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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Sports: For Love of the...Um...Game

Web extra: Video of a Dallas Desire practice with running back Erin Marie Garrett's thoughts on the upcoming season.

OK, you can stop with the sniggering, Mr. Football Fan. And you, Ms. Feminist, don't grimace. Yes, we're talking about the Dallas Desire here, our city's franchise in the U.S. Lingerie Football League, but there will be no double entendres, puns or high-minded condemnations of sexual exploitation.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. To be a player on an LFL team, you have to be, if not a 10, at least somewhere north of an eight. And yes, the players—many of them models or actresses—take the field in sports bras and boy shorts. Sex appeal is certainly the selling point, but believe it or not, there's more than jiggles and giggles driving the Desire, which plays its first home game September 25 against the Denver Dream at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie.

There is, for instance, the football.Think they're not serious? Then picture the scene on a recent August afternoon on a field behind Hendrick Middle School in Plano. The sun is drilling down 95 degrees of hell, and the nearest breeze is somewhere near Lubbock. A dozen or so women, tanned and toned from a summer schedule of twice-weekly practices, don helmets and shoulder pads and line up for wind sprints.

Nary a giggle or tee-hee is heard."No walking on the field! No walking on the field!" a coach shouts, urging a few stragglers to hustle as the squad lines up for a series of practice kickoffs. "Attack, Liz, attack!" shouts another as the players scramble down the field in pursuit of a kick.

Being pretty shouldn't be this much hard work.

"We've heard some say it's degrading for women," says Erin Marie Garrett, who plays both running back and defensive line. "[But] we are athletes...Who's to say you can't look good while doing something and do it well?"

Like most players on the Desire, Garrett will play both sides of the ball, since the team only fields a 12-woman roster, with eight inactive players as backups. It's seven-on-seven, full-contact tackle, but there's no punting or field goals, the halves are 15 minutes long, and the field is just 50 yards. Otherwise, it's pretty much football as usual. Like this year's Best of Dallas® icon Rosie the Riveter, these women do everything men do. Only cuter. It's sort of like subbing the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders for America's Team on a Sunday—which, come to think of it, might not be a bad idea.

Off the field, Garrett models, acts, sings and works part-time in retail. If the league, which got its start as a half-time diversion shown on pay-per-view during Super Bowls, is successful, she hopes to parlay the exposure to boost her career off the field. Beyond that, though, the Desire gives her camaraderie with her teammates and a chance to exercise her competitive spirit. (She's played basketball and volleyball and performed in gymnastics and cheerleading in college in Florida.)

"A lot of us are competitive in nature..." Garrett says. "I like to hit hard. It's really a great way to get out some aggression and do it legally."

Sometimes, those hits bring pain.

Running back and defensive linewoman Jessy Jamez—also a model—was sitting out the recent practice with a pulled hamstring injured during tackling drills in a prior practice.

"It felt like I was going to be out the rest of the year, that's how bad it hurt," Jamez says, but she hopes to be ready to retake the field as the team ups its practices to four nights a week, three hours a night—not exactly NFL standards, but a fairly large commitment and a measure of how seriously this team of part-time players takes the game. "The lingerie portion of it is to entice people to the game," Jamez says. "After that, they want to see us play."

To make sure the play is up to snuff, the Desire has hired ex-NFL players as coaches. Head coach Antuan Edwards, for example, was drafted in the first round out of Clemson University in 1999 and played seven seasons in the pros, five of them as a defensive back for Green Bay. "Pretty women, you can see every day at the shopping mall," Edwards says, so when the Desire suits up fans will expect to see some football. "You guys are going to be amazed when we get on the field."

Well, one imagines that's the point of anything called lingerie football, but to be fair to the women, so what? There's beauty in the body of a finely chiseled athlete, in a long pass, a graceful kick return. Aesthetics is as much a part of our enjoyment of the game as cold beer, and if the Desire emphasizes the beautiful over the brutal in football...well, just sit back, enjoy the show and contemplate the sage words of Deion Sanders.

