Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Being out at the Ballpark these past few seasons has been a lot like getting a hot-sauce enema. Minutes seem like hours, and your ass gets itchy very quickly. Easing some of that pain, or at least doing his best to make everyone's job go a little more smoothly, has been Gabe Kapler. Where some, if not most, professional athletes run when they see a reporter or fan coming, Kapler is the rare player who will almost always give his time. Earlier this year, while he was on the disabled list and rehabbing in some god-awful town in Oklahoma, Kapler even took time out of his rehab schedule to do an interview with the Observer. This is a point of interest considering half the players don't know what the Observer is. Oh, and he's a decent hitter and fields well and all that jazz, so bully for Gabe. That, and we're afraid of him and his muscles, which pop from his shirt like overinflated balloons. See, Gabe, we told you you'd get this award. Now just don't hurt us.
There are so many moments that led to this winning entry that the playoff victory only grows more astounding with time: Steve Nash hitting the jumper over John Stockton with 12 seconds left to take Game 3 of the best-of-five series; Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley dominating the rout of the Jazz in Game 4; and the incredible double-digit, fourth-quarter comeback in Game 5, on the Jazz's home court, that led to the end-to-end astonishing scenes. One, that Michael Finley passed up the last shot to dish to a wide-open Calvin Booth to give him the layup and the team the lead. Two, that both John Stockton and Karl Malone missed open shots that would have given the Jazz the victory. It was all so unexpected that it gave this town a renewed sense of sports-watching awe. One request: Don't expect to see such a storybook finish this year. It's too much to ask of your Mavs. Just revel in 2001's season of b-ball fun. You may not see another like it for some time.
How we miss Big John. What a kind soul, always giving, never taking. Always eager to help the media with an informative dose of sarcasm and contempt. And that voice, that shrill, disagreeable voice, well, it doesn't get much better than that. Yeah, he was great. Then that no-good Tom Hicks and his toady, Doug Melvin, fired Johnny and instated Jerry Narron, who's a good guy but reminds us of poi. (Have you ever eaten poi? It's a lot like talking to Narron for more than a minute.) And for what, we ask? OK, maybe the Rangers weren't doing so hot. Maybe they were 20-some games out of first place and the pitching was ridiculous and the hitting was worse. And? The point? This award is for the best coach/manager, and, if you talked to the ornery one long enough, you'd get the sense that the losing had nothing to do with him, because he was a top baseball strategist, and everything to do with his no-good players, who were no good. So here's to you, Johnny, you being from another planet. You may be unemployed, but your knowledge of hit-and-runs and propensity to remind reporters of their baseball shortcomings is unparalleled.
It hurts giving this to someone at The Dallas Morning News, but as the Newsers go, Sherrington is a good one. We're still big fans of Randy Galloway, but we just don't see the Star-Telegram much anymore. (The Internet? Yeah, right. You ever tried to surf the Star-T Web site? Go ahead. We'll talk to you in a month.) For the most part, though, local sports scribes are disgruntled former athletes who never made it or pencil-necks who lucked into the business and wouldn't know a football from a foot in the 'nads. Not so with Sherrington. (We checked by kicking him in the groin.) He has a talent for finding otherwise overlooked stories, then translates them into solid copy with an engaging writing style. He has a wit and elegance to his writing that pulls you through and keeps you from using that particular section of newsprint for making paper hats during your kid's birthday party. Doesn't get much better than that.
Granted, they are few and far between, but the owner of the fast-fading Cowboys gets high marks for his decision to include former Olympic sprint champion and All-Pro wide receiver Bob Hayes in the club's oh-so-exclusive Ring of Honor. The planned Texas Stadium ceremony is about a decade late, but better than never, particularly in light of the fact Hayes' health is not good. Now, if Jones wants to make this celebrated list a second year running, he can get busy and announce that former general manager and NFL Hall of Famer Tex Schramm is next on the list.
A tough category. Still, even in a crowded field, one man stands out: that big rich billionaire owner who isn't Mark Cuban. It's one thing to want your team to win. It's another to shell out an exorbitant amount of money in pursuit of that goal. But when you sit around and tell everyone that signing A-Rod for the now-infamous sum of $252 million will catapult the Rangers back to the top of the division, you've crossed the line. Come on, Tom Hicks, what were you thinking? Have a little modesty, and no one's bugging you. But be a braggart, and here we are. Getting Alex Rodriguez was good. Getting geriatric-ward regulars Ken Caminiti and Andres Galarraga and then thinking they could overcome horrible pitching was, ah, less than good.
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.
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.
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.