Sports columnist Gerry Fraley is everything the city columnists for The Dallas Morning News are not: fiercely opinionated, wry, relevant and readable. He is unafraid of taking on local icons--for years, he wrote that local legend Pudge Rodriguez was overrated--and he always provides facts to back up his takes. His "Just Venting" column, which runs on Page 2 of the DMN's sports section, is something we look forward to reading every Tuesday. Our favorite gibe yet: "Guard Larry Allen threw the first no-hitter of the season in the Cowboys' exhibition opener Saturday." Maybe you had to see the game to appreciate it, but we blew coffee out of our nose on that one. Which is a compliment.
When the war in Iraq began, both Mavs point guards made comments that suggested they were very much against the war. Canadian Nash received no grief from fans. It was suggested on radio call-in shows, however, African-American Van Exel be booed at games. Now, if you don't think that doesn't have at least something to do with their skin color, then you don't know which country was fighting Iraq. We love it when sports fans talk politics. It's almost as painful as listening to Mayor Laura Miller talk sports.

So many qualified candidates for this award, but we're partial to our own here at the Observer, so the fix was/is in. During spring training in Surprise, Arizona, our sports columnist, John Gonzalez, attempted to interview Ranger Carl Everett in the clubhouse for a feature he was writing. Everett, who had never heard of the Observer, gave Gonzalez a hard time about his credentials. Carl was being Carl. Gonzalez, who we're pretty sure is mentally retarded and ought to wear one of those safety helmets, took that as a personal affront to his professionalism and fired back. Gonz was being Gonz. Long story short, Mount Everett erupted and asked our intrepid reporter if he wanted to box. It got uglier from there--the two loudly screamed expletives at each other while a pack of reporters and ballplayers watched, mouths agape. It was a lot like that incident a few years ago in which Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf cursed a reporter--only this time, the reporter cursed back. And, unfortunately, this time there wasn't any video footage to commemorate the occasion. Bummer.
Football commentators like to remind people that there are only two current Dallas Cowboys who were a part of the team's early- and mid-'90s Super Bowl wins: Darren Woodson and Larry Allen. Actually, we think there's only one and a half of them, because Allen is half the player he used to be. Now that's not all his fault. Apparently, Allen is the victim of a physiological defect that causes his ankle to "puff" like a well-made tempura batter. His puffy ankle is why he struggled through the early part of the season, we're told. We think it's great that afflictions normally associated with pregnancy or water retention are now being claimed by 300-pound professional athletes. Next, Allen misses the fourth quarter of the Thanksgiving game because his nipples are sore.

Remember the photo that appeared in your inbox this summer? No, not the one with the horse and car battery. The ones of two Dallas Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, out on the town, tippling themselves silly. Who among us hasn't regretted being in front of a camera lens after seven too many cocktails, right? But for the N&N boys to be so fully looped that they didn't immediately destroy the camera--that's just awesome.

Have you seen those photos of Bill Parcells stalking the Dallas Cowboys sidelines during practice? The ones where he's wearing a big old-woman hat, oversized shorts tucked under his man breasts and a big floppy T-shirt tucked into said shorts? All he needs is a wig and he's Jonathan Winters.

There are exactly seven certainties in the local sports world: On the whole, Rangers pitching will suck; Dale Hansen will be friendlier on the air than off; Mike Modano will have hot women near him when in public; Steve Nash will hit that clutch free throw; Darren Woodson will do the right thing; Mark Cuban will say the wrong thing; and the incredible porntasticity of Dave Tippett's Corey Pavin/Elliot Gould (circa M*A*S*H) mustache will make our heart go pitter-patter. No trendy goatee or mutton chops for this man. Just a straight-up shot of lip hair. Bless his heart.

Really, this award ought to be a lifetime achievement sort of thing, and it should probably be retired hereafter, because Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is just so good at lying that no one is going to be able to beat him. That said, he had a career year in this category. First he told us how he was fully behind quarterback Quincy Carter. By midseason, Chad Hutchinson was in the mix. He made a point of telling us that Dave Campo was his head coach. Then Campo got the ax. He paraded Emmitt Smith in front of the world and praised the running back when he became the all-time leading rusher. He said that he hoped Smith would be a Cowboy forever. Then he watched Smith head off to the Arizona Cardinals, of all unsavory places. And now? Now he's saying that he's going to stay out of new head coach Bill Parcells' way. Yeah. We believe you, Jerry, we really do.

OK, OK, so he sucked in the playoffs. So what? Who the hell wants to watch hockey in the summer, anyway? No, see, Marty Turco did us all a favor. Besides, everybody stumbles here and there, right? Just look at what the Stars goalie did during the regular season, though. Turco was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, given to the league's best goalie, an award he probably should have won after he posted a 1.72 goals-against average, the lowest by any goalie in the modern era. He was also named a second-team postseason All-Star. All fine accomplishments for a guy who before this past season had never started a playoff game, and all that without trying to bribe a cop for a billion dollars.
Uh, let's see now, the other candidates were: Buck Showalter, who tried mightily but all for naught; Dave Tippett, who had a fine season but was a bit boring, to tell the truth; and Dave Campo, who...well, he coached the Pokes for a while--let's just leave it at that. So congrats, Nellie, you da man by default. Actually, Nelson would have won anyway. The gregarious Mavericks coach led his charges to the NBA Western Conference Finals, the first time Dallas had advanced that far since 1988. He did that despite the fact he had no interior players worth mentioning and an owner who refused to re-sign him until after the season. He did that, and he was congenial, too, always joking with the media and playing to the crowd. He's our kind of guy. Glad you're coming back, Nellie.

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