Happy Birthday, America’s Sports!
Good news: In 2021, sports returned.
Bad news: As they’ve done since 2011, Dallas-Fort Worth teams receded.
After a cheer-less 2020 thanks to COVID, this year is much more festive. Sports are back. Fans in the stands. Championships being won.
At least, that is, in some parts of the world and most of America. But in DFW, our decade-long “lockdown” – a pandemic of playoff pratfalls – drags on.
Fourth of July be damned, around here it’s all red, white and boo.
Fireworks? Sure. Victory cigars? Sorry.
It’s been 3,677 days since the Dallas Mavericks vanquished the Miami Heat and we last celebrated a championship. How long ago was June 11, 2011? Re-visit those iconic photos of the Mavs on the victory stage, hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in Miami’s American Airlines Arena.
Dirk Nowitzki has retired. Rick Carlisle has resigned. Don Carter passed away. Donnie Nelson was fired. Mark Cuban remains, of course. But none – zero – of the players from that roster remain in the NBA, much less in Dallas.
The one player who is still here is back … as the head coach: Jason Kidd.
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Even with superstar Luka Doncic producing eye-popping, record-setting statistics, the Mavs haven’t won a playoff series in 10 years. Their failure has friends.
The Texas Rangers haven’t flirted with a title since that same 2011, when Nelson Cruz failed to catch thefly ball in Game 6 of the World Series in St. Louis. The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won two playoff games in the same season in a quarter century. The Dallas Stars made an inspiring run to 2020’s Stanley Cup Finals, but flubbed the encore by missing the postseason and remaining 0-for-this-millenium.
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The bigger picture, unfortunately, isn’t much more positive.
America used to dominate. But what once was Mike Tyson (boxing) and Lance Armstrong (cycling) and Pete Sampras (tennis) and Mike Modano (hockey) and Tiger Woods (golf) hogging championships has slowly deteriorated into first place being owned by a bunch of foreigners named Tyson Fury and Egan Bernal and Novak Djokovic and Nikita Kucherov and Jon Rahm.
Not long ago we set our watches by the championship appearances of LeBron James and Serena Williams, but both were recently knocked out of their first rounds of the NBA Playoffs and Wimbledon.
The NBA’s last three MVPs have been from Serbia (Nikola Jokic) and Greece (Giannis Antetokounmpo). We lost the Ryder Cup. The Davis Cup. We won’t win the Tour de France. We’ve only won one World Baseball Classic. We never sniff advancing in the men’s World Cup. We’re not even a lock any longer to win sailing’s America’s Cup.
Of course, all is not lost. The Olympics beckon in Tokyo in three weeks. And, if all else fails, we’ve won the last 13 July 4th Hot Dog Eating championships, thanks to Joey Chestnut.
We may have to squint a little harder to see them, but there are still countless reasons to be proud of American and DFW sports. On this Fourth of July – between the burgers and bikinis – take time to admireand appreciate each unique candle on this homemade, 245-candle cake.
Here’s hoping it reminds you how fortunate we are to have a variety of sports, and the freedom to choose which ones we love and/or loathe.
Happy Birthday, America’s sports!
Consume this list in one gulp. Or nibble all during the holiday. Whatever.
It is, after all, a free country.
245. Face masks on sports helmets, not civilian heads.
244. Dak Prescott, somehow simultaneously underrated and now overpaid.
243. Brett Hull’s “no goal” goal in the wee early morning hours in Buffalo.
242. Aaron Hernandez, Josh Brent, Tim Donaghy, Lance Armstrong, Terdema Ussery and Robert Kraft, each held accountable.
241. Cris Collinsworth’s insight and Tony Romo’s intuition.
240. Zion Williamson’s hops and hope.
239. Dirk Nowitzki (I know, I know. But he feels like one of us, yes?)
238. Joey Gallo’s exit velocity.
237. Johnny Football, fleeting as it was.
236. Wiffle Ball in the back yard.
235. Labor peace.
234. Kawhi Leonard’s humility.
233. The Colonial in Fort Worth, same as it ever was.
232. Cowboys’ Super Bowl expectations. Every single year.
231. Tim Hardaway’s elevated jumper.
230. The Byron Nelson, whether in Irving or Trinity Forest or Craig Ranch.
229. High school football championship week at AT&T Stadium.
228. The Triplets, inducted into the Ring of Honor on the same night.
227. Jordan Spieth’s past, Ezekiel Elliott’s present and CeeDee Lamb’s future.
226. The star on the helmet.
225. Yankees pinstripes.
224. The 18th at Pebble Beach.
223. Dollar Dog Night.
222. Cotton Bowl, still immune to corporate namesakes after all these years.
221. “Hail Mary” and Touchdown Jesus.
220. The Ice Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Beer ’n Bowl.
219. Amari Cooper’s tippy toes.
218. Cameron Crazies and Reunion Rowdies
217. Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.
