Three days before Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline, the Rangers were dead. Deader than dead. They were five games below .500 and eight games behind the American League West-leading Houston Astros. But in the succeeding six weeks, the team went out and got the best pitcher available on the trade market (Cole Hamels) and caught up with the Astros. Despite being beset by injuries — the team's best starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, won't start a game this year — the Rangers have given DFW baseball fans one of the sport's tastiest delicacies: competitive, tense games throughout the last month of the season. No one saw it coming, but new manager Jeff Banister and his players have made it happen.

A couple of points: One, GO Kickball's list of rules fills nine pages, unlike the grade-school game you remember in which the only rule was "aim for the head." Two, among those rules is a strict ban on booze. No alcohol allowed at all. (Also different from school days. It was a tough school.) Despite that, GO Kickball in Dallas has grown to cover five sites and 25 different teams each season. It's that 200-lb. kid we all hated playing against in elementary school, the 11-year-old with the 5 o'clock. This is the same game you grew up playing, played now by failed, post-college athletes. And while some play for camaraderie — there's plenty of that — some are out to prove they shouldn't have been cut from the JV soccer squad, and watching them is pretty entertaining in its own right.

gokickball.com

With apologies to the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association and the fine work they do maintaining more than a dozen off-road bike trails in the area, we're skinny-wheel, city-traveling cyclists here. We prefer our paths to be fast, relatively smooth and reachable by pedaling from our front doors. Relatively lightly used for now, Santa Fe passes from woods and lake into the heart of Old East Dallas, through barrios and light industrial neighborhoods into Deep Ellum, where you can pick up Main Street straight across downtown. It's a comprehensive slice of the city, with places to stop for beer and chow along the way. (And really, don't pass up a chance to zip down Main Street, especially on weekends. East to west is gently downhill, so you can easily pace traffic and feel like Kevin Bacon in Quicksilver.)

friendsofsantafetrail.org

Eagle Gun Range

A few years back, Eagle Gun Range set up a Christmas promotion offering shooters free photos with Santa, who would be "bringing his favorite toys to share in the Christmas photos — his AR-15 and other firearms of choice." This was two days before the Sandy Hook school shooting. (They canceled Santa.) OK, so unfortunate timing, but that doesn't mean the idea itself was bad. Why not Santa? People like guns. Even some of use here at the Observer wouldn't mind a Sig under the tree. And here's the maddening thing for gun opponents: Professional, safety-conscious ranges like Eagle are the best argument going that government has no business infantilizing honest citizens by telling us we can't have guns. Eagle has a knowledgeable, friendly, well-trained staff and instructors who offer private lessons; an extensive schedule of CHL classes; affordable, high-quality rental guns; and safe, well-maintained shooting lanes in one of the best ventilated ranges in North Texas. Truth be told, we'd rather see the guys like those at Eagle and North Texas' other quality ranges with guns on their hips than some law enforcement officers we could name.

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