Every off-season around Thanksgiving, the local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America votes for a Pitcher of the Year from the Texas Rangers. Last off-season, they chose John Thomson. He is a nice guy, a decent pitcher. He also is a loser, at least that year. Let's be clear on this: The Rangers' best pitcher was a man who went 13-14. He lost 14 games! This may have something, something to do with why the Rangers sucked so tremendously hard in 2003.

In the year that the poker craze went mainstream, Dallas put its stamp on the newest, hottest pastime in America. (Granted, we told you about Texas hold 'em and Dallas' T.J. Cloutier back in 2001, but who's counting?) This year, SMU student David Williams came in second in the World Series of Poker main event, and the millions he won have given him a bankroll so that we'll probably see him on the circuit for years to come. But it's Dallas' sexy poker star who had the best cards dealt her way. Clonie Gowen is one of the big guns behind the Web site FullTiltPoker.com (along with superstars like Phil Ivey and Howard Lederer), she established herself as a player not just in one tournament but throughout the year and, most impressive, she played three times in the weekly poker game of some Dallas Observer staff writers. What higher honor is there?

Not since infamous basketball coach Bobby Knight hurled a folding chair across the hardwood has a piece of furniture gotten so much attention. But thanks to Rangers reliever Frank Francisco, collapsible chair throwing is once again en vogue. During a late-season game at Oakland, Francisco took offense to something that one of the A's fans was saying about his mama. (We don't care what anyone says it was really about--for a guy to get that heated, something had to be said about his mama.) Naturally, Francisco retaliated by grabbing a chair and throwing it into the stands. If there were an Olympic chair-throwing event, Francisco would have scored some serious points on distance and velocity, but he would have lost points on accuracy (he missed the intended target and hit a woman instead).

You could make a case that Dirk Nowitzki is a better player, or that Michael Finley was a better locker-room leader, but it would be hard to argue against Steve Nash being the guy who made the Mavs go. When he was in the lineup, the offense flowed. When he wasn't, the team looked like the Harlem Globetrotters after Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon--lots of run, not much gun. So, at least as far as his on-court ability is concerned, we're sorry to see him go to Phoenix. On the other hand, we weren't big fans of his outspokenness about the war (any athlete who pontificates about real-world issues makes us projectile-vomit) or his penchant for fleeing after practice before talking to the media. Then, he is from Canada, and they're a little odd up there, so maybe all of that makes sense after all.

Readers' Pick

Dirk Nowitzki

The secret ingredient that makes high school basketball so enjoyable at Forester Field House is this: The entire place smells like nacho cheese. High up in the stands or down by the court, inside the bathroom or just outside the front door. Everywhere. There's something about that smell, combined with sneakers squeaking on hardwood, that just means good times. The not-so-secret ingredient is the fact that Dallas produces some of the finest high school b-ball around. Last year, that meant the dominant Lincoln High girls team (we saw them almost beat a team by 100 points) and Seagoville High's LaMarcus Aldridge (we saw him beat a team by himself). This year, there's a good chance the thrills will be provided by Lincoln's point guard Byron Eaton, a flashy bulldog who cannot be stopped when he's on his game. Check him out, and do it at Forester.

Seriously, if you're going to act like "the biggest jerk in this park" (Rangers announcer Tom Grieve's words), you may as well make sure your actions are so assholish that Good Morning America talks about you. And Matt Starr did just that. At a June game between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, Starr went after a foul ball. Problem was, he crashed into a mother and her 4-year-old son to do so. OK, sometimes you get carried away. But then, with the kid crying and the mother upset, the guy smirks and refuses to give the kid the ball. The crowd starts chanting at Starr to give up the ball. He refuses. Now, after a media firestorm during the next few days, he finally decides to give the kid the ball and buy his family some Rangers tickets. Which really disappointed us. See, if you're going to be a bastard, don't half-ass it. You missed your chance to do the normal, human, decent, caring, thoughtful thing. That ship had sailed, buddy. So, even though you're not perfect, you're still the best douche bag we have, and we honor you for that.

We recently played this course with two top-notch golfers, country club players who are very picky about where they play 18. They confirmed what weekend hackers like us had long suspected: Tenison Park's revamped course, The Highlands, is a jewel. The D.A. Weibring-designed course is a nice mix of tree, water and elevation changes. (The view from the tips, which we drive by on our way to our tee box, is often majestic.) If Tenison Highlands is packed up with foursomes, Tenison Glen is itself a very nice course that snakes around White Rock Creek. For those who need lessons (hello), The Range at Tenison Park offers great instruction and a nice facility from which you can spray your shots left and right.

Readers' Pick

Tenison Park Golf Course

Who really cares what the man does on the field? We sure don't. What we enjoy most about Johnson is what drew us to Michael Irvin and the rest of the bad boys from the '90s--he talks a lot, and it almost always pisses someone off when he does. That makes our job a whole lot easier, and we love him for it. You never have to worry about Johnson dropping a "no comment" or dancing around an issue. And there's something to be said for that. There's also something to be said for his use of humor. When he was first introduced to the Dallas media, he called owner Jerry Jones "coach Jones" and then, with a wry smile, quipped: "Hmm, I don't know why I keep calling him that."

Readers' Pick

Roy Williams

Best Local NBA Hopeful (Who Actually Has a Shot)

LaMarcus Aldridge

Seagoville High School hoops stud LaMarcus Aldridge spent most of his senior year trying to decide whether he would play basketball at the University of Texas at Austin in the fall or take his game directly to the NBA. This is the kind of decision you're faced with if you happen to be 7 feet tall and blessed with a point guard's game. Aldridge ultimately decided on UT (after signing a letter of intent, then changing his mind and declaring for the NBA draft, then changing his mind again), but his NBA dream will become a reality eventually, whether he decides to leave UT after one season or four. Maybe he'll even wind up playing for his hometown Mavericks. We can only hope.

You could say that the chief quality of a good columnist is that he or she always surprises the reader. Except that one can do so in bad ways, such as when a Metro columnist writes about his dog dying or the back-porch witticisms spouted by his parents. Fraley, though, surprises sports fans in good ways. He is a contrarian when appropriate, writing compelling columns about why the much-hated Barry Bonds deserves respect. He offers context in his columns, such as when he said that Buck Showalter's influence with management could be as damaging as Lou Piniella's power reign was to the long-term prospects of Seattle. He champions the underappreciated (TCU) and isn't afraid to call out local stars (Hank Blalock). That he is able to consistently surprise and enlighten sports fans, most of whom are already immersed in the day-to-day activities of their favorite players and teams, makes him a star in the local media lineup.

Readers' Pick

Randy Galloway

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of