Best Youth Injection 2004 | Texas Rangers | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Admit it: You thought the Rangers would be awful this year. You didn't like any of the veterans the team acquired; you thought that the young players were a year away from being great--oh, and there was that little matter of trading away the game's best player, Alex Rodriguez. But the surprising pennant run the team made changed all our minds. The best part of the season was that so much of it was dependent on young players, guys who should be Rangers for the next few years. When a team builds itself with guys like Michael Young, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira and Francisco Cordero, it not only makes us pleased with the present, it makes us giddy about the future.

Just in case you're confused, we're talking about Donnie the son, not Don the father. Donnie, who is an assistant coach with the Mavericks in addition to being the president of basketball operations, wins this particular award, but not because of anything he did with X's and O's. Rather, he wins because the guy has some serious hoops skills. You wouldn't know it by looking at his now-doughy frame, but the man can play some ball. During the annual media-coaches Hoop-It-Up game, Donnie made area journos look like a bunch of Jerry's kids. He posted up, spotted up and drove the lane. He was like Michael Jordan out there. Only shorter. And with less hops. And with a slower first step. But trust us--he was like Michael Jordan.

Readers' Pick

Bill Parcells

Beth Rankin

If you're like us--and we hope you're not, because a trip to rehab is in your immediate future--the perfect game of pool happens between two events: the fifth bourbon-and-whatever of the night and the first broken glass. The former causes the game of pool to happen (because we're getting antsy and competitive), and the latter is caused by the game of pool (because we're antsy, competitive and a bit lax with our drink placement). Because of this, we tend to go to bars that have pool tables and not pool halls that serve drinks. Either way is fine; we're just telling you what we do. In that scenario, there is no finer place to play pool than upstairs at City Tavern. The tables are more than adequate, well-maintained without making too much of a production about it, spacious but not to the point where you start feeling all self-conscious, as if you should be wearing a tuxedo like one of those guys on ESPN2 at 4 a.m. But it's the rest of the package that seals the deal. It's like being in a well-heeled friend's basement: You can still watch whatever basketball/football/baseball/hockey game that's on from any vantage point, thanks to the flat-screen TVs hanging in the corners. The two friends not playing pool with you can jump knee-deep into a round of Golden Tee a few feet away. And the waitresses don't ignore you just because you're shooting some stick.

Readers' Pick

Clicks Billiards

Various locations

We like Lone Star Park; it's as family-friendly as horse racing can be, but we're not real keen on initiating our 5-year-old son into the rites of gambling. That's why we venture to the Dr Pepper/Seven Up Ballpark in Frisco, which rises incongruously from a suburban expanse of malls and glass boxes. Step inside, and you're immediately sucked into an illusion of small-town Americana. It's kind of weird when you think about it, and the game itself is entirely incidental (who are those guys, anyway?), but a Frisco RoughRiders game is a lot of fun. The place is clean (check out the interior-designed women's potties), there aren't any bad seats, you have plenty of munchies to choose from, and the kids will love gyrating to the tunes blaring across the PA system or watching cheesy minor-league stuff like a PG-rated visit from the "San Diego Chicken." Another good thing: Tickets start at $7 (plus the $1 "convenience charge," Ticketmaster commission and all that junk) and top out at $18. So you may be living an illusion, but at least it's an affordable one.

We really sweated about this one. Not because we're overly hairy, even though we are. Because we like so many sports talk shows. We love the laid-back stylings and intelligent banter of Dunham & Miller (and Gordon) on KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket during morning drive. We're big fans of Newy Scruggs on ESPN 103.3 after that. We think Bob and Dan middays on The Ticket are extremely underrated--we almost always find the sports talk and the jackassery engaging. And we have a soft spot still for warhorse Randy Galloway on ESPN, especially when he lets Jennifer Floyd Engel from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram sit in (mee-yow). So we asked a buddy: What criteria should we use to decide? He said, simply: When you get in your car, you look at the clock on the dash. Depending on what time it is, when are you most excited to turn on the radio? That would be between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., during The Hardline on The Ticket. Like all good radio shows, the chemistry of the entire cast--Mike Rhyner, Greg Williams, Corby Davidson and Danny Balis--is what sucks you in, keeps you around, makes you laugh. That and hearing Williams say things like "She's so horny she'd hump a rock pile if she thought there was a snake in it."

Readers' Pick

The Hardline

Following the A-Rod trade, someone asked the Texas Rangers owner if ticket holders--chiefly those who bought in after the "he's not going anywhere" comment by Hicks--would be given a refund. "There won't be any refunds," Hicks said, sounding like Paul Dooley in Breaking Away. "Of course not." The fans were all kinds of pissed off about that. For some reason, they don't like being lied to and then told that they're going to be fleeced, too. Ah, but the joke was on them, and us, too. Hicks, for the first time ever, actually knew what he was doing. By subtracting one of the league's best players, he actually improved the Rangers. Who knew? So let that be a lesson to you. Next time the Rangers and Hicks promise one thing and then screw you stupid, remember, they do so with your best interests at heart.

All the amenities of the most expensive country clubs at a reasonable price, and close to downtown--anything you want in your gym, the Premier Club has it. Great basketball courts with good games running during lunch and after work; racquetball courts; acres of workout equipment; a revamped Olympic-sized pool; an indoor running track; scads of classes offering the latest workout crazes (spinning, Pilates, yoga, etc.). Top that off with a wonderful cafe that offers delicious healthful meals and yummy smoothies, and you have a club that makes working out something you look forward to. Almost.

