We didn't want to give this to Academy. For one, it's a chain; worse, it won Best of Dallas last year. We wanted to give this award to some boutique. Some start-up. Something, anything else. We tried Uptown. We tried Duncanville. But in the end, that big box of a sporting goods store called us home. Do you need to outfit a youth football team with shoulder pads? Do you need a jock strap? A pair of $8 running shorts? Fishing apparel at 25 percent off? An adjustable basketball hoop? Tennis balls? Baseball bats? Camping gear? Well then, there's only one place to shop. Better still, all of this stuff's easy to find at Academy. Big signs point the way. And the store's layout makes sense: camping gear bleeds into fishing tackle, tennis rackets are near golf clubs. Sometimes, chains are good. Sometimes, excellence is worthy of repeated praise.

Readers' Pick
Academy Sports & Outdoors
It's history, man. Wallow in it; don't run from it. Sure, your knees cramp pressing against metal chair backs. If you're lucky you'll get one of those "obstructed view" seats where the upper-level overhang hides half the scoreboard. And there's nothing like the lingering stench of Ted Nugent's puke/piss cocktail, circa 1978. Ah, Texas Jam, inhale the bouquet. As has been the case since it opened in 1921, the Cotton Bowl is all substance, no style. In a perfectly polished era of luxury suites, retractable roofs and corporate names, this old joint refreshingly reeks of old school. Tom Landry coached the first Cowboys game here in '60. Sinatra, Elvis and Jim Brown all played here. President Franklin D. Roosevelt packed the place back in '36. In what-have-you-built-for-me-lately Dallas, our sterile stadiums are all waiter service and thunder sticks and hi-def replays on plasmas as big as Sri Lanka. Give us the charm. Give us the character. And, before Texas-OU bolts, give us one more trip through a living, breathing, stinking museum.

Readers' Pick
American Airlines Center 2500 Victory Ave.
OK, it may not top Nolan Ryan's noogie on Robin Ventura or Lenny Randle's sucker-punch of manager Frank Lucchesi in '77, but it was certainly the most bizarre in-game fight in Rangers history. On a muggy May night at Ameriquest Field, Rangers pitching ace and opening-day starter Ryan Drese mowed down the pathetic Kansas City Royals in the sixth inning of a 2-2 tie. What happened next was a scene you'd expect to see in Major League, but not the Major Leagues. A dugout discussion between Drese and catcher Rod Barajas about pitch selection escalated into a disagreement and then a barroom brawl. The two rolled around the dugout before teammates separated them. And the weirdest part: Minutes later the two returned to the field, held a brief visit on the mound, and Drese pitched a scoreless seventh en route to a 4-2 Rangers win. Drese was released two weeks later and, of course, the Rangers stunk happily ever after.
Men's Fitness may say Dallas is the sixth-fattest city in the country, but you'd never know it by jogging on the Katy Trail. Many of the city's beautiful people get that way by hitting this 3.5-mile trail that runs from Airline Road near SMU in the north to American Airlines Center in the south. The completion of the soft-surface running trail that runs alongside the concrete will be a huge bonus, and night illumination will be even better, assuming the Friends of the Katy Trail can raise that last bit of funds (the government money ran out a long time ago), but even in its current state the wide and even concrete ribbon is still a pleasure to sweat on. At peak times the urge to clothesline the omnipresent skaters may be difficult to suppress, but if you have a flexible work schedule (read: trust fund), the Katy is a scenic, convenient way to shed some of Dallas' trademark flab.

Readers' Pick
White Rock Lake

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