FrontBurner

A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Sports

How Medical Facilities Support Collin County’s Booming Population of Young Athletes

| 2 weeks ago

Shayley Planas is working through a back-handspring layout on the balance beam, a maneuver where she blindly tumbles over backward, putting her hands down as she throws her feet in the air. She touches down just long enough to leap back into the air for a second backflip, this time without using her hands at all. It is all performed on a narrow wooden support just 4 inches wide and more than 4 feet off the ground.

It’s nerve-wracking to watch, yet simple for Shayley. She became a gymnast when she was just 3 years old, which is early but not unusual in a sport where the retirement age is in your early 20s. Gymnasts—at least those who want to compete at the highest level and go to the Olympics—have to completely commit much earlier than other sports. Most serious gymnasts opt for some combination of private or home schooling that allows them to train twice a day almost every day.

Now 11, Shayley has spent much of her life flying through a gym. She left public school behind in third grade and she spends five to six hours at the gym six days a week. That’s where she is on this rainy Friday morning, inside the prestigious World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano.

Though it is located in a nondescript shopping center, between a tire shop and the Berean Bible Fellowship Church, the gym comes by its distinguished name honestly. Olympic gold medalists Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson—whose faces adorn two large windows that face the parking lot—once trained there. There are no Olympians here today, but the 31,000-square-foot training center is packed with young gymnasts, from toddlers to high schoolers. Blue and red mats are stacked around the bright space, flanking bars, balance beams, vaults, and springy floor-exercise areas.

Founded in 1994 (and co-owned by Valeri Liukin, Nastia’s father), WOGA is part of an ecosystem formed by a decadeslong pattern of migration. As more young athletes have moved to Dallas’ northern suburbs, more facilities like WOGA have opened. And more hospitals and clinics, like the recently opened Texas Scottish Rite for Children Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center in Frisco, have emerged to care for them. The latter, too, are packed with kids like Shayley.

Read More

Beer

Michael Peticolas Is the William Wallace of Beer

| 3 weeks ago

While reasonable people can disagree, the following statement is one of fact, and arguing against it would only invite derision: Michael Peticolas makes the best beer in Dallas. And when I say Dallas, what I really mean is North Texas. So basically the whole state.

In July, at the U.S. Open Beer Championship, in Oxford, Ohio, judges from England, Canada, and the United States evaluated more than 6,300 beers from all over the world. When those judges woke up late the next morning and found their clothes and deciphered their tasting notes, they determined that little Peticolas Brewing Company—established in 2011 in the Design District, funded solely by Michael and his wife, Melissa, operated for the first year without a single employee—was the Grand National Champion. They’d beaten everyone, including the estimable Cigar City Brewing, out of Florida.

Having established that fact, we venture into the realm of opinion with the following assertion: Michael Peticolas is a genius. That is the only explanation I can offer for how, a couple of weeks prior to his big win in Oxford, he tricked me into waking up on a Wednesday morning at 4:30 to come help him load 160-pound kegs of beer into a truck bound for Austin on the first such distribution trip ever for Peticolas. This would be monumental or something close to it. Never before had someone outside the Dallas area been able to buy a pint of any of Peticolas’ beers.

Owing to arcane Texas laws, Peticolas cannot store its beer outside Dallas County. That’s because Michael doesn’t have a deal with a distributor. And the reason he doesn’t have a deal with a distributor is what spurred him to file a lawsuit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, et al., along with his fellow petitioners from Live Oak Brewing Company (Austin) and Revolver Brewing (Granbury), a lawsuit that right now is before the Supreme Court of Texas. More on all that later.

I didn’t know Michael well, but I’d met him. He’s an affable, high-energy fellow who wears shorts even when participating in panel discussions. So when I saw a press release about this beer run to Austin, I sent him a note. I told him that a Smokey and the Bandit homage with implications on the zymological superiority of Dallas over Austin was something I wanted to be part of.

Read More

History

How a Dallas Businessman Assembled the World’s First Professional Bridge Team

| 3 weeks ago

Before they changed the game of bridge, before they captured the United States’ first world championship in more than 15 years, before the million-dollar computer and celebrity hangers-on and discipline imparted by a former Air Force colonel named Moose, the Dallas Aces needed to fire their boss.