Readers' Pick

24 Hour Fitness

Various locations


With most professional sports franchises updating their facilities, there aren't a whole lot of old dogs panting out there anymore, which is why we're so fortunate to have Texas Stadium. Forget the Cowboys' drive to build themselves a new, modern complex that would be worthy of America's Team. What they don't understand is that they already have a first-rate facility. Sure, it's a few decades old. Sure, it looks like an erector set, and the cold, gray concrete is unsightly. Sure, the passageways smell of stale beer and the ground under the seats looks like someone just pissed there. But who cares? When out-of-towners visit our fair city and ask, "Why the hell is there a hole in that roof?" doesn't that make it all worth it?

Readers' Pick

American Airlines Center

2500 Victory Ave.

Best Local NBA Hopeful (Who Doesnt Have a Prayer)

Ray Johnston

Ray Johnston is the kind of guy you don't wanna end up guarding in a pickup game at the local park. It's one thing to be shown up by the guy in the vintage Jordans and the headband cocked just so, who looks like he was practicing turnaround jumpers as soon as he could walk. It's quite another to have a 6-foot-nothing loan officer skipping bounce passes between your legs and swishing 20-foot jumpers on you all day. But that's what you get if you take Johnston, 25, lightly. You probably won't now that the secret's out. And it is most definitely out. The Mavericks invited him to play at a summer minicamp after watching him play in the Hoop-It-Up tournament, and then added him to the team's summer-league roster. Will he make the real squad this season? No way. But his dream is still alive.

Sarah Melton fell in love with basketball because she had to--there was no other choice. When you grow up in Indiana, that's what happens. In Indiana, there's basketball and...well, we're not really sure what else they have in Indiana because we've never been there. But we suspect it's miles upon miles of wheat and cornfields broken up by strategically placed basketball courts.

"Oh, come on, Indiana is great," says Melton, who became the Mavericks' PR director last year at the tender age of 27, making her the youngest person to hold that position in the NBA. "But you're either an Indiana fan or a Purdue fan. I grew up an Indiana fan, and my dad was a ref, so we always had basketball on the television. Always. I never missed an Indiana basketball game. Actually, this is a funny story. I went to Indiana [University]. Before I got there, I only missed one game, and it was in the first grade. My mom grounded me for not doing my science fair project, and she wouldn't let me watch the game. I'm a first-grade girl who can't watch basketball, but I'm really, really upset. The bummer about that was the game I missed was the game that Bobby Knight threw that chair across the court."

Luckily for her, she was conditioned at an early age--programmed to enjoy basketball but also to understand that strange things can happen. Chairs get thrown. Players bust your chops. Owners run out onto the court. That's basketball--at least it has been for Melton.

After college, she ended up with the Mavericks. Gregg Elkin, who worked as the sports information director at Indiana University, had moved to Dallas to head the Mavs' PR department. He had a job open for an assistant, and he offered it to Melton. She immediately jumped at it. But, after her first road trip, she wasn't sure if she had jumped in it.

"The first trip I went on was to Detroit," Melton recalls. "They had these old, almost high school-style, rickety locker rooms. They were very small. I thought I had enough experience to do the job, but I didn't really want to go in the locker room. I was like, 'This isn't for me.' But I just went in there and did my job.

"I have to be professional. And because of my age and my gender, I'm a minority in both in the NBA. I have to work that much harder to avoid the perception that I'm anything but a professional. The players test you. They say things. They'll comment on what I'm wearing or my boyfriend, but I don't let that bother me. I never have. I can't be the girl who dates the athletes. The job is too important to me. There are a lot of girls who work for teams who like the job but who want to date the players. So, yeah, I do have to work that much harder."

When Elkin left last year to become the PR director for the Texas Rangers, everyone just assumed that Melton would take over. And she did. She never even had to interview. Instead, Matt Fitzgerald, the senior vice president of marketing and communications, simply pulled her aside one day and told her the job was hers. But considering the NBA's history on gender equality, it wasn't a given that Melton would get the gig. Before Melton, there were only three other women serving in that capacity in the league. Today, there are five out of 30. And, at the time, Melton was the youngest person, male or female, to be an NBA PR director. She had a lot of history and politics working against her--all of which the Mavs, to their credit, ignored.

"There was never a question about using Sarah," owner Mark Cuban says. "Sarah has always done a great job. She relates well to everyone. She follows through and gets the job done. The moment I heard that Gregg was leaving, I promoted Sarah. I didn't care about her age, gender or anything other than her qualifications. It wasn't even a consideration. What's not to love about her?"

A year after becoming the boss, her job hasn't changed much. She still has to work with the players and the media and act as an intermediary between the two. But she's comfortable now, which is good for her and for those who might follow in her path.

"You know, I'm such a dreamer," Melton says. "I had predecessors. The three women that I know in PR were huge mentors for me. Knowing that they were doing what I always wanted to do gave me more motivation to work hard and get this job. It made me realize that it was possible. Now that I have the job, others will call me and ask me how I did things or how I got involved. Honestly, that's the greatest gift that I can have. That I can help these girls who want to do what I'm doing, that's the best thing. A girl from the Pacers who went on her first road trip last year, she called me first to ask me about my first trip. I was so happy to help her out. It kinda made me teary-eyed. "

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