Best unused sports facility 2000 | Samuell-Grand Tennis Center | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
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.

You got a better choice? Tim Cowlishaw? As a columnist, he's a good beat writer. Frank Luksa? Last year's winner is better writing once a week than most folks are writing every day, but we feel guilty giving the award to a part-timer. Kevin Sherrington? Good writer, but he hasn't completed a full season yet. Kevin B. Blackistone? Sorry, the pretentious "B." disqualifies him. Jim Reeves or Gil LeBreton? Good, solid columnists, but they suffer from the same thing all the above names do--too often, their column is only as interesting as its subject matter. When we see Galloway's picture, we always read on, whether he's ripping the Cowboys or praising...well, he doesn't praise, but you get the point. The test of a columnist is whether he engenders passion in the reader, and Galloway always makes that mark.

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.

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