Ira Corn was a unique presence, a 300-pound multimillionaire with a proclivity for throwing his financial weight around. “He was large, so he had to live large,” says his daughter, Laura. There were conventional luxuries: fine art, rich food, cigars the size of Lincoln Logs, a penthouse apartment in Manhattan. But he reserved his most grandiose spending for his passions. He loved American history, so he purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence for $404,000, the highest price ever paid for a printed document at the time. He loved to read, so he subscribed to dozens of periodicals and finished a new book each night.

Most of all, in 1968, he loved bridge. So he decided to bankroll a professional team—even though one had never existed before. He had designs on toppling Italy’s famous Blue Team, the game’s great juggernaut, winners of 12 of the last 13 world championships. Not only that, he intended to defeat them himself.

“He thought if he got five good players, he could play with them and win anything,” says Mike Lawrence, one of the team’s original members. “That was the furthest from the truth imaginable.”

Which is what led Bobby Wolff, the team’s first recruit and Ira’s handpicked partner, to pull his benefactor aside on a Tuesday in late August. They were in Minneapolis for one of the most important events of the year, the Spingold national bridge championship. Five days in, their team was treading water, eking out victories over opponents they should have dismembered. It had been that way ever since the Aces were formed that February, a collection of world-class talent lugging along an amateur. Finally, after one close call too many, “the time had come for truth,” Wolff says now.

Wolff broke the news in a hotel hallway, as Ira puffed a typically giant cigar: The Aces will never become what you want them to be—what they can be—if you keep playing. Ira said nothing. Wolff half-expected Ira to dissolve the team, and perhaps that wouldn’t be the worst thing. Ira had the best of intentions but he was dragging his creation down. And then, as Wolff began to plot out his next endeavors, Ira spoke.

“Well, you better win,” he grumbled. They lost the next day.

One year later, they routed the field. By then the Dallas Aces were in the throes of one of the most audacious experiments the game had seen, an unprecedented and mostly unduplicated attempt to build a better bridge team. When they dissolved after 15 years, the Aces had collected four world titles and numerous domestic championships. Two of their stars formed one of the most decorated partnerships in history. Along the way, they prototyped strategies that are now ubiquitous in modern sports culture.

The story of the world’s first full-time professional bridge team is one of Dallas succeeding where the rest of America failed. It all owes itself to a large man who chased an appropriately huge dream.

Read More

Sports

No Man on Earth Can Beat Errol Spence Jr., and He Knows It

| 1 month ago

While everyone surrounding him stood still, Errol Spence Jr. bounced from one foot to the other. When he stopped, he banged his silver-colored gloves against each other and walked from the hallways of AT&T Stadium toward the ring on the 50-yard-line. He’d sometimes punch across his body as he took a step. Other times, Spence simply walked with a stoic look. Everyone around him looked serious, except the Lancaster High School’s marching band, which belted out an energetic version of Big Tuck’s Dallas anthem “Southside Da Realist.” Even Yella Beezy, the Oak Cliff rapper who performed “It’s On Me” as the boxer walked to the ring, looked as unanimated as anyone can look while rapping into a microphone to a crowd of over 47,500.

Spence’s opponent, Mikey Garcia, waited in the ring. Like Spence, Garcia’s ring entrance was grand. Red, green, and white lights shot like lasers across the stadium. Unlike Spence, Garcia smiled. He wore a black tejana that contrasted his mostly white ring attire. Once inside the ring, Garcia kissed those white gloves and extended them to the public.

All week, at the public events leading up to Saturday night’s fight, Garcia was the crowd favorite. At Tuesday night’s media workouts, the people chanted his name in two syllables. “MI-KEY! MI-KEY! MI-KEY!” At Friday’s weigh-in, they did the same and when the announcer introduced Spence, it even sounded like the hometown fighter got booed. Watching men fight often arouses a sense of tribalism that extends beyond a shared location. Everyone around boxing understands this. Some, attempting to appeal to boxing’s largest and most influential fanbase, have even claimed themselves honorary Mexicans. This, among other reasons, was why Garcia, the underdog, received such an ovation.

