Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
You thought you knew how to picnic until you visited the Dallas Arboretum. No other swath of greenery boasts more professional picnickers per square foot. Come to think of it, no other spot in Dallas offers this much greenery or natural beauty. No wonder so many people commit an afternoon here, grazing al fresco while sitting on Grandmother's heirloom quilt. You could bring a couple of sandwiches and some sodas from the convenience store, but you will be made to feel very small. Here, the picnic baskets are the size of Volvos and everyone worth their weight brings wine. Sandwiches are for sissies, and spreads look like the buffet tables filled with exceptional food. And why not picnic here? Even on the most crowded days it's not hard to find a space — a small square of greenery where you can sit and relax and ponder finer things.
Here's a testament to the power of The Little Ticket: At least one of us at the Observer didn't give a rat's ass about sports until one day more than a decade ago when, bored with the blandness of Clear Channel-dominated music radio, we scanned through the AM frequencies and stopped at what sounded like a half-dozen smartasses talking at once, riffing and one-upping each other on jokes about that date's celebrity birthdays. That segment, "Why Today Doesn't Suck," the daily passing of the baton from lunchtime show BaD Radio to afternoon drive's The Hardline, was chaotic and hilarious then and still is today, even if Line Four Guy is seldom heard lately. We came for the bawdy guy talk and stayed for the hot sports opinions, which range from half-baked to insightful but are always entertaining to hear.
These days, it seems like everything awesome is happening in Oak Cliff. Restaurants, bars, entertainment venues; it's all there. Add golf to that list as well, with Stevens Park Golf Course embracing the effortless cool of the city's southern tip. A couple years ago, an $8 million overhaul was done on the course to shake it out of a dormant funk, and the result is majestic. Try your hardest not to stand slack-jawed as you play the 15th hole, with the Dallas skyline teasing your focus away as you hook a drive straight into a clump of trees. Go ahead and hit another, we won't tell anybody.
With the traditional outdoor batting cage slowly fading away from our landscape, one joint has the balls and bats to take things to the next level. D-Bat in Addison offers a slew of indoor cages where you can slug to your heart's content. The rates are pretty cheap and the baseballs are the real deal, so you can do your best one-kneed Adrian Beltre impression without laying down the suicide squeeze on your wallet. They even offer lessons, so if your swing game isn't what it used to be, you'll no longer have to suffer the furtive giggles of vicious packs of 8-year olds.
There are dozens of ways to enjoy the serene expanse of White Rock Lake, but one of the best is renting a kayak from White Rock Paddle Co. and taking it for a spin on the water. Challenge a private-school crew team to a sprint or just go for a leisurely aqua trek by The Bath House Cultural Center, Filter Building or 4009 W. Lawther Drive, better known as the Mount Vernon replica estate. If you take a camera with you, shell out an extra couple bucks for a dry bag. It could save you big time if your boat gets a little tippy.
Here in the city, it's easy to forget there are places within a short drive that are green, quiet and wild. Roughly half an hour from downtown, Cedar Ridge Preserve is 600 acres of pristine hills shot through with some nine miles of surface trails and occasionally challenging terrain. It's densely thicketed with cedar and some huge red oaks. The trail opens up at times on gorgeous vistas of heavily wooded hills and a gleaming Joe Pool Lake. Nobody charges you to get in, but let your innate altruism rule. Give what you can to the maintenance of the preserve.
The toss-'em-in-and-let-'em-figure-it-out method of swimming instruction, while appealingly free, is ineffective for many children. That's why swimming lessons exist, and you'll be hard-pressed to find someplace better at coaxing your young child out of his beloved Thomas the Tank Engine shirt and into swimming proficiency. The classes are small, with three kids per teacher, each of whom demonstrates a level of patience the awe-struck parents can only dream of.
Delonte West was, for a time, the most interesting man in professional basketball. He was the anti-star — a dogged defender, an able ball handler and an often clutch outside shooter who compensated for his lack of physical size and God-given talent by busting his ass during every second of court time he got. He brought depth and experience to the Mavs' bench, and he brought it on the cheap. But he brought something else too. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, West was real. He talked about his struggles with bipolar disorder. During at least one offseason, he worked construction. But it's his sense of humor we'll miss. His Twitter handle, @CharleeRedz13, was a strange and hilarious window into the mind of a man who once told an ESPN reporter at the Dallas Zoo that he'd just given birth to a baby cheetah. His delightful weirdness may also have had a dark side. The Mavs waived his contract following a still dimly understood "outburst" in the locker room. He finished a lackluster season with the Texas Legends. There are rumors that the Knicks and the Grizzlies are looking at him, but there is no chance that he'll ever don a Mavs' uniform again, and that just makes us sad.
You don't have to like gambling to enjoy Dollar Days at Lone Star Park. You don't even have to like horses, really. You just have to be able to enjoy the incredible fact that you can get into a fun and relaxed entertainment venue for a buck. It also helps if you appreciate a bottomless supply of hot dogs and ice-cold beer, which are also $1. After the third or fourth, you won't even notice that it's Miller Lite.
We'll probably never know exactly what happened in July 2012, when Angela Bryant, mother of the Dallas Cowboys' prodigiously talented wide receiver, told DeSoto police that she'd been assaulted by her son and then later recanted. Since then, however, he's given Cowboys fans reason to hope he's turned over a new leaf. He's now gone more than a year, including the entire offseason, without wading into trouble. During the same period, he emerged as a budding superstar. Whether this is the result of a newfound maturity or just extremely attentive handlers isn't terribly important, as long as it keeps him from being stupid.
Those harmless-looking older folks sitting in folding chairs somewhere around the lake? Yeah, all their "free advice" is about Jesus. If you're not careful, they'll try to pray the demons right out of you, and then what will you be left with? Lately they've taken to hanging out near the Porta-Pottys and buttonholing people who just have to pee, which is pretty low.
The welterweight division is perhaps the most talent-stacked division in Ultimate Fighting Championship, the biggest show in town when it comes to mixed martial arts. And the next challenger to that division's long-time champion, Georges St-Pierre, makes his home here in North Texas, in humble Mansfield. Former NCAA champion wrestler Hendricks packs the strength of a heavyweight into a 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound frame and throws a deceptively strong left that knocks out iron-chinned men with seemingly no effort. "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks claims he's never gone harder than 80 percent in a pro fight, but promises to push it to 100 for his November 16 title fight against GSP at UFC 167. Will that extra 20 percent be enough to overcome his underdog status? We're certainly not betting against him.