Best Breakout 2018 | DeMarcus Lawrence | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

For years, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has lamented his team's lack of a war daddy, his term for a dominating, pass-rushing defensive end. Last year, DeMarcus Lawrence developed into exactly the type of player Jones sought, putting up 14.5 sacks in a Pro Bowl campaign. If Lawrence can do it again in 2018, it will be good for him and the Cowboys. For the team, continued dominance by Lawrence should mean a return trip to the playoffs. For Lawrence, another outstanding season should get him the long-term contract he missed out on when the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him after the 2017 campaign.

Following University of Maryland Baltimore County's historic upset of the University of Virginia in the first round of March's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament — UMBC became the first-ever 16th seed to beat a No. 1 seed — Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis fired off the perfect tweet. In one sentence, he highlighted UMBC's location, obscurity and the fourth season of The Wire. "Bro UVA lost to the kids from the wire," he tweeted, and it was perfect.

WFAA's Mike Leslie brings a sharp, young voice to Dallas' local sports coverage, combining lively highlight calls with deep knowledge of multiple sports, as well as an engaging social media presence. He's a breath of fresh air from the same-old same-old, which is all that's on offer on some Dallas sports broadcasts. If you need to know something Dallas sports-related first, Leslie's Twitter feed is a good place to turn.

You can run through mud. You can run from zombies. You can run through mud from zombies. Then there are the disease-fighting runs: breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell disease, hemophilia. Trot for turkeys or run for the environment, for Jesus, for military veterans. And don't forget the color runs, which sound a lot more fun if you're the one biffing the runners with bags of colored chalk instead of doing the actual running. We swear, with all the running going on, it's amazing how many fat people live in this city. Until they come up with a Mud Run From Zombies to Combat Lard-Assedness (Plus Color!), we're going to go with the Katy 5K. It supports a good cause: helping maintain Dallas' favorite rail-to-trail conversion. It also comes with a picnic and two free beers at the end and no zombies. The race is held annually in June.

Note to Dallas people in charge of bike lanes: When painting bike lanes on city streets, please do not use manhole covers to line them up, especially those that stick 4 inches out of the pavement. We realize this is handy and probably good for lots of yuks back at the maintenance yard, but it's unpleasant for people on bikes. While we're at it, how about not putting so many bike lanes on streets with two-way stop signs with stops facing the bike lanes, not cross streets? We understand that cyclists should obey traffic laws, but running a stop sign on a bike isn't a capital crime in Texas (surprise!). All this is to say that we're going back to our old favorite, White Rock Creek Trail. Why? Because of its length of 15 or so miles and easy connections to the Cottonwood Creek Trail, Santa Fe Trail and Plano's (ahem) wonderful trail system, it's one trail that connects large swaths of the city, making a useful path for cyclists who want to use their bikes as a practical means of transportation. (It'd be even better if the bridge linking it to Northhaven Trail is built, and maybe a few more points of egress. Ahem again.)

Readers' Choice:WHITE ROCK Lake

Oooh, tough one here. Truth is, for all-purpose sports stores, the basic low-cost choices are big-box national behemoths like Academy Sports and Outdoors, Dick's, etc. Then things narrow down to more specialized shops — assorted gun shops, tennis shops, bike shops, REI for camping, Bass Pro and Cabela's for hunting and fishing, the list goes on. So why pick a store that's devoted to running for this general category? Besides the fact that Dallas is apparently a city of endless 5Ks, in most casual sports — i.e. walking — a key to get yourself out the door is comfy feet, and these guys know feet and how to find the right shoes to fit them. Even if you never run a step, Run On's reliable, well-trained, low-pressure staff will check your gait, measure carefully and send you out the door in footwear that's perfect for the court, fleeing zombies or a weekend walking the mall. Hey, that counts as exercise, even if you stop for a pretzel and gelato. You may leave with indigestion, but your tootsies will feel fine, and that's a start.

Readers' Choice:REI5929 E. Northwest Highway, 214-368-1938, and other locations

Not long ago, what made a gym popular in Dallas was probably more about the size of the facility, the amenities it provided and the cost of the membership. Today, gyms are more likely to be measured by the way they make you feel, the sense of community they provide and whether their offerings address the mind, body and soul. Now, a stellar workout is about total wellness, which is why GRIT Fitness tops our list. Founder Brittani Rettig believes in developing the whole person. A graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Business School, Rettig, who goes by Brit, found her passion in fitness and developed a holistic approach through classes that include traditional weights and cardio, athletic training — Did we mention Brit was the captain of the Cornell women's basketball team? — as well as dance, yoga and other tailored programs. Dallas corporate types, and many more, are finding balance with Brit.

Readers' Choice:24 Hour Fitness700 N Harwood St., 214-220-2423, and other locations

Jiu-jitsu, wrestling, judo, Muay Thai, boxing, kickboxing and karate — when integrated, they call it mixed martial arts, MMA for short. It's not for the faint of heart, but as UFC popularity continues unabated, more people are adding self-defense to their fitness routines. At Octagon MMA, you don't have to aspire to be the next Conor McGregor to reap the benefits of their MMA training facilities and the wide variety of classes and training options. Octagon instructors are among the best in the city and incorporate multiple disciplines into personal and group training sessions. Want to compete? They'll help get you competition-ready too. Good luck, badass!

Is your financial outlook already indicating that the lil' ones are going to need an athletic scholarship if they ever want to go to college? We understand. But keep in mind, the moolah won't be easy to come by if you already have to beg the coach to put him in. Here's some advice: You have to spend money to make money, and many North Texas soccer parents already know that an investment in a personal coach can make all the difference. For goalkeepers, former Dallas Sidekick Sagu is who you need to gain the edge. Through weekly personalized and group training sessions and summer camps, the no-nonsense native of Brazil — and goalie for its 1999 national team — will drill in the physical and mental keys to successful goalkeeping. Sagu is tough but compassionate, which is why his goalkeeping academy is so popular. And isn't it a fact that someone who goes by one name is probably pretty darn good at his work?

This is not your mother's spin class. Darkness and pulsating beats are just two precursors to the drenched condition you'll find yourself in 45 minutes after you begin your Soul Cycle class. This high-intensity workout requires only nominal coordination, good news for the less coordinated fitness enthusiasts among us. Once class kicks into gear, you're rarely "in the saddle" (read: seated). Instead, you're doing "jumps" (which are exactly what they sound like) or hovering a pinkie's length above your seats. Get excited to attempt pseudo-push-ups off the handlebar and somehow juggle 2-pound hand weights all while spinning. It hurts. But it hurts so good.

Readers' Choice:Soul Cycle

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