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He's paid dearly--emotionally and financially--through the years, but Dallas' sporting patriarch finally has his living legacy. Lamar Hunt, who slapped the defibrillator on soccer in the area more than a couple times, looked predictably like a proud papa when FC Dallas opened its brand spanking new Pizza Hut Park in Frisco. While Jerry Jones moved the Cowboys to the 817 for more money, Mark Cuban cut his captain to save money and Tom Hicks penny-pinched two teams into mediocrity, the 73-year-old Hunt spent $25 million of his own to make sure he left Dallas with a soccer-friendly venue. The father of the old AFL has grown into the grandfather of Dallas soccer. (And no, my dear immature friends, he doesn't have a son named Mike. Now back to your cubicles and your fluorescent lighting and your making appointments for "non-therapeutic" massages on your fancy BlackBerrys.)
We were prepared to again anoint him "Best Dallas Star," but we don't give no stinkin' trophies to oxymorons. Even good-looking, filthy rich ones. Last time we checked, ol' Mo was having the worst year of his hockey career. His skating was a step slow. (It's OK, we got a headache from that confusing imagery, too.) His reputation was dwindling. Shoot, even his finances were a mess. Fast-forward through a lost year of labor lockout and, presto! Guess who is still the "face of the franchise"? Other players can chirp all they want about how "it's not about the money." But when Modano disses Boston and Chicago and accepts $4 million less to play in Dallas, it makes him refreshing. And the fact that he finished his decision while watching The Family Guy makes him cool. Right, Stewie?

Readers' Pick
Mike Modano
First Steve Nash. Now Michael Finley. If Dirk Nowitzki wins this award next year we're trading our Mavs season tickets for something exciting and likely illegal, like a night on the town with Roy Tarpley. While Nash kinda left on his own, the franchise's best player through its worst years was unceremoniously dumped via the NBA's new "amnesty" rule. Don't fret, he took with him the most golden of parachutes--$51 million. And like Nash did as a Sun, Finley will certainly return to American Airlines Center this season looking to bury the team he helped for years to keep alive. No, Finley wasn't a good passer. He couldn't dribble with his left hand. And you always had the feeling he only used about 10 percent of his enormous athletic ability with a game frustratingly founded on the fallaway jumper. But in the history of the Mavericks, there are few that played harder for longer.
And the winner is...Frank Luksa? Retired. John Gonzalez? Relocated. Gerry Fraley? Really big yawn. But yes. In a local sports writing landscape that has become as pedestrian as it is predictable, The Dallas Morning News' Fraley wins by default for the mere fact that he usually has an opinion. While the rest of our soiled scribes routinely roll out painfully obvious "Life: Good; Death: Bad" columns, Fraley's "Just Venting" offerings aren't afraid to take a contrarian approach. Most of the time he even has stats to back them up. By no stretch is Fraley a creative writer, but every once in a while the crotchety cuss in the goofy shirts can even deliver a zinger. Explaining the Rangers' latest demise Fraley offered the "Curse of the Crotch Grab," a cruel karma brought on by closer Francisco Cordero's crude gesture toward an opposing dugout. Fraley's suggested exorcism: "Have Cordero pitch with his athletic supporter full of atomic balm."

Readers' Pick
Tim Cowlishaw The Dallas Morning News
Don't get us wrong, lots of people love the Thursday Weekend Planner column. Mostly, people who are under 4 feet tall, don't know a rhyme from a dime and make a nightly habit of begging "Please, just this once! I'll be good!" to stay up and watch Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. The answer, invariably, is no. Same as it as to Todd Davis' attempt--we think--at humor. A sampling of his half-assed scribbling: "Hey local golfers, is your putting the pits? Are your wedges not worth a bag of chips? Are you weak at pumping irons?" It's as though the column were penned by Dr. Seuss. Only without the humor. Or life lessons. Former Sports Day czar Dave Smith and his smug rug must be rolling over in their retirement.
The Rangers pitcher attacked two cameramen and then he...oh, you know the story. He's a double douche bag sundae topped with jackass sprinkles. Let's just crown his sorry ass and move on, shall we?
The Mavericks' Mark Followill is a rising star and the Rangers' Eric Nadel is classically listenable. But in the Cowboys' Brad Sham, metroplex sports fans have an icon at the threshold. In an era when broadcasters exploit their booths as Gong Show stages used to trot out contrived, cutesy catch-phrases, Sham's style is both understated and underrated. He can be as smooth as a Roger Staubach spiral or as hyper as Keyshawn Johnson after a third-down catch. He has a knack for criticizing without ruffling feathers and for encouraging you to root without being a cheerleader. Like Chick Hearn with the Lakers, Vin Scully with the Dodgers and Harry Caray with the Cubs, Sham (in his 27th season with the team) is a legend. He started by hosting Dallas' first sports radio talk show. Here's hoping he ends up in the Ring of Honor.
He's young, recently having turned 21. He's talented, considered one of the best players in the U.S. He's rich, earning $875,000 this season. But, unless you know what Dallas' "FC" stands for, he's also anonymous. For now. Overcoming the handicap of growing up fatherless in a Florida housing project, Johnson is suddenly the brightest young star in American soccer. Yes, even hotter than Freddy Adu. The FC Dallas striker has eight goals in eight games for the U.S. National Team and will next summer become a household star. He'll play for the Americans in the 2006 World Cup in Germany and, more important, be prominently featured in Nike TV ads leading up to the world's biggest sporting event.
Granted, it's uncomfortable bestowing a sports award on the noggin of a guy who takes pride in not knowing first down from third base. But, then again, it's exactly that awkwardness that makes Gordon Keith's role on The Ticket's Dunham & Miller morning show so damn entertaining. Hosts George and Craig provide adequate knowledge and guests to keep you interested, but it's the sadistic sidekick that violently yanks their show above the generic goo that is morning radio. Listening to Gordo is like watching slow-motion video of a human birth. Backward. Whether he's interrupting an Avery Johnson interview with "What's up with basketball?" or orchestrating a fictional "Jeremiah Ontario" bit in which the monotone Cowboy reads "Last night Jerry Jones snuck in my room and sawed off my leg," Gordo will gleefully push you down the dark staircase. And continue tickling as your skull smacks the concrete floor.

Readers' Pick
The Hardline The Ticket, 1310-AM
He doesn't have Mike Doocy's hair, Babe Laufenberg's history or Newy Scruggs' hip factor, but what Dale Hansen still has is the metroplex eating out of the palm of his hand. Two reasons: Hansen is both plugged in and unplugged. He provides viewers with a confidence (re: cockiness) that he knows the Cowboys privately and isn't afraid to rail on them publicly. While the other anchors provide similar news and slick features, Hansen continues to attract audiences with bullish opinions and brutal honesty. Whether it's on the Rangers: "They have sucked since the day I got here, and they suck again. Why are you people acting surprised by this development?" Or even on himself: "I'm a soft, fat old guy. Who am I to criticize? But you know I'm going to anyway, so here goes..." Rip on, old, soft fat guy. Rip on.

Readers' Pick
Dale Hansen

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