"When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you play good."Patrick Williams

Best Cowboy

If his teammates would've played anywhere near his performance in 2008, the Cowboys might have lived up to their Super Bowl hype instead of pratfalling their way to 9-7. An 11th-round afterthought in the 2005 NFL Draft, Ware has blossomed and matured into one of the league's best defensive players. A stand-up linebacker who beats bigger, stronger linemen with a dazzling combo of speed and agility, Ware last season recorded 20 sacks, forced six fumbles and generally caused havoc on a defense that otherwise wholly underachieved. How good is Ware? He had a sack in 14 of last season's 16 games, was an NFL MVP candidate and was named the league's sixth-best player in a recent ESPN poll. A Cowboys star with nary an arrest, divisive romance or accidental overdose. What a concept.

Best Debut

Along about the time America's hockey moms were learning about Joe the Plumber, Dallas' hockey fans were introduced to Fabian the Fantastic. At least, he was for a minute. In his first NHL game back in November, the forward produced a hat trick—that's right, three goals—to lead the Stars to their first victory of the season. But before you could say "How Swede It Is!," the magic vanished. Only the third player in hockey history to debut with a hat-trick lid-lifter, Brunnstrom scored only 14 more goals the rest of the season to help the Stars not make the playoffs. Call it a case of premature adulation.

Best Decision-Maker

It was a long road for the Texas Rangers' general manager to make it from 20-something punch line to savvy veteran brainiac. But what do ya know? Here he is. The same guy who traded Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez to the San Diego Padres for Adam Eaton and who dealt John Danks to the Chicago White Sox for Brandon McCarthy is suddenly giving his team a competitive advantage with his crafty maneuvering. Because of Daniels, the Rangers have the best farm system in baseball. His decision to allow shortstop Elvis Andrus to skip AAA right to the Rangers was genius. And his junk-pile pick-ups of Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel and Darren O'Day were so shrewd they have the Rangers flirting with the playoffs for the first time in his regime. Daniels has taken a beating. Time for him to take a bow.

Best FC Dallas Player

For the first time since moving from the Cotton Bowl and erasing its Dallas Burn tattoo, FC Dallas has a recognizable, identifiable face of the franchise. Cooper, whose dad was a goalie for the Dallas Tornado back in the day, is the future of Dallas soccer. He's one of ours, growing up playing in Dallas' famed youth programs, starring for Solar Club. Don't look now, but he's all grown up into a Major League Soccer All-Star. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he's built more like a running back, and brute strength is a part of his game, part of the reason he started this season with twice as many goals and shots as any teammate. Dallas' local Player of the Year while at Jesuit in '03, he's played with Manchester United in England and has a chance—a chance—to finally make professional soccer popular out in the 'burbs .

Best Local Sports Radio Show

Given Greg Williams' departure from The Hardline, the most consistently entertaining/informative show on the radio belongs to George Dunham, Craig Miller and Gordon Keith, weekdays 5:30-10 a.m. on The Ticket. It's about sports. It's about life. It's about nothing. It's about everything in between. It's—most important—about domination. Dunham and Miller are at this point basically lapping the field in Arbitron ratings. Every hour their show attracts twice as many listeners as the offerings of 103.3 FM ESPN and 105.3 The Fan. Combined. Over the years they've developed the perfect recipe for morning radio with tasty pinches of interviews, topical headlines via "Muse in the News" and heady, though sometimes homerish takes across our sports smorgasbord. Some of us set our watches by "Ladies Day," Thursday mornings in Gordo's Corner.

Best Local Sports TV Anchor

Channel 8's Dale Hansen may have pushed our policy on term limits had his creepy love affair with weatherman Pete Delkus not deteriorated from witty to warped. But then again, Babe is quickly becoming the Cowboys voice in this town. Not only is he an insightful analyst on Dallas' radio broadcasts and the host of the weekly TV show with head coach Wade Phillips, he also conducted the most provocative interview of the year—his May hotel sit-down with Tony Romo in which the quarterback generated a stir with his thoughts on leadership, a possible Super Bowl and now-ex Jessica Simpson. Like he was as a career backup quarterback in the NFL, Babe isn't flashy, just fundamental. Plus, he has more hair on his chin than Hansen has on his head.

