The Edge at Allen Station Park
Try as it might, corporate America hasn't yet succeeded in sanitizing the joy out of skateboarding. Eisenberg's in Plano has installed air conditioning, Cyclone in McKinney is being converted into a church and long ago ESPN2 strangled us with the X Games. But at the $6 million, 38,000-square-foot complex in Allen, you can still indulge in skateboarding without a hint of commercialism. (Great, so we get the Bush Library and let a radical concrete playground escape to the 'burbs? Thanks again, Mayor Miller!) Part of Allen Station Park, The Edge includes a multi-level skate park, two roller-hockey rinks and a killer BMX dirt track with 900 feet of dusty berms and 10 gnarly jumps. Admission—we hope you're sitting down—is free. Good to know the state's biggest outdoor skate facility can also be its coolest.
PGA Tour Superstore
Screw foreplay, this place is downright orgasmic—if, that is, you get aroused milling around a former old Plano Home Depot warehouse filled with sports memorabilia, a gazillion Izods, two bajillion clubs, a tennis court, a putting green, a chipping area complete with sand trap and countless driving range stalls equipped with computer analysis, simulated courses and a daily $50 closest-to-the-pin contest. Go in for a casual Sunday afternoon look-see and by the time you leave it'll be Tuesday. You'll get the usual golf gabfest about two-downs, three-putts, snowmen and worn-out impressions of Carl Spackler. But if you need anything to improve your game or at least a gadget to distract you from how seriously you suck, this is the place. Out front there is a Hummer golf cart selling for a cool $12,435. Like the sign says, "This is big."
Once upon a time, the sports gods smiled upon the sports fans of North Texas, which was a nice thing to do considering they'd been acting like jerks lately, what with none of the area teams surviving playoffs. In compensation, the game-friendly gods gave us "Mandy" and "Lauren," two Tarrant County-born, sports-obsessed 20-somethings with access to Blogger, digital cameras and too much free time. The result? Girls Gone Sports, the funniest, snarkiest sports blog on the 'net. GGS combines the newsiness of Deadspin, the sluttiness of Wonkette and the celebrity roasting-ness of Perez Hilton, sprinkled with shots of the GGS bloggers' cleavage alongside items like framed photos of Tony Romo. Instead of a "mock draft," the ladies held a "cock draft," and we suggest you check out the site to see what their prestigious "Panty Creamer of the Week" award is all about. These lady sports bloggers really have some balls.
Sadly, this was a helluva race. And, no, smart-ass, Bill Parcells and Buck Showalter didn't even make the ballot. Wilford "Crazy Ray" Jones and his trademark whistling left us in March after 43 years entertaining at Cowboys games. Lamar Hunt died in December, capping a remarkable career in which, among countless other highlights, he birthed soccer in Dallas and coined the sorta familiar name "Super Bowl." But the real kick to the crotch came in September when Byron Nelson ascended to the 19th hole. Known as "Lord Byron" for his elegant swing and eloquent manner, Nelson had the greatest single season in the history of golf in 1945 and proceeded to brand his name on the biggest fund-raising tournament on the PGA Tour. The EDS Byron Nelson Classic has raised almost $100 million for charities. Here's hoping Byron's tournament doesn't die with him.
