Give us Arlington elementary school teacher Audrey Simmons. Why? Honored by the Rangers as a frontline worker, she threw out the first pitch at the team's home opener this year. You'll remember that she got the ball when Gov. Greg Abbot backed out just hours before the scheduled start, in an odd protest to Major League Baseball decision to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta because of Georgia's recently passed restrictive voting laws. Calling it shameful that baseball was "being influenced by partisan political politics," Abbott did what Abbott do ... and tried to influence baseball with partisan political politics. Of course, the vast majority didn't care one way or the other, Simmons got her deserved moment, and we Texans gave the rest of the country another good laugh.

Best Face of the Franchise
Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Feed us the rock because this is the proverbial slam dunk. No doubt the Stars' Jamie Benn is one of the most respected captains in hockey, and being quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys obviously puts Dak Prescott in the spotlight, broken ankle or not. But nobody carries that Face of the Franchise mantle quite like the Mavericks' Luka Doncic. Heck, he's in the running for face of the entire NBA. Consider that in the Mavs' final win of the 2020-21 season, a 105-100 victory over the Clippers in the playoffs, the star forward had a hand in 31 of his team's 37 field goals, a mark of 83.8% and a league postseason record. Amazing talent, good looks, boyish charm. Simply put, Luka is the man. Or the face. Or whatever you want to call it. Regardless, he's ours.

Wide Receiver CeeDee Lamb nearly posted 1,000 yards last year despite the Cowboys' MASH unit of an offense, and Adolis Garcia has brought fun and excitement to the ballpark while challenging for the Rangers' rookie home run record. But you can't deny the impact that Jason Robertson had on the Stars this past season. Despite being a second-round pick in 2017, he was practically unheard of around these parts. That all changed when the left winger went on to lead NHL rookies in assists (28) and even-strength points (39) while ranking second in points overall (45). For his effort, Robertson was named to the league's All-Rookie Team and finished second in voting for the Calder Cup, given to the NHL's top rookie. Needless to say, the kid is all right.

With a little shoutout to SMU's rowing team for winning the first conference championship in program history, there's really no question that for 2021, success, thy name is Duncanville High School basketball. The Panthers took the UIL state title in 2019 and were expected to repeat in 2020 when the season was called off due to the COVID pandemic. No worries, Duncanville simply took care of business in 2021. Led by power forward Ron Holland, the top recruit in Texas for the 2023 class, and senior Zhuric Phelps, who won MVP honors in the championship game, the Panthers cruised to a 29-1 overall record and a 66-53 victory over Austin Westlake in the finale for the powerhouse's fifth state title.

Best Sporting Venue
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DFW can lay claim to having its share of unique sports venues. There's the American Airlines Center in downtown, the historic Cotton Bowl and, of course, the glitz and glamour of AT&T Stadium. While we would love to give the nod to Globe Life Field, the Rangers' new palace of air conditioning, we're still sorting out our feelings about the move from The Temple. Instead, in terms of a fun night at the ballpark, we're drawn to the intimacy of Riders Field, home of the Rangers' Double-A affiliate in Frisco. Since 2003 it's offered a mix of minor league charm and big-league conveniences. With a cheaper ticket and a team sitting atop its division, Riders Field can give you that needed Field of Dreams vibe. Except for, you know, there's an Ikea next door instead of corn.

Best Bike Trails
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Biking is a much smarter individual transportation solution than those city scooters that turned out to be a fiasco, plus it's great exercise, which we all need after a year of doing little to nothing. But in a traffic-heavy city such as Dallas, you want to know what to expect before you take off on a bicycle to the great unknown. The Santa Fe Trails are paved, smooth and bike friendly, and run from White Rock Lake to Deep Ellum — so you can start your day with a scenic route and end it with a beer and live show.

There's simply no cooler bowling alley than Bowlski's. The newly renovated Lakewood landmark is worth visiting even if you don't plan to bowl at all. The former movie theater now has Instagram op-worthy art, 10 lanes and a candy shop. Sometimes they book bands that perform behind the bowling machines — yes, you can hear them through all the noise. Entertainment director Moody Fuqua (formerly from Club Dada and RBC) also keeps the venue's adjacent bar, The Arcade Bar, booked with live music and dance nights, turning the place into a small entertainment Mecca.

Yeah, we know, the idea of a staycation is less appealing when you've been staying put for a year and a half, but at least you can make a point to get out of your damn house and spend most of your time outdoors. The Arlington hotel has an infinity pool that'll make you feel like swimming for infinity. The modern, upscale bed and breakfast is not your grandma's inn; the sleek, modern building is a design marvel, which is reason enough to rent a room and check out Arlington's entertainment district. The hotel's pool, however, is the indisputable star, with stunning views, a cabana and pool bar.

As much as we love to get a drink at a pool bar, swim-up or otherwise, there is a time and place for a family swim at a public pool with $3 admission and a good old-fashioned concession stand slinging nothing harder than sugary soft drinks. Unlike so many other options, the toddler pool is more than a shallow pool the size of a billiards table and the temperature of urine — it's spacious, cool and even has a slide and water-spraying playground. And for adults and big kids, there are two bigger (not Hurricane Harbor big, but c'mon, it's only $3) water slides, a lap pool, diving board, water basketball and a climbing wall where you can find out just how strong your fingers are right before splashing into the deep end. Plenty of shade and lounge chairs and spacious changing areas make it even more relaxing.

Flagpole Hill has seen a lot of sunsets since it was established in 1929. The 107-acre park is an outdoors paradise with trails, an inclusive playground (meaning it's equipped to accommodate wheelchairs, for example) and a large pavilion with picnic tables and grills. But most impressive is the park's view of White Rock Lake. Pro tip: if you climb up the stone steps to the platform that holds the flagpole area, you'll catch a view of the sunset between the trees that'll remind you of everything you love about living on your home planet.

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