Not to beat a dead horse...on second thought, that's what we'll do, because Lord knows this subject hasn't been addressed enough. Speaking of the almighty, God bless Doug Melvin for keeping up a brave front in light of the job he's been asked to do as the Texas Rangers' general manager. And what job is that, exactly? That would be serving as team owner Tom Hicks' personal errand boy, spending the off-season carrying out a shopping list that had him throwing around money like a juggler in the Treasury Department. Which would have been fine, probably, if Hicks hadn't asked Melvin to throw it all at Alex Rodriguez, to sign the biggest-name free agent on the market just to prove he could afford it. Did the Rangers need another bat in the lineup? Not really. And you have to believe Melvin was obviously well aware of that fact since, at one time, his was one of the most respected baseball minds around. But Melvin got the job done. Next on his to-do list: waxing Hicks' car.
It would be a stretch and--that's right, we said it--a disgrace to believe that any professional athlete is worth more than $25 million a season. Sure, Rangers shortstop-messiah Alex Rodriguez is having a great first season in Texas (he's going to end up with about 45 home runs, 130 RBIs and an average well above .300, not to mention a coupla hundred hits), but $25 million? Not bloody likely. Fact is, general manager Doug Melvin and owner Tom Hicks could have and should have found some other ways to spread the wealth. In case you missed the two items above, we'll say it again, slowly, so a billionaire can understand: It doesn't matter if A-Rod helps the Rangers score 10 runs a game if they don't have a few pitchers who can keep the team in the other dugout from getting 11. And they don't. So here's a suggestion: Put Rodriguez on the mound every fifth day. Couldn't hurt.

If you didn't notice, last year was a bit lean for the 'Pokes. Not so many wins. Quite a few losses. America's Team was in disarray, from Troy Aikman's countless concussions to Joey Galloway's season-ending injury to the poor fools who actually went to Texas Stadium to see them suck in person. Lending a bit of good sense in the aftermath was linebacker Darren Hambrick, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound pauper. See, Hambrick is smarter than all of us. That is, he examined the roster, realized how bad the team was, then demanded to be paid more than the rest of the stiffs. Makes sense considering he was chief among the stiffs, accounting for 154 mostly-by-accident tackles. When he realized Jerry Jones wouldn't pony up the money he wanted, he brooded and sulked like a child, refusing to attend "voluntary" minicamp. Then he lashed out at the media for making something of his tardiness. "I missed a voluntary camp," he said incredulously to a pack of reporters. "What do 'voluntary' mean?" Wow. Good with contract negotiations and sentence structure. How many Cowboys can say that? Hell, how many Observer employees can say that? Regardless, if you were in his spot, would you want to play for the 'Boys? Didn't think so. Like we said, Hambrick is smarter than all of us.

Best Spot to Sweat Your Butt Off While Playing Frisbee Golf

B.B. Owens Park

All right, so Frisbee golf isn't "cool" in the traditional, Osmond-family sense of the word. Still, it's pretty enjoyable. Grab a group of buddies, a few Frisbees and hike out to a course for the afternoon. It's a good time, and it's free, which makes it that much better. The only problem being, on most of these courses, there's not much shade. That said, B.B. Owens is close to downtown and pretty good as far as layout goes. There's a long "water hazard" and some good, secluded areas for "leisurely smoke breaks." Just bring water. Lots of it.

A down-home tavern where you are unlikely to run into jerks with their own pool cues who insist on getting in on your friendly game. It is easy to fit in with the mostly under-35 crowd who are interested in playing pool but not obsessed to the point of being irritating. Cuckoo's Nest has nine pool tables and a full-service bar, and beer is sold by the pitcher. You won't find tournaments, hustlers or the class valedictorian here.

Best Texas Ranger Pitcher (if He'd Only Come Back)

Nolan Ryan

OK, so the only pitch he's thrown in public recently was at a dog park off Mockingbird Lane. So what? Yes, he's old (54), and yes, he's been retired since 1993 (and that year he pitched only 66 innings). Still, have you been to The Ballpark in Arlington lately? Peanut vendors have more control over their pitches. Thanks to their stellar pitching staff, the Rangers would be lucky to retire the side in order at a T-ball game. Ryan probably doesn't have many 90 mph fastballs left in him, but hey, neither does anyone currently wearing a Rangers jersey. At this point, Ryan could pitch underhanded and he'd still be the No. 1 starter.

First and 10 used to be housed in the shopping center by La Bare, before it was razed to make way for the new Central Market scheduled to be built there. Now it's hidden in Hillside Village in the old Red's Barbecue spot, and we couldn't be happier. It boasts several televisions, a pool table, the fantastic arcade golf game Golden Tee, a shuffleboard table, all the standard sports bar accoutrements...but it has a few things that make it stand above other sports dives. Its burgers, for example, are fantastic, as are its cottage fries. But it also sports a helpful waitstaff, a loyal clientele of serious drinkers and smokers, quite cold pitchers of cheap beer and no unwanted distractions from sexy young men or women. This is not a college hangout; it's a dive bar that happens to have sports on the tube, which is all we want on game day.
What is it exactly that we like about bowling? Is it beer, the warm, moist rented shoes, the beer, the sport, the camaraderie or the beer? Open 24 hours, Carter's 58 lanes are always ready for desperate insomniacs who need the sound of falling pins to lull them to sleep. At nights on Tuesdays and weekends, they break out the blacklights for "Lightning Strikes," a sort of cross between disco and bowling--and can you get any classier than that? League bowling takes place every night except Saturdays. Did we mention they have beer?

The guys you see nightly at 10 still have a long way to go to match the accomplishments and class of Southlake resident and recent Sportscasters Hall of Fame inductee Pat Summerall. Alongside color man John Madden, the former New York Giants placekicker will be entering his 50th season as a broadcaster. During his remarkable career, he's done it all--from the U.S. Open to the Masters to Super Bowls--with a voice as rich and warm as high-dollar brandy.

Small specialty sporting goods stores, where expert athletes/salesmen carefully inspect your foot before finding just the right shoe, are an oasis for the dedicated athlete. At Run On!, a store that specializes in running shoes and gear, a salesman fitted us for a pair of Nikes with a narrow insole--just the way we like them--without telling us the cost. We expected him to say $120 or worse. The damage was much lower: $80. With three area locations, Run On! truly looks out for the consumer. It also sponsors cross-country runs and other events.

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