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Ernie Banks Comes Home To Booker T. Washington High School

| 4 days ago

Roughly 944 miles separate Wrigley Field, on the North Side of Chicago, from the Dallas campus of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Bridging that distance is the wide smile of Ernie Banks, memorialized in bronze at the ballpark where his perpetually sunny disposition (and outstanding play) won the hearts of Chicago Cubs fans and, now, with a new statue outside the classrooms where he spent his high school years. Mayor Mike Rawlings will be on-hand at the school to unveil the statue Thursday afternoon.

Dallas long ago made the mistake of ceding its claim on Banks. In his 19 Major League Baseball seasons, the first black player on the slow-to-integrate Cubs won two Most Valuable Player awards, made 11 All-Star teams, and belted more than 500 home runs. He was easily elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year of eligibility. Only a World Series appearance eluded him—something the “lovable loser” Cubs sadly wouldn’t achieve until the year after his death in 2015.

Banks got his start in a house on Fairmount Street, raised in poverty as one of 12 children, just a couple of blocks from Booker T. He starred on the high school’s football, track, and basketball teams (there was no baseball team). “I enjoyed growing up in Dallas,” he once told Chicago History magazine. “Everything was within walking distance: the school I went to, the YMCA, my friends in the neighborhood, the park I played baseball on. Everybody knew everybody and kept everybody in line.”

His visits to his hometown became rarer and rarer once he’d ascended to stardom with the nickname “Mr. Cub,” and so his association with Dallas waned. Set to be unveiled in late September on a patch of grass where Banks long ago tossed around the football with classmates, a life-size sculpture by artist Emmanuel Gillespie will remind generations of students about the legend from down the street.

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Sports & Leisure

What Annoying PA Announcer Tic Will Accompany Luka Doncic to the Mavs?

| 2 weeks ago

Off the top of my head, probably the most irritating thing the Mavs PA announcer does is the “Jose olé olé olé” thing whenever J.J. Barea scores. I’m sort of easily irritated. Less so than anyone will ever give me credit for, because changing opinions here is like cleaning an oil tanker with a toothbrush, but I have to admit it is still true. A little. I was thinking — have been thinking — about how the excitement over the arrival of yung legend Luka Doncic in town will translate into game presentation. What I keep coming back to is this:

The ball finds Doncic on, say, the left wing, above the three-point line. He lets loose. Swish. And then: “His name is Luka!”

A reference to a 30-year-old Suzanne Vega songs feels right to me. Like, familiar but not timely at all, clever the first time and unbearable by somewhere around game 15. Then good again around game 30. Then insanely bad around game 50. Then just sort of background by the end of the first season. See you guys.

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Sports & Leisure

Read This Appreciation Piece on Steve Nash

| 2 weeks ago

Tonight at 6 o’clock the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame will officially welcome Jason Kidd and Steve Nash into its ranks. I assume Zac Crain is right now working on a 5,000-word post about this momentous event. While you’re waiting for him to finish that, tide yourself over with this wonderful appreciation of Nash written by Danny Chau over at The Ringer.

A personal note: when the Mavs let Nash go, it broke my heart a little. Three reasons I loved the guy: 1) Peter Simek once saw Nash playing pickup soccer on the fields at Trammell Crow Park. 2) Nash and Dirk were (are) such good buddies that they’d get loaded at the Loon and pose for pics. 3) And this.

And then a final thought, this one from Nash himself. Did the Mavs really miss out on another title?

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Mark Davis Has Thrown Away His Nikes

| 3 weeks ago

If your social media timelines are anything like my Twitter feed, then over the weekend you saw lots of pics of people cutting the Nike swoosh off of their socks and burning their Nike shoes, etc., etc. It’s all in response to that new Colin Kaepernick Nike ad. Mark Davis got in on the act. The conservative talk show host shared this pic with his 29,800 Twitter followers:

I have a few thoughts on Davis’ kicks.