In a year that saw the Stars, Mavs, Cowboys and even the damn Desperados eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, this is like having to choose which sister to kiss. Sisters named Phyllis Diller, Rosie O'Donnell and Tammy Faye Bakker. But on the afternoon of November 19, 2006, all was right. Making his first home start, Tony Romo completed 19 of 23 passes, Marion Barber ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and the Cowboys' defense picked off Peyton Manning twice in a 21-14 victory that ended the Colts' undefeated season at 9-0 and had coach Bill Parcells cawing, "If we keep playing like this, we have a chance to do something." The Cowboys, 6-4 after the monumental win, peaked at 8-4 and lost to Seattle in the playoffs while the Colts, if we remember correctly, played significantly better as the season progressed.
Dr Pepper Ballpark
Other than naked on a waterbed with Denise Richards, the best place to watch a baseball game has to be Frisco. For a whopping $9. In the swimming pool. If you're tired of IKEA, Highway 121's traffic or the world's largest coagulation of MILFs and SUVs, slip into your Speedo, munch on a hot dog and take in some Double-A baseball from the Dr Pepper Ballpark's right-field swimming pool. With the Rangers of the future guaranteed to be better than the Rangers of the present, you'll probably see a win. And when you get water-wrinkled, take a tour of the ballpark's bathrooms—the only stadium restrooms in America designed by an interior decorator. Swear.
We can think of no greater evidence of the stifling nature of daily journalism than the evolution of Matt Mosley. At The Dallas Morning News, Mosley was an irritating Bill Simmons wannabe whose on-the-scene Cowboys game-day reports, replete with pop culture musings and first-person anecdotes, were not one-tenth as funny as he thought they were. Left with little space and too much or too little editorial direction, Mosley's writing was, on his best day, trifling. Then, somehow the young journalist winds up on the most popular sports Web site in the world, ESPN.com, where he becomes one of the site's best writers, a legitimate rival to the legendary Mr. Simmons himself. From his reports on the Cowboys to his football blog to his appearances on local talk radio, Mosley has become a smart, informed and entertaining personality. His well-sourced reporting on the Cowboys (Tony Romo texts him on the golf course) is a boon to ESPN.com's national audience, while his ability to shift from commentator to storyteller makes him one of the most interesting sports bloggers around.
He didn't win a playoff series for his team. But for a change, he didn't lose one by himself. Pushed by newbie Mike Smith, Turco put together another stellar NHL regular season. In the playoffs—where he'd fallen on his face the last two springs—the goalie, criticized more than the Trinity River project, finally stood on his head. At least that's what we heard. When we saw Red Jumpsuit Apparatus play the intermission of the NHL All-Star Game we knew hockey would never get better, so we stopped paying attention. In the seven-game loss to the Vancouver Canucks, Turco pitched shutouts in all three of Dallas' wins. He allowed only 11 goals in seven games, five coming in the four-overtime loss in Game 1. Even in Game 7's 4-1 loss, two of the goals were last-minute empty-netters to totally skew his ledger. While Mike Modano continues to lose a step and some panache, Turco is clearly the Stars' star.
T Bar M Racquet Club
With eight clay courts, 14 hard courts and eight indoor courts sprawled across its 13 acres just south of LBJ on Preston Road, T Bar M is the Ghostbar of the Dallas tennis scene. There isn't a better spot in town to play. Or to watch. Or, let's be honest, to gawk at really hot tennis players. If T Bar M's 23 teaching professionals and state-of-the-art facilities don't blow you away, how about Anna Kournikova? Back in November the prettiest player to never win a damn thing stopped by the club for a little skills session before her exhibition match in Frisco. Her appearance drew more body enthusiasts than Gunther von Hagens' Fair Park exhibit. Next?