216. Zack Martin, silently spectacular.
215. Serena and Venus Williams.
214. Boston’s Green Monster and Augusta’s green jacket.
213. The 12th Man.
212. Brian’s Song.
211. Sammy Baugh, Doak Walker, Davey O’Brien and Kyler Murray, soaring over their size.
210. “H-O-R-S-E,” “Hot Box” and “Tackle the Man with the Football.”
209. Happy Valley and March Madness.
208. Vince Young in, around and through USC’s defense.
207. The 7th-inning stretch and “Down the stretch they come!”
205. The Southwest Conference.
203. “Gentlemen, start your engines!”
202. Rougned Odor’s fist and Nolan Ryan’s headlock.
201. Vince Lombardi.
200. Donnie Nelson, for discovering and delivering our favorite imports (Dirk and Luka).
199. Kobe Bryant.
198. The Manning Family.
197. The Three J’s, The Four Horsemen and The Fab Five.
196. “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
195. Hawg hats, Fort Worth Cats and Minnesota Fats.
194. Mark Holtz’ “Hello, Win Column!” Yes, still.
193. A two-putt birdie.
192. Wide Right and Student Body Left.
191. Josh Hamilton’s power electrifying Yankee Stadium in the Home Run Derby.
190. The smell of fresh-cut grass on Opening Day.
189. SMU’s Pony Express ’82 and Dallas Carter ’88, our best teams to not lift the trophy.
188. Boban Marjanovic’s size and disposition.
187. Pizza delivered exactly five minutes before kickoff.
186. The hole in the roof so God can watch his favorite team.
185. “The Immaculate Reception.”
184. Jinxing a no-hitter.
183. Jimmy Connors at Flushing Meadows. At night.
182. Alligator arms, swim moves and The Shark. Kenny Gant, not Greg Norman.
181. Tom Dempsey’s long kick with a short foot.
180. The Silver Boot, the Iron Skillet and plain ol’ braggin’ rights.
178. Hansen, Hitzges and Galloway. Throw in The Old Grey Wolf.
177. Fans who refuse to do “The Wave.”
176. Hat tricks via bicycle kicks.
175. Chris Woodward, suddenly the dean of DFW head coaches.
174. NFL Films.
173. God’s gifts to Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Bob Hayes.
172. Bobby Knight’s sweaters. And trifecta bettors.
171. Sean Lee’s tenacity, transferred to Leighton Vander Esch.
170. Michael Young’s character.
169. Red Zone Channel.
168. Two points, three-peats and four-baggers through the five hole.
167. Robert Hughes.
166. Slap Shot.
165. Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston and Michael Irvin on the other side of the camera.
164. John Wooden’s program, Jerry Tarkanian’s towel and Red Auerbach’s cigar.
163. Booing Roger Goodell. Admiring Adam Silver.
162. Taking your glove to the game.
161. Tatu. And tattoos.
160. “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”
159. Amen corner. And Death Valley.
158. Nike vs. Reebok vs. Adidas vs. Under Armor.
157. No. 16 over No. 1.
156. “Boomer Sooner”, “Rocky Top” and “wake up the echoes.”
155. Kindred spirits who also hate Joe Buck.
154. Phil Jackson’s Triangle and Dean Smith’s four corners.
153. The versatility and vision of Colin Kaepernick.
152. The Great One and The Greatest.
151. Instant replay.
150. Monday Night Football’s original theme music.
149. “Havlicek stole the ball!”
147. The Ring of Honor.
146. Between the hedges.
145. Shutting up Spike Lee.
144. The Von Erichs at the old Sportatorium.
143. The chills + a hangover + the day off=the Cotton Bowl.
142. Two minutes for roughing.
141. 30 for 30.
140. The Cubs’ “Friendly Confines” vs. the Raiders’ “Black Hole.”
139. The Zamboni.
138. Yankees-Red Sox, Duke-North Carolina and Michigan-Ohio State.
137. ”He could … go … all .. the … way … !!!”
136. Jimmy Johnson, Canton-bound.
135. Tailgating, tickets or not.
134. Heisman hype.
133. A blue parking pass.
132. Eyeballs vs. analytics.
130. Tim Duncan’s bank shot.
129. Rick Barry’s underhand free throw.
128. Goal-line stands and the Stanford band.
127. “Can I have your autograph?”
126. Tom Brady in the pocket and Patrick Mahomes out of it.
125. DeMarcus around the edge, both Ware and Lawrence.
124. Brad Sham, Eric Nadel and Chuck Cooperstein. Yes, we are blessed.
123. Lambeau Field, January.
122. Sports talk radio wars.
121. Then: Defense wins championships; Now: First one to 50.
120. “Steeeerriiiike Three!,” “Let’s play two!” and “We’re No. 1!”
119. Roger Staubach down 13 with 2:19 remaining.
118. Dropping the gloves. And catching big air.
117. Kareem’s “Sky Hook” and Errol Spence Jr.’s right hook.
116. “Coooold beeeeeer!!”
115. Robert Horry, Adam Vinatieri and Mariano Rivera, when it really matters.
114. Bobblehead night.
113. The fair pole.
112. Anyone who beats Nick Saban.
111. Doomsday Defense.
110. Your baseball cap in the dishwasher; shoestring around your glove.
109. Office pools.
108. “Pistol Pete”, Sampras and/or Maravich.
