Upon Further Review

The year started innocently enough. I was living and working back on the Right Coast, making a little bit of money, looking optimistically toward the future. That's when things went horribly awry. I should have known. Hope is to me what a white Christmas is to Texans--a rumor enjoyed by people in distant, exotic locales. Before I knew it I was unemployed (note to readers: telling your boss that he/she is "fucking ridiculous," even when true, tends to be a bad idea) and panhandling on a street corner. OK, it wasn't that bad, but it was as close to street living as I ever care to come.

The Dallas Observer saved me from certain financial peril, but in exchange I was cast back into the crazed and often unpredictable world of Dallas sports. I imagine it's the sort of helplessness that Faust felt in the end.

And so it's come to pass that I've watched the Mavs surge and the Cowboys falter. I've gotten drunk more times than I can count and enjoyed the company of female reporters--all in the sacrosanct name of journalism. I've been involved with the exceptional (the Mavs cheerleader calendar party) and infuriated by the routine (trying to track down an apparition known as Rangers GM John Hart).

The year in review, or more accurately the past three months, follows. It's mostly a mess of observations colored with my own special tint. If you were looking for something more substantive, well, in the spirit of the holidays...bite it.

Oh, My Aching Balls: It began as nothing more than two friends talking but evolved into a crude sociological study. My pal and I started watching Cowboys games in a different way. We focused on Dave Campo and the various pained expressions contorting his face in any number of instances. You must have noticed it, too. Any time the field goal unit was slow to get on the field, it was there. Any time Quincy Carter made a bad clock-management decision, it was there. Bad calls, no calls, good calls, it was there. Come to think of it, it was almost omnipresent--a constant "dear God, it feels like someone keeps kicking me in the nuts" expression. Pobre Campo. Fortunately for his throbbing jewels, he was quickly put out of his misery when the season ended.

Was That Magnum PI?: I'm not sure what stroke of genius caused Don Nelson to cultivate that Chia Pet moustache, but I was sorry to see it go. There's not enough early-'80s fashion holding on out there anymore. Besides that, nothing says suave like a moustache. Nothing except back hair. Lots and lots of back hair.

I'm (Easily and Often) Confused: A few weeks back, during the Great Fold of '02--a weekend that witnessed the stupefying surrender of the Mavs to the Lakers, the Cowboys to the 49ers and a Stars tie against the Red Wings--an unfortunate and curious thing happened and went nearly unnoticed. The Rangers failed to offer arbitration to Pudge Rodriguez. Um, why? I understand the argument that he'd command serious money and that he doesn't call a great game, but even then, isn't he better than almost all the backstops in the league? Why not at least make an offer? Someone please explain this. I would have asked John Hart, but like I said, getting a hold of him is like getting an audience with the pope. Given the current climate, that gives me an idea: If I showed up dressed as a small boy, do you think Pope John would "receive" me? Just wondering.

Does He Know People Can See Him?: You've probably already made your own kind of peace with this, but, until recently, I hadn't been exposed to The Mark Cuban Show. I'd heard about it, but I hadn't actually seen it. And now I know why everyone was treating it like the end scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones tells Marion, "Whatever you do, don't look directly at it." I mean, dear Lord, that is one awful bit of television. Has anyone explained this to Cuban? Has anyone told him that there are people at home (though not many) watching this and laughing for all the wrong reasons? Anyway, next time he tells me or some other journo to think of an original idea, I'm going to pin back his eyelids and force him to watch one of his monologues.

The Shadow Doesn't Know: Has anyone else noticed that none of the sports columnists at the The Dallas Morning News, save Tim Cowlishaw on the rarest of occasions, ever nuts up and calls people out? I don't think the writers are afraid so much as I think Belo employs the "shadow theory." That is, most daily newspapers, or at least the ones I've worked at or read around here, tend to be afraid of their shadows. They'd rather write the benign or the obsequious than the tough or the real. Less fuss that way with readers and, more important, higher-ups. According to a little birdie, the top editors recently lowered the boom on their crew and told the columnists to be more hard-hitting. It was even suggested the paper may hire a new scribe to do that type of thing. That's funny, because Sports Day has a few of those pit bulls in the shop right now but won't unchain them. Memo to sports head honcho Dave Smith: Until you start properly using guys like Gerry Fraley and Cowlishaw, you can bring in all the new blood you want and your section will still be tired and meek. Oh, and happy New Year.

Johnny Mush: Did you ever see A Bronx Tale? There's a guy in the movie named Mush; everyone calls him Mush because whatever bet he makes--be it craps or ponies--turns to mush. Simple enough. Admittedly, I am the sports journalism equivalent of Mush. See, at a weekly newspaper, we have strange deadlines that require us to file our stories days before they're published. It doesn't tend to be a problem for the rest of the staff, but it frequently causes trouble for me because sporting events, remarkably enough, are played nearly every day. That's part of the reason why I'm known as Mush. I submit the following as proof, and for your amusement: The week I wrote a column on La'Roi Glover and the Cowboys defense, they promptly surrendered 37 points to New York. The week I wrote about Bruce Coslet and the Cowboys' anemic offense, they subsequently ran up more than 400 yards of offense against Jacksonville--their best output in two seasons. Those are only two quick examples and, believe me, there are plenty more. That doesn't mean my assertions were wrong, only that my timing was amazingly poor. For example, if I were a betting man, I would have done something foolish, like waiting until Game 15 to bet on the Mavs.

So, I'm probably better suited to write a pop-culture column focusing on pro wrestling, military history and the female form, but that would have an awfully small demographic. I guess we're both stuck.