Best Sporting-Goods Store 2004 | Academy Sports & Outdoors | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

When it comes to sporting goods, you need a place that carries a full spectrum of gear for everyone, from wet-behind-the-ears beginner to grizzled veteran. You want the simple two-person tent you can afford right now while you're still figuring out if you're an outdoors person and the tricked-out eight-person portable hunting lodge that gives you a goal to work up to should you decide that, yes, urinating in the woods is your bag. You want the 10-pound dumbbells for when you're just kind of kicking the tires of the whole "getting into shape" thing and the 20-exercises-in-one albatross that will one day be used as a coat rack when this process comes full circle. You need crappy running shoes and state-of-the-art ones, Styrofoam coolers and iceboxes that rival the Sub-Zero fridge at home, plain-jane cotton workout togs and stuff made out of Gore-Tex and CoolMax and Double Dry. You need a place that has something for every activity that could even tangentially be considered a sport and at every skill level. And that place, my friends, is, as the jingle says, Academy Sports and Outdoors. Academy!

Readers' Pick

Academy Sports & Outdoors

We grew up loving Hoop-It-Up. Started by former D magazine Publisher Terry Murphy nearly two decades ago, it was a weekend that every weekend b-baller looked forward to, a chance to compete in three-man tournaments for bragging rights. But sometime during the past several years, it became an overly commercialized beast, one that had grown too huge and angry to be allowed to live. Even after referees were added, fights seemed inevitable, and the amateur fun and spirit of the enterprise had long ago dissipated. Better to have the memories than the impression made by Hoop-It-Up in its twilight years.

Bowling is one of the few things in life where it is almost impossible to think of a way in which it could be better. After electronic scoring entered the picture, amateur keglers were pretty much set for life. The shoes, the lanes, the pins, the balls--none of it requires any tweaking whatsoever, and, in fact, the enjoyment of the game would be lessened if there were any present. To properly experience the game, a pair of outdated shoes must be rented. The search for the perfect ball must take a minimum of 20 minutes. The next lane must be close in order to properly keep a running commentary of all the fashion/athletic misfortune taking place. The lane attendant must be buzzed over at least once a game to retrieve a ball or dislodge a pin. As John Goodman said in The Big Lebowksi, "Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules." Beyond that, all that's required is exactly what you'll find at Don Carter's: a well-lit place in which to smoke cigarettes and drink beer from cans. A staff that's friendly without being pushy. An ample number of lanes so the wait is short if not nonexistent. A location off a major highway so just the right cross section of locals is present. Like we said, no tweaking necessary.

Readers' Pick

Main Event Entertainment

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Athletes come and go all the time. That's the nature of, uh, the game. Generally, it doesn't faze us. Most of the time, actually, we're happy to see them go. Most of the time, the athletes who are on the way out (much like the ones who will replace them) are condescending jerks we'd like to kick in the junk but can't because of our stupid lawyers and their "law concerns." Former Maverick Antawn Jamison wasn't one of those athletes. He was a good guy, always quick with a smile or a kind word. He was a real person, and that was the biggest loss of all. He'll be playing elsewhere next season, but many of us will be rooting for him. Especially our sports columnist, who, we think, has an unhealthy man-crush on the now-departed baller. He's extremely odd that way--our columnist, that is, not Jamison.

Ever since Don Nelson has been a head coach in the NBA, he's lamented the fact that he hasn't had a dominant center. Ever since you've been a Mavericks fan, you've lamented the same thing. And then, just when we all thought we'd die without seeing a true center in a Mavs uniform, rumors began to float that Shaquille O'Neal was coming to town. The Lakers were going to trade him here, people said, because he couldn't play nice with Kobe Bryant. It was a matter of when, not if, people kept saying. But those people were wrong. After a few weeks of reading the newspapers and checking ESPN, we realized something: We'd been duped.

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 (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.

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