107. Day games.
106. “The Catch.”
105. Jason Kidd, three times a Mavericks’ savior.
104. “Hey, ump, you’re missing a great game!”
103. North Dallas Forty.
102. Soccer moms.
101. Michael Johnson’s golden shoes.
99. Shirts and skins.
98. “The Iceman.”
97. 17-0 in ’72.
96. Winners and losers. Not participation plaques.
95. Yellow cards, yellow flags and the yellow first-down line.
94. Gary Patterson hitchin’ up his britches.
93. 56-game hitting streak.
92. “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!”
90. “You Cannot Be Serious!” and “Practice? We talkin’ ’bout practice?!”
89. J.J. Watt, American hero.
88. Skip Bayless, permanently muted.
87. The two-minute warning.
86. Emmitt Smith out the other end of the pile.
85. The Laker Girls and the Cowboys Cheerleaders.
84. Ryder Cup vs. Davis Cup vs. Stanley Cup.
82. Seeing your breath on a small-town Friday night in December, population
81. Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
80. Vince Carter, way above the rim and deep in the corner.
79. “Phi Slamma Jamma.”
77. Rangers’ star-is-born Adolis Garcia, channeling Ruben Sierra.
76. Montana to Rice. Stockton to Malone. Meredith to Cosell.
75. GEICO commercials.
74. “You are looking live … !”
73. Joe Torre’s stare, Steve Nash’s hair and the Golden Bear.
71. Phyllis George and Erin Andrews.
70. “And one!”
69. Bull Durham.
67. Charlie Hustle. And Uncle Charlie.
66. The Aggie War Hymn vs. Texas Fight.
65. Cold dreary Sunday. Warm comfy couch. Big screen TV.
64. Seeing Globe Life Park out the windows of Globe Life Field.
63. Christian Laettner’s turnaround.
62. Elvis and Beltre, clowning over a popup.
61. Chuck Morgan’s “It’s baseball time in Texas!”
60. “The Curse of the Bambino.”
59. The Swamp, The Pit and The Big House.
58. Cal Ripken Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr.
57. Evel Knievel.
56. Wilt’s 100 points vs. Russell’s 11 rings.
55. High-school hurling phenoms: Clayton Kershaw(Highland Park), Kerry Wood (Grand Prairie) and Todd Van Poppel (Arlington Martin).
54. Eight seconds. And Title IX.
53. Sudden death.
52. Churchill Downs, first Saturday in May.
51. Madison Square Garden.
50. Mixed doubles, stand-up doubles and triple-doubles.
49. $1 billion stadiums. $12-an-hour chain gangs.
48. Mike Modano speeding with his shirttail.
47. Bear Bryant.
46. Mississippi State’s cowbells, Atlanta’s Tomahawk Chop.
and Pittsburgh’s Terrible Towels.
45. Rocky, Rudy and Prefontaine.
44. “Larry Legend.”
43. Byron Nelson’s legacy, on and off the course.
42. Jackie Robinson. Duh.
41. Dr. J.
40. Mark Cuban’s passion. And wallet.
39. Michael Jordan and The Last Dance.
38. Strike zone, matchup zone and zone blitz.
37. Luka, s-l-o-w motion superstar.
36. Wrigley’s ivy.
34. Sha-sheff-ski, spelled K-r-z-y-z-e-w-s-k-i.
33. The Babes. Ruth and Didrikson Zaharias. Sorry, Laufenberg.
32. U.S. soccer, women’s version.
30. The Fat Lady. And the skinny post.
29. Do It For Durrett.
28. Kyle Field.
27. Larry Brown, from 12th-round afterthought to Super Bowl MVP.
26. Duncanville High School Pantherettes, 11 state championships.
25. Nacho cheese on your chin. Smile on your lips.
24. Fresh batteries in the remote control.
23. Charles Barkley.
22. Keith Jackson’s “Whoa, Nellie!” and Dick Enberg’s “Oh, my!”
21. The 7-10 split.
20. Crazy Ray, Zonk and inflatable Mavs Man.
19. Neftali Feliz striking out A-Rod looking. Hello, World Series!
18. LeBron James, indeed “The Chosen One.”
17. ESPN’s SportsCenter. TNT’s Inside The NBA and HBO’s Real Sports.
16. Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson, better with age.
14. The checkered flag.
13. Pat Summerall, Chick Hearn and Vin Scully.
12. The bell, the buzzer, the horn, the gun and, especially, the organ.
11. Mavs over Heat, 2011.
10. Tom Landry.
9. Texas-OU Weekend.
7. High-fiving a complete stranger.
6. Jerry Jones, all of him. The good, the bad and the ugly.
5. Game 7.
4. “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!”
3. Three Super Bowls in four years.
2. Our national anthem, before every single game. Kneeling or not.
1. The freedom to love America’s Team, and to always hate the Philadelphia Eagles.