Wait a minute, you say. Lewis Carroll may have had chess on his mind when he wrote Through the Looking Glass, but the game isn't a sport, so why does a chess team rank a story in a Best of Dallas sports section? You're right. Chess technically isn't a sport. But bass fishing is. And golf. And televised poker.

Listen, if outsmarting a fish or some guy in plaid pants counts as sport, why shouldn't concentrating intensely over a chess board for four or more hours at a stretch against some of the best collegiate players in the world count too? Still not convinced? Then consider this, the University of Texas at Dallas' Chess Team took first and second place in the last Pan American Intercollegiate Championship and first place in the National Collegiate Championship.

National collegiate champions—there are some words you're not likely to hear applied to a local college football team anytime soon, so let's go with our strengths and call chess a sport. This is Dallas. We love winners.

UTD chess coach Rade Milovanovic has certainly coached his share of them in a program that has brought in a string of championships while boosting the international reputation of a school and...wait a minute again, you say. A chess team has a coach?

Sure does. A good one too, a former lawyer in the former Yugoslavia and international grand master chess player whose family moved to Dallas in 1998 as refugees from civil war.

"Sometimes life is very strange," says Milovanovic, whose chief memory of Dallas before moving here was as a boy in 1963 in Yugoslavia hearing news in school that John F. Kennedy had been killed. "After that I wouldn't imagine I would live in Dallas. Sort of like chess, life is unpredictable."

Milovanovic says his family's chief request when they were resettled from Bosnia in 1998, apart from medical care for an ill daughter, was "someplace not too cold." (Again, Dallas, go with your strengths.) Figuring that in his 40s he was too old to retrain for a law career here, he took menial jobs before meeting up with Tim Redmond, founder of UTD's chess program, whose team needed a coach.

Managing unpredictability is part of a chess coach's job—scouting the opposition to match his players to opponents with complementary strategies, picking a lineup, arranging travel and practices and videotaping opposing teams' defensive signals. (We made that last one up. A little NFL humor there.)

Another large part of Milovanovic's job is ensuring that his team members, who receive a mix of academic and chess scholarships, maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA. That's even more ambitious than it sounds, since UTD was created in part to help provide local brainpower for Texas Instruments, so it's already drawing from the high end of students scholastically, says chess program director James Stallings.

"We have the reputation now" to attract top players, Stallings says, making the chess team UTD's equivalent of the Longhorns for UT-Austin, though probably with a lot less emotional baggage than the stereotypical student athlete.

On a recent sunny Friday afternoon in a huge, brightly lit conference room on campus, team members were chatting above the click of timers and pieces landing on checkered boards, and everyone looked so...ordinary. Searching for Bobby Fischer? (So was the U.S. government.) There may be the odd sort hidden among the tables at UTD, but by all appearances, they're perfectly average-looking Texas college students who just happen to be way above average.

There are no freaks, geeks or emotionally fragile eccentrics muttering to themselves and stalking off to sulk in a corner. No temperamental asocial geniuses of movie and television scripts. There is, however, a couple with their young daughter, Stallings points out. During Friday team practice sessions, community members and families will occasionally drop by to seek a game. Where else, he asks, can Dallas chess heads find so many masters of chess in one spot?

Well, they might have to travel to Eastern Europe. The game's big there, which makes overseas a fertile recruiting ground for Stallings, which in turn helps him with one of his chief jobs, promoting UTD as a place for smart people. While a few team members are Texans or from parts north, others hail fromSerbia, Russia, India, Costa Rica and as far away as Mongolia.

Salvijus Berlys, an 18-year-old freshman from Lithuania, is among them. His family came to the States for the opportunities offered here to student athletes like him and his younger sister. "My sister plays tennis. I play chess," he says, though her playing can be a little more inconsistent, because "emotion gets in her head."

Lithuania has "maybe five" grand masters in total, he says. At UTD, that would barely fill the number of slots for players in one match. Still, the chess world is a relatively small community. Berlys says he knew some of his fellow players from his high school chess team in New York before he got here, so the culture shock coming to North Texas is small—most of the time, anyway. For instance, he was surprised not long ago, coming back from a match in South Texas, to be asked for his visa at the airport. Who needs a passport to travel to Brownsville? he wonders. Illegal immigrants from Mexico usually don't book a flight.

Luckily, the team won't be running the risk of border hassles with its big match come November, when they face their coach's alma mater, the University of Belgrade. The 16 versus 16 tourney will be over the Internet, and Stallings is making plans for a video link.

"To build a field a really good team, you have to have something to attract [players]," says Stallings, who is a marketer at heart.

And that might explain why the team is considering bringing cheerleaders to the big match against Belgrade. Why not? If the Cowboys could have cheerleaders all these years, why shouldn't a team of winners? — Patrick Williams

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