Best Maverick

OK, can we retire the trophy? For a decade now, the giant German has been as consistent as he's been spectacular. And, to think, 2008 might have been his best season. He didn't push the Mavs to the NBA Finals or win an MVP, but he again heart-and-soul'd Dallas to a 50-win, playoff season. With the smoothest, deadliest jumper in the history of 7-foot humans, Dirk again was an All-Star and All-NBA selection while averaging 26 points and 8 rebounds. But his most impressive performance came in a playoff series loss to the Denver Nuggets. While physically shoved around by punk Kenyon Martin and psychologically tormented by the arrest of fiancée-turned-fraud Crystal Taylor, Nowitzki didn't miss a beat with 27 points per game. If he retired today he'd be the Mavs' all-time best player. Here's hoping he doesn't.

Best Owner

Coming in second and third, respectively, are guys who insulted the mother of an opposing player during the playoffs (Mark Cuban) and needed a loan from Major League Baseball to make payroll early this summer (Tom Hicks). So Jones may be a bit sheepish about this award, but there's nothing understated about his $1.1 billion Jonestown Coliseum, better known as Cowboys Stadium. The joint—christened by George Strait and almost immediately thereafter polluted by the Jonas Brothers—is making Arlington the country's latest, greatest sports mecca. It's dazzling. It's colossal. It has a 60-yard video screen. But if Jones wants to keep this trophy next year, he better make one important transaction: Firing a bone-headed general manager. Goes by the name of Jerry Jones.

Best Pissin' Match

Watching billionaires scrap over millions is almost as fun as watching bikini-clad women mud wrestle. Almost. When Perot sold the Mavericks to Cuban in 2000, he held on to a small slice of the pizza. And when his Hillwood Development Co. lost its ass in the failed Victory Park ghost town, he decided it was Cuban's illegal shenanigans that were keeping him from being delivered extra toppings. Clueless as an owner, Perot was also naïve trying to pick what he thought would be a private fight with a very public figure. Cuban's response to Perot's lawsuit was akin to Samuel L. Jackson's Pulp Fiction character commanding, "Well, allow me to retort." Cuban accused Perot of being "desperate" and looking for "nickels in the sofa" while lamenting not buying out Perot's ownership stake in 2000. Ouch.

Best Place to Watch an Athlete Watch Sports
Ten Sports Grill

They go to Bob's Steak & Chop House when they're hungry. They flitter over to Dragonfly at Hotel ZaZa when they want to get their drink on. But when rich and famous athletes want to hunker down and watch sports over a cold beer in a hot spot, they congregate at Ten. At the corner of Main and Field, the downtown sports bar has hosted such celebs as Steve Nash (who stopped by to watch some English soccer), Charles Barkley (who stopped by to watch some NBA Playoffs) and Shaquille O'Neal (who stopped by because he knew he'd be recognized, but not mobbed). Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Eduardo Najera and even the band Puddle of Mudd have been known to pop in. SMU hoops coach Matt Doherty is a regular. With nine hi-def plasmas, a prime location adjacent to Hotel Adolphus and just the right dash of ambience and anonymity, Ten has become the Bo Derek of Dallas sports scenes.

1302 Main St., Dallas, 75202
Best Play-by-Play Voice

Seems a safe bet that this is one of the most competitive categories in this whole damn book. In this corner, you have Eric Nadel, iconic voice of the Texas Rangers for more than 30 years. In this corner, you have Ralph Strangis 'n' Darryl Reaugh, the only hockey announcers North Texas has ever known. Yet standing in the middle, stiff-arming the competition, stands Sham, Dallas' version of Vin Scully. Other than his smooth, understated delivery and unapproached knowledge of his subject, the great thing about Sham is his refusal to be a sugarcoated Cowboys shill. After last December's embarrassing 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in which the Cowboys pussed out and were peed on, Sham told his audience, "This is a ridiculous embarrassment...There's not enough Maker's Mark in the world to take the sting out of this one." Bravo!


Sports: For Love of the...Um...Game:

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