, as Spagnola does. Miller, who argues like the single person he is--married men know it's not how many debating points you win, but that everyone feels good about themselves when the argument is over--delivered shots too, basically calling Spagnola a Cowboys shill. That's when it got ugly. And entertaining, in a train-wreck sort of way. Next up on the Spagnola-Miller agenda: Whose is bigger?

Yeah, yeah, we know, we're bandwagoners. So sue us. (We're kidding, Mr. District Attorney of Denton County, we're kidding!) But although we're still fans of last year's winner, Lone Star Park, we can't hide our excitement over SMU's new house. Used to be, the only excitement to be found Saturdays on Mockingbird Lane was at the discount aisle at New Fine Arts, a bit west of campus. Now, the glory of college football spreads along Bishop Avenue from Mockingbird up through campus: adult beverages, fall weather, hot dogs and hamburgers, tailgating, tail...all the things that make game day on most college campuses special. Then, once inside the stadium, the atmosphere gets even better: Every seat has a good sightline, it's not too crowded, but it is rowdy and fun. It completely refutes the asinine notion that SMU games were best when they were played off-campus by paid professionals.

Recently, in a Playboy interview, Bob Costas railed on sports-talk radio: "With some notable exceptions," Costas was quoted as saying, "sports talk radio is heat over light. It's all about attitude taking the place of informed opinion. It's so moronic. Hey, sports isn't brain surgery, but neither should it be brain-dead." Now, there is no doubt that Costas is one of the most articulate, passionate, respected men in sports. But allow us to ask this question in response to his statements: Why not? No offense to the many men and women who earn a living pontificating on the relative merits of the 1-2-2 trap, but sports is the perfect subject on which to favor attitude over anything else. If you want information, turn to newsprint, where it is housed. If you want pretty talking people with mellifluous voices, turn on your television. If you want folks throwing out what The Ticket calls hot sports opinions, go to radio, where you can join the braying if you like. There's nothing wrong with radio being an outlet for folks who prefer to keep sports arguments on a barroom level: A player doesn't struggle, he blows. A coach isn't poor at adapting, he's a friggin' idiot. And the reason The Ticket has become such a success is that its hosts, by and large, understand that their job is to fire off opinions--silly, right on, everything in between. It may seem a cop-out not to choose one show here--OK, it is a cop-out--but each show does its job perfectly. In the mornings, George Dunham and Craig Miller team with Gordon Keith to give a well-rounded, familiar, mostly light-hearted presentation. The Hardline--Mike Rhyner and Greg Williams--is the steak dinner to D&M's grand-slam breakfast: a forum for folks driving home to vent and hear the venting of an irascible crank (Rhyner) and a straight-shooting small-towner made big-time. (A duo that would, rightly, point out the number of clichs in that last sentence.) They're the best at what they do, because they understand that what they do ain't brain surgery. And they're damn proud of that fact.

If you've ever driven down Southwestern past the Village IM fields on a Monday night, then you've seen gaggles of Ultimate Frisbee players of all shapes, sizes, and genders hustling about in the Texas heat. This sport, which is like a cross between flag football, soccer, and, at times, roller derby, is every bit as strenuous and fatiguing as its predecessors. But much more fun. Every Monday night at 7 p.m., the place goes off. Experts and beginners welcome.
The courts at Samuell-Grand Tennis Center are, like the game itself, an underutilized resource. A few middle-aged white guys playing doubles are all we ever see at this set of nicely maintained public courts. It's enough to make you want to give up golf, where these days one does little more than stand around and wait. For $5.45, you can hack away at the little yellow ball until you drop and burn enough calories that you won't be wearing your half-time snack.
If you were concerned that the effort to garner the 2012 Olympic Games for Dallas-Fort Worth was a joke, you only had to venture to Las Colinas for the Olympic triathlon trials to confirm your fears. On a day when some of the world's best pure athletes gathered to swim, run, and bike, only a few thousand folks came out to see them. Too bad. Chevy spokesman Hunter Kemper may get smoked by the Aussies (the world's best triathletes), but on a hot day in May he showed why he's our nation's best. The sponsors couldn't have been happy, either: Games and booths were empty, vendors bitched, and a band played for three spectators after the event was over. A testament to the metroplex's Olympic commitment. How much of our tax money is being wasted on the 2012 effort again?
Whether it's a day pack from JanSport or those Brunton Eterna 8x25 waterproof compact binoculars you need, you'll find it at REI. (Good heavens, we've become advertising copywriters. "If you didn't buy at REI, ask yourself, WHY?!?!") Still, REI makes us feel less tethered to air-conditioning as soon as we walk in. All the equipment, info, maps, and expert advice you need to go camping, bear killing, whatever your outdoor pleasure. Even if you have no other use for that Moss Hooped Outland tent--"the best four-season, solo shelter available, featuring uncompromising strength, generous headroom, and great ventilation"--than setting it up in the back yard and watching your daughter have a tea party in it, well, you should still buy it at REI. At least the salespeople will think you're a real outdoorsman.

One of the great things the Internet brings to sports geeks is the chance to evaluate the beat writers for your favorite teams. You can read the work of sports reporters in other cities and see if they broke news first, if your hometown paper is just re-reporting something another paper already ran. And all our Net surfing has just confirmed our respect for Gerry Fraley. Even though Fraley is no longer the full-time Rangers beat guy--the very good Evan Grant holds that spot--Fraley still manages to bring the most insight, knowledge, and insider info to his stories. His clipped style is a joy to read, and his takes are always based in fact and not hype (for a long time, he has been the only writer, national or local, to consistently point out Ivan Rodriguez's defensive and game-management deficiencies). Simply put, when we see his byline, we read, even it's a minor-league report or a note from Dallas Cowboys training camp.

There is no one in sports more annoying than Patrick Roy, goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche--primarily because he has been anointed by the national media as the best money goalie in the NHL. This year, in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, Stars goalie Eddie Belfour proved that it was he, not Roy, who was the best when a series was on the line, beating Roy 3-2 (just as Belfour's team beat Roy's in Game 7 during last year's playoffs 4-1). Before this year's series began, Belfour made what to the East Coast media idiots was a startling proclamation: He said that he was as good a goalie as Roy. (A true statement if ever an athlete uttered one: Belfour not only was the defending Stanley Cup champion goaltender, but also had arguably his best regular season ever. His .919 save percentage was a career best, even though he faced about 200 more shots than the year before.) Ten minutes before Game 7 was over, the Reunion Arena fans began a chant that signaled they too agreed with Belfour's assessment of himself: "Ed-die's bet-ter...Ed-die's bet-ter." It was a wonderful f-you directed toward the overrated, head-bobbing Roy (who has now lost four straight Game 7s and allowed 16 goals in those games), and a nice public appreciation of the Stars' best clutch player.

Really, what other choice is there? We love Don Nelson, but more for his don't-give-a damn attitude and freaky X-and-O decisions (Shawn Bradley covering Muggsy Bogues) than his "coaching." He's a fun coach, but he isn't much of a professional. Ken Hitchcock, however, exemplifies both words. He's a pro: He handles the media, impressionable rookies, and irritable star players in perfect fashion. He'll laugh and joke and aw-shucks reporters, and he'll be a hard-ass jerk in the locker room when need be. Even if you don't agree with his style, you can't argue with his results. Yeah, he never played in the Bigs, blah blah blah, but he has taken two very different teams to the Stanley Cup Finals the past two years. His teams never give up, play best in close games, and almost never get out-coached. His constant line-juggling can make players tense, but he also sends a clear, important message: On a Ken Hitchcock-coached team, it's your play, not your name, that determines how much ice time you see.

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