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And to think, he only entered the starting lineup in Week 5 after an injury to Roy Williams. What a debut it was. Filling in for Williams, the undrafted free agent from tiny Monmouth College caught 10 passes for a franchise-record 250 yards including the game-winning touchdown in overtime in a season-altering victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. With soft hands, uncanny escapability from defensive backs and blinding speed, Austin went on to lead the Cowboys in receiving yards and touchdown catches and make the Pro Bowl. In a season in which Williams was supposed to ascend to stardom, it was Austin who became Dallas' No. 1 receiver. Just for kicks, Austin has made two Sports Illustrated covers and started dating Kim Kardashian. Please, don't pinch him.
With the boxed body of the Big 12 Conference seemingly sawed into pieces and displaced from coast to coast, the embattled commissioner of our state's prestigious football fraternity dramatically, magically reassembled the body parts into a living, breathing, working whole. The result is that the Big 12 lives, rebooted and repackaged as a leaner, stronger-than-ever conference eternally bonded by tradition, unity and loyalty. Not bad for a conference that was twice pronounced dead during a chaotic May. Thankfully, Dan Beebe is David Blaine. His trick? Beebe didn't use smoke or mirrors or duct tape. He kept the Big 12 together via dollar bills. Greed begat the Big 12. Greed almost tore it apart. And in the end, mo' money saved it. Colorado and Nebraska will be gone come 2011 but, thanks to Beebe, the Big 12 will live on.
It pales in comparison to Jerry Jones' $1 billion stadium in Arlington, but for less than $190 you can hack it around one of Texas' premier tracks. If you don't mind the constant stream of thunderous airplanes that use Cowboys' 18th fairway to line up a runway, you can almost convince yourself you've left the metroplex. Dramatic elevation changes. Unique views. And, far as we can tell, not a blade of grass out of place. Even the putting green—shaped like a star, of course—is immaculate. Inside the clubhouse are replica Super Bowl trophies. Outside, you might just run into Cowboys such as Tony Romo. For your exorbitant fee, you get range balls, golf and all the food and non-alcoholic drinks you can inhale. Sample the jalapeño sausage near the 14th tee. You won't be sorry. Until the next day.
Ron Washington stayed and Vladimir Guerrero and Cliff Lee arrived, but nothing sparked the local baseball season more than the resurfacing of Hamilton. After a slow start, Hamilton lost a toe-tap timing mechanism in June and found his old swing. He again became one of baseball's best hitters, flirting with a home run/batting average/RBI Triple Crown that made us forget his horrible 2009 low-lighted by injuries and a certain Arizona episode involving whipped cream. Hamilton's power kept him among the leaders in dingers, but nothing signaled his return to glory more than a scorching liner against the Angels that bounded past the second baseman and all the way to the wall for a stand-up triple. Only Josh could take things that far.
Just when Ron Washington appeared on the fast track out of Arlington after disappointing seasons in his first two years as manager, Wash saved his job by leading the Rangers to a surprising 87 wins last year, but we learned in March that he tested positive for cocaine while doing so. Despite the implausible claim that it was his only time trying it and his subsequent admission to taking amphetamines as a major-league player and smoking pot in the minors, management stuck with him and somehow the label as a druggie never did. The issue fizzled quickly and now that Texas is headed toward its first playoff appearance in more than a decade, Wash's name is being tossed around as a candidate for the league's manager of the year, which seemed impossible for a guy who spent nine months in outpatient counseling as a result of testing positive for an illegal drug.
Seems a safe bet that this is one of the most competitive categories in this whole damn issue. In this corner, you have Eric Nadel, iconic radio voice of the Texas Rangers for more than 30 years. In this corner, you have Ralph Strangis and Darryl Reaugh, the only hockey announcers North Texas has ever known. Yet standing in the middle, stiff-arming the competition, stands Brad Sham, Dallas' version of Vin Scully. Yes, he roots for the Cowboys. But he does it eloquently, almost subtly, somehow without being a homer. And he's by no means a shill for Jerry Jones, evidenced by his memorable, disgusted calls of a rare catch by Martellus Bennett and an all-too-familiar drop by Roy Williams.