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Sports & Leisure

Dirk Nowitzki Brings Back the Love to the SMU Tennis Center

| 1 month ago

Last year I attended Dirk Nowitzki’s Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic at SMU and witnessed Owen Wilson battle it out with Andy Roddick and Nowitzki play mixed doubles with one of my former tennis pros and Fila model Kseniya Bardabush. (Who even remembers who he made his wife play with?). This year, Roddick and Grand Slam doubles champ Mark Knowles are back, along with actor Boris Kodjoe (Soul Food, Code Black). I couldn’t place Kodjoe at first, which sent me down an IMDB rabbit hole to find this:

Kodjoe was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Ursula, a German psychologist of partially Jewish descent, and Eric Kodjoe, a Ghanaian physician who is of the Nzema people. He was named after Russian poet and writer Boris Pasternak. Kodjoe’s great-grandmother was Jewish and died in the Holocaust; his maternal grandmother survived the war in hiding. Kodjoe’s parents divorced when he was six years old. Kodjoe is fluent in German, English, and French, and speaks some Spanish. He has a brother named Patrick and two sisters named Nadja and Lara.

He pretty much had me at Pasternak. Then I discovered that Kodjoe turned to acting because of a career-ending back injury after earning a tennis scholarship at Virginia Commonwealth University. The dude is legit.

Here he reveals what’s in  his tennis bag:

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Sports & Leisure

SMU Grad Kelly Kraft Lucks His Way Into PGA Championship

| 1 month ago

Denton native and SMU grad Kelly Kraft, along with caddie Boston Brittain, caught a Southwest flight to St. Louis on Wednesday. It turned out to be a good move. Kraft had become the first alternate for the PGA Championship after European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn withdrew Wednesday due to a back injury. (Kevin Streelman replaced him, announcing the news to his social media followers by trolling Phil Mickelson, with a GIF of Mickelson dancing in a viral ad for Dallas menswear company Mizzen+Main.) Then, early Thursday afternoon at Bellerive Country Club, Kraft got a call from PGA officials, telling him that South African golfer Louis Oosthuizen had withdrawn, also citing a back injury.

“It was weird,” Kraft told me. “My phone rang at about 1:30 p.m. It was the tournament office, telling me to be on the tee in 20 minutes. I went out to the driving range, hit about 15 balls and a few putts, then went off. I didn’t feel like myself until about hole 9. I had never been in that situation before.”

Kraft held his own, coming in at one over par for the day, despite having never seen the course before. “I didn’t know anything about it,” Kraft said. “I think I’ll play better [on Friday]. The greens got bumpy out there; they’re long and slow. Fresh greens will be better for us.”

The PGA Championship, of course, is one of four major tournaments each year (along with the Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open). Next year, the PGA Championship will move to May and fall between the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest and the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club at Fort Worth.

This is the 100th year for the PGA Championship, and the golf stars have come out to play. Along with Mickelson and Dallas’ Jordan Spieth, John Daly, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, and Dustin Johnson (currently ranked No. 1 in the world) are all in St. Louis. But the biggest crowd favorite, by far, is Tiger Woods, who’s in the midst of his comeback tour. In the golf world, he’s a god. He picks up a club, and it causes a huge stir. I’ve never seen this kind of rabid reaction from a crowd before.

Tiger Woods (photo by Jordan Perez)

Woods started out Thursday with a bogey and double-bogey. Then he hopped into a porta-potty and changed his shirt, going from light gray to blue. The lucky blue shirt did the trick, as he birdied the next hole and finished the day at even par.

Spieth, who’s at Bellerive with his coach, Cameron McCormick of Trinity Forest, had a hard-fought day. He made a long putt on 18 to save par and come out at one-over par. We’ll see if he gets his mojo back today.

Editor’s note: an early version of this story misstated which day Kraft flew to St. Louis and his first-round score. The mistakes were corrected.

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Sports & Leisure

Topgolf Gives New Life to an Old Game

| 2 months ago

Behold the future. It’s a platform two stories off the ground, with gaping views of an endless night sky, all accented by the glowing hues of bright purple LEDs. In the distance, faint spires line the horizon, each stretching nearly 200 feet into the air. The surface below is covered in a smooth, green field of artificial turf, and there are screens visible in every direction. Hundreds of glimmering flat screens, some as small as a tablet, some as wide as a living room wall. A few show live broadcasts of sports—tonight it’s basketball, baseball, hockey, and mixed martial arts fighting—and a few show movies and TV shows. Other screens display graphic visualizations depicting the final locations of the micro-chipped golf balls people are hitting off the platform.

