Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
To convince June Jones to leave Hawaii for the Hilltop, SMU athletic director Steve Orsini persuaded prominent boosters to cough up $1 million each to pay for the new football coach's five-year, $10 million contract. Over the last two years we've seen why it was a shrewd move. After a dismal one-win debut, Jones and his pass-happy offense restored some dignity to the Mustangs program with consecutive bowl-game appearances. SMU, led by quarterback Kyle Padron, gave undefeated TCU a game for three quarters in Dallas and after a 7-6 season lost a heartbreaker to Army in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Pony pride isn't all the way back, but thanks to Jones it's galloping in the right direction.
The older they grow, the better they age. While their few critics call it monotonous redundancy, their legion of P1 fans are convinced it's classic tradition. On the air together since 1994, the most consistently entertaining and highest-rated show on sports talk 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 guys being guys. It's — most important — about domination. Dunham & Miller are at this point basically lapping the field in Arbitron ratings. Every hour their show attracts twice the ratings as the offerings of ESPN-103.3 FM and KRLD-105.3 FM 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.
If you're an aspiring boxer hell-bent on blood, sweat and tears, get your ass down to old-school Doug's Gym on Commerce Street. For the rest of us — ahhhh — to the paradise with the palm trees. The Lifetime Fitness on Highway 121 in McKinney is like a five-star resort, complete with more than enough amenities to serve us peculiar, pampered types who want the contradictory experience of working out in total comfort. Ya know, no pain; no pain. There are indoor and outdoor pools; a café with full-service bar; a spa resplendent in cosmetic services; courts for basketball, racquetball and squash; locker rooms with free towels and big-screen televisions; a computer center; financial services; even a rock-climbing wall and water slides for the kids. Oh yeah, and they got some weights up in there, too. All that for like $100 a month. So we ask you, why not just live here?
The impetus behind the raucous run by Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks last spring? Um, turns out there was a girl in the boys' room. But not that kind. This kind: Throughout the playoffs Dr. Mary Collings laid her healing hands upon Dirk's aching back in a crack-ya-bones sorta chiropractic way. But Collings, a '93 graduate of Dallas' Parker College and founder of Las Colinas Spine & Sports Medicine and a second office in Highland Park, didn't just work her magic on Dirk. Last year alone she treated the Stars, Cowboys punter Mat McBriar, ESPN's Darren Woodson, PGA player Brandt Jobe, actor Chuck Norris, singer Alanis Morissette and even the Highland Park High School "Belles" drill team. During the Mavs' playoff push and into the NBA Finals, Nowitzki and guard J.J. Barea were weekly visitors to Collings' office.
There's a museum in the back, behind glass — quite the collection of old cards, catcher's masks and Civil War-era bats. And then there are the rows and rows and rows of cards, sleeved and stacked for cardboard-box browsing and shopping. And shop you will: Here, history's affordable, sometimes as low as 50 cents per bubble-gum memory. We shop here regularly, three generations of card collectors: the grandfather who worshiped men named Koufax and Mays; the son whose idols were Harvey Martin and Jim Sundberg; the youngest one for whom any guy in a uniform on a card is considered a hero. Each of us never fails to find something during each trip. Bonus: Nick's is kind of like a sports-lottery ticket-seller too, peddling unwrapped packs for a few bucks each, some of which contain rare autographs, pieces of uniforms or other invaluable keepsakes. Buy the ticket; only thing missing is the sunburn.
Any questions? Didn't think so. Because after a season in which the soft guy proved tough enough and the German who couldn't lead in fact led, the best player in franchise history kicked his critics in their skeptical crotches with a memorable season in which he won a championship, NBA Finals MVP, a couple of ESPYs and — oh yeah — another relatively useless Observer award. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James tried to make fun of Dirk's feverish cough in the finals, but after an onslaught of lefty layups and flamingo fadeaways the player for years deemed not quite good enough is finally the best.
Despite an often maddening kamikaze style that keeps him hovering around the disabled list and his preposterous claim, er, excuse that he struggles in day games because of his blue eyes — Cal Ripken Jr., anyone? — there is no doubt that the reigning AL MVP is the most talented and mesmerizing baseball player in town. When Hamilton was gone for five weeks with a broken shoulder, the Rangers were the model of mediocrity. With him in the lineup saving runs with his arm and generating them with his bat, Texas again looks like a team capable of going to the World Series.
Whether running routes for old friend Tony Romo or backup quarterback Jon Kitna, the best tight end in the history of the Cowboys does nothing except produce consistent results. He's the $28 million man with the 28-cent ego. With his team in turmoil via Romo's injury and the midseason firing of Wade Phillips, Witten kept on keeping on. With a subtle agility and pillowy mitts for hands, Witten caught 94 passes for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns and did it all with nary a chest bump or "look at me" celebration. The Cowboys were a disappointing 6-10 in 2010, but Witten, as usual, exceeded expectations.
Tons of indelible memories from the Mavs' playoff run. The big comeback in Oklahoma City. The bigger comeback in Game 2 of the finals in Miami. The sweep of the hated Lakers. But never has American Airlines Center been rowdier, louder or prouder than Game 5 of the finals. With the series tied at 2-2 the Mavs clawed out of a nine-point, fourth-quarter hole, capped by a dramatic long 3-pointer by Jason Terry right in LeBron James' mug in the final minute. James responded with a quizzical shrug, while Terry sprinted down court with his trademark wings out for a runway takeoff. The joint went bonkers, and fans left knowing that after 31 years their Mavs were only 48 minutes from a championship. Cue the chill bumps.
In a lackluster, playoff-less season in which Mike Modano and Marty Turco left, it was the spunky left-winger who arrived. Despite playing in Brad Richards' shadow, Eriksson was Dallas' second-leading scorer with 73 points on 27 goals (including six game-winners) and 46 assists and produced a team-high plus/minus of plus-10. The losing season cost head coach Marc Crawford his job and prompted Richards to leave via free agency, but at least the Stars have young players like Eriksson and Jamie Benn to liven up the future. Oh, who are we kidding? Hockey has never been worse or less relevant in this town.
Just when we were wrapping our hearts and minds around Dallas-bred soccer idol Kenny Cooper, he up and went overseas to play real fútbol. Like my grandma used to say, "Nothing wrong with leftovers." And so it is with Colombia-born midfielder David Ferreira. In just his second season playing up at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Ferreira earned Major League Soccer's MVP and led the surprising team to the MLS Cup. With him out of their lineup because of a broken ankle, FC Dallas was merely an average side early in 2011. Professional soccer still isn't popular out in the 'burbs, but with Ferreira, FC Dallas has a chance to again do something that transcends sports and cities — win.
In light of Ron Washington guiding the Rangers to their first World Series, this wasn't a no-brainer. But Rick Carlisle pushed all the right buttons in leading the Mavericks to their first NBA championship. After he shaved his head to honor his dad, Preston, and then it kinda didn't grow back, he looked like a scary Jim Carrey. But whether it was inserting DeShawn Stevenson into the lineup, believing in J.J. Barea or knowing when to throw a zone defense or even Ian Mahinmi at the Miami Heat, Carlisle was as valuable to Dallas' title run as anyone this side of the giant German. And to think, he was this close to being fired had the Mavs lost in the first round to Portland.