Has any owner ever enjoyed a championship more? Considering the decade, cash and passion invested into his Mavericks, he deserved it. After Dallas' first pro basketball title, Mark Cuban took the Larry O'Brien trophy to the urinal, took a cheap shot at sorta partner/definitely enemy Ross Perot Jr. and got the last laugh on his critics. Whether it's keeping the faith in Dirk Nowitzki, sticking with Jason Kidd or shelling out the big bucks to sign Tyson Chandler, Cuban is nothing if not determined to put himself and his team in the best position to win. As if that's not enough, every week he jumps into ABC's Shark Tank. Impressive.
Channel 8's Dale Hansen may have pushed our policy on term limits had his banter with weatherman Pete Delkus not deteriorated from witty to warped. Mike Doocy has the advantage of batting first in the sports wrap-up show game each Sunday night, and more often than not he takes advantage with a solid, often spectacular Sports Sunday on Fox 4. His highlights are comprehensive. His graphics are by far the best on local television. He provides one-on-one interviews. And his popular "Open Mike" segment gives a voice to everyone from Steve Busby to Tony Casillas to RJ Choppy. Furthermore, we know Hansen is secretly jealous of Doocy's perfectly coiffed hair. Actually, that's not a secret.
Dr Pepper Ballpark
Other than naked on a water bed with Kate Upton, the best place to watch a baseball game has to be Frisco. More specifically, at a RoughRiders game. For a whopping $9. In the swimming pool. Doubt you can watch quality baseball while sipping a beer in a floatie and you're probably still in denial over the fact we have alligator gar in our lakes and orange-barrel construction zones all over our highways. Ring a bell? If you're tired of IKEA, Highway 121's traffic or the world's largest population of SUVs and DDs, slip into your Speedo, munch on a hot dog and take in some Double-A baseball from the Dr Pepper Ballpark's right-field cool pool. 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.
Atractosteus spatula, the alligator gar (which actually has a head like a spatula), is the largest exclusively freshwater fish species in North America, and we have tons of these strange prehistoric-looking monsters of the shallows right here in the city. A slow float down the Trinity River through the Great Trinity Forest can turn up lots of these dinosaur-looking deals cruising with their broad backs just above the surface. They can grow to 10 feet and 300 pounds, so watch out when they slap water next to your canoe. The state will let you take one of them per day without a size limit, but you know what? Just looking at them and leaving them alone can be even more satisfying.
Cowboys Golf Club
It pales in comparison to Jerry Jones' $1 billion stadium in Arlington, but for a mere $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 with a runway, you can almost convince yourself you've left the city. 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.
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 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 drop by Roy Williams and a missed block leading to Tony Romo's injury by rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski. Quipped Sham before a win over the Texans last year, "If the Cowboys can keep from slipping in their own drool they'll be OK." Touche.
Just as Jason Garrett changed the culture of the Cowboys in 2010, Tyson Chandler transformed the Mavericks' defense. After a decade in which the team tried to out-offense opponents as its only path to victory, the Mavericks suddenly won games 91-89 instead of 121-119. In the middle of the identity switch was the Mavericks' defensive anchor, a free-agent center who blocked shots, took charges and barked instructions to teammates en route to earning third place in the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year voting. Dirk was Dirk and Jason Kidd was almost better than ever, but the Mavs don't win a championship without Chandler in the middle.
We know he inexplicably wanted to pitch in Philadelphia, and we recognize that the Rangers' starting rotation has been dominant for most of the season. Still, he is Cliff Friggin' Lee. And when he drove in more runs as a hitter in June than he allowed as a pitcher, we can't help but be jealous. Lee wasn't perfect in Texas, but he did win Games 1 and 5 against Tampa Bay in the Rangers' first ever playoff series triumph and then he shut out and humiliated the Yankees with 13 strikeouts in a crucial Game 3 of the ALCS. Here's hoping the Rangers again get to the World Series but don't have to face the Phillies and their former ace.
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.
Oak Cliff Nature Preserve
It's a little tricky to find. If you're going south on Interstate 35E, take Illinois Avenue west about two miles to Pierce and hang a left (south) less than half a mile past the houses. Turn toward a parking lot at the back of an apartment complex and you'll see the trailhead and some parking to your right before you get to the gate to the apartments. If you yearn for a really well-designed biking trail, it probably doesn't get better than this inside the city. The Oak Cliff Nature Preserve is 121 acres on an old Boy Scout camp. The Texas Land Conservancy has partnered with the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association to create a series of clearly marked, well-maintained bike trails at all levels of challenge, from beginner to semi-nutcase. And if you haven't seen this part of Dallas before, you're going to be knocked out by the topography ... maybe literally.

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