The latest pop music pulsates from crisp new speakers on the walls, thumping loud enough to inspire some dancing, but not so loud as to drown out conversation. Strangers, hundreds of them, are laughing and drinking and eating and playing a game that didn’t exist a generation ago.

This futuristic driving range-cum-nightclub is also almost inconceivably massive. There are dozens of hitting bays on this floor, each with enough chairs and couches and tables to comfortably seat an extended family, and dozens more on the ground floor. And, every bay is occupied. There’s a restaurant with a bar behind the bays, and every seat there is taken, too. Same goes for the other restaurant, downstairs. There are also groups gathered on couches around fire pits.

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Sports & Leisure

Jerry Jones Is a Giant Hypocrite

| 2 months ago

This morning when I was taking my son to his freshman orientation, we were discussing the circumstances in which Jerry Jones might kick a player off the Cowboys roster. He suggested that a player committing an act of terrorism might not be enough. I laughed, mostly because it was true. He presented another hypothetical: a Cowboy is accused of mass murder — does he get cut right away?

I had to get context: was there hard evidence? He said there was a photo placing the player at the scene, and also fingerprints on the murder weapon. I said in that case Jerry would probably not kick him off immediately, instead saying something like “you don’t turn your back on family” like a very old, out of shape Dom Toretto and that the team would wait until the legal process had run its course.

As it turns out, there is one scenario where a player would definitely, according to Jerry, lose his job: if he kneeled during the national anthem. Which, I have to remind everyone, is not a protest against the anthem or the troops or whatever the president and NFL owners have stated but instead a protest against police brutality.

Dale Hansen, of course, points out the extreme hypocrisy at play better than I can right here.

I’ll just add this: maybe Jerry really is Papa John Schnatter in disguise.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (7/26/18)

| 2 months ago

Mavs CEO Says Police Turned Down Breakfast and Donation. The planned gesture to recognize Dallas officers yesterday morning in light of the downtown ambush two years ago was cancelled. Mavs CEO Cynthia Marshall led the group that was going to bring breakfast and make a donation, but she said it was cancelled because the group also wanted to honor Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, who were killed by police the same week. “It’s unfortunate that someone is offended because we have young black men who are racially profiled and getting killed,” Marshall said.

Mavs CEO Also Says Dancers’ Uniforms Need to Change. For the upcoming NBA season, Cynthia Marshall wants dance uniforms to be less revealing and the routines to focus “on the dancers as artists.”

I-35E in Oak Cliff Will Be Shut Down This Weekend. From tomorrow night until Monday morning, the Beckley Avenue overpass will be swarmed by crews removing it—a facet of the Southern Gateway project. If you were planning to drive in that immediate area, don’t.

Sam’s Club Will Open Technology Office Downtown. The warehouse club division of Walmart is opening a technology office in the West End. This is to prepare for a new technology-forward concept that Sam’s plans to open later this year in the vacant space on Lower Greenville where Walmart previously had a Neighborhood Market.

Shooting Near Fair Park Wounds Five. The drive-by shooting happened last night in South Dallas, and the five victims were hospitalized.

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Sports & Leisure

Does Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Think Dez Caught It?

| 3 months ago

Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, will be subjected in the coming months to a thorough grilling on every opinion he has ever expressed. Hopefully someone will press him on this, from a 2015 speech at the Marquette University Law School covered in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., circuit, said separation of powers controversies between the executive, legislative and judicial branches could be made smoother when “the rules of the road are set before time.”

And, to make his point, he brought up the NFL playoff game where the Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys after officials overruled receiver Dez Bryant’s catch.

“It’s better when the rules governing a catch are set forth before Dez Bryant falls to the ground,” Kavanaugh said. “Because the rule said, that was it. If we can do it in the NFL, we can do it here as well.”

It seems Kavanaugh is saying that, at the time, the rule was against it being a catch. Therefore, not a catch. (That rule has since been changed.) Kavanaugh’s broader point, that the rules should be established before playing the game, is clear enough. But there’s some wiggle room here, and you have to take into account the fact that Kavanaugh was speaking to a room of likely Packers fans. I’m going to need a higher court to make the call.

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