When Spence ducked and stepped between the second and third ropes to enter the ring, he flashed a slight smile. It looked enormous on the screen that hangs above on the field. He sang along to the music that blared across the stadium so loud that talking practically required you to yell in your neighbor’s ear.

Spence walked around the ring. Garcia bounced on his feet and punched at the air. Spence retreated to his blue corner, where a man removed the boxer’s hat. He then unzipped Spence’s shirt. Once you have boxing gloves on—duct taped around the wrists so that the knotted laces don’t come loose—you can do little for yourself besides fight. With his sleepy eyes, Spence looked across the ring as Garcia’s corner held their man’s world championship belts above their head, all four of them. Spence’s corner raised their single belt; the only one that mattered for this fight. It was the belt Garcia wanted.

Read More

Personalities

What Dallas CEOs Can Learn From Herb Kelleher

| 1 month ago

When Southwest Airlines hosted a memorial service for its co-founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher in January, more than 5,000 former Southwest employees and others packed into the arena at Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Downtown Dallas. Because, of course, an airline is careful to not overbook.

“We had to find one of the largest venues in Dallas to accommodate all of the multitude of loved ones—friends, colleagues, and admirers,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly quipped as he opened the ceremony. “What an extraordinary tribute that is to an equally extraordinary man.”

But this was no mournful, melancholy memorial service. During the two-hour celebration of life hosted by the company on behalf of its 60,000 employees and more than 135,000 alumni and retirees—whom Kelly affectionately refers to as the “Southwest Nation”—there were far more laughs than tears, as guest speakers regaled attendees with stories of the beloved former top executive. The corporate culture showcase, complete with a performance by a drumline, could best be summed up by one retiree’s vintage Southwest Airlines t-shirt, which read: “I don’t want to grow up—that’s why I work for Herb.”

Read More

Sports

Errol Spence Jr. Is Ready To Prove Himself To Everyone

| 1 month ago

Few expected this to happen so quickly, for Errol Spence Jr. to arrive as a fighter, a champion, for him to arrive on such a big stage. The 29-year-old DeSoto native, undefeated with 21 knockouts, is days away from climbing into a ring in the center of AT&T Stadium in front of more than 50,000 fans. There, he will stare into the eyes of Oxnard, California’s Mikey Garcia, himself an undefeated four-time world champion, who took this fight to cement a legacy of his own. They’ll touch gloves. And then they’ll try to take each other’s heads off.

“I think I’m a passive-aggressive fighter,” Spence says. “I kind of mentally break down my opponents, and physically, so if you’re not 100 percent there, if you’re not willing to quote-unquote ‘die in there,’ then it’s going to reveal itself. That’s why my record is what it is—24 and 0 with 21 knockouts. A lot of opponents, you know, wilt under my pressure.”

Spence speaks like he fights. He’s precise. Direct. He chooses the right openings to share things about himself, and that’s only if you asked it the right way, left it open for him. He likes old gyms, but he doesn’t train at the R&R in Northwest Dallas anymore. He’d have kept it at that, but you press him a bit. “Derrick James World Class Boxing Facility,” he answers, smiling. Where is it? “It’s somewhere downtown. Nobody gives up the location. It’s the batcave.” James, Spence’s trainer, is sitting behind him, and he tells a riddle. “There is an island in downtown that I think you can build a casino on.” He smiles. That’s all we get.

This is the benefit of the fight being a short drive up Interstate 30. Spence stays home, works out in his gym with his people, gets to see his two daughters. (Except last week, when they were sick—can’t risk catching something before the fight.) He goes to interviews with an entourage of 12. He seems comfortable, if a bit light. He usually fights at 147. On Wednesday afternoon, he was 152 pounds. He says he’ll get closer to 160 by Saturday morning, a feat he spoke of with the same mild annoyance you or I may apply to an unplanned trip to the grocery store.

Garcia is his most formidable opponent yet, but that’s how they’ve all been.

Read More

Politics & Government

Introducing the 2019 Dallas Mayoral Candidates

| 2 months ago

Today was the deadline to file to run for office in the May municipal elections. We’ll have a 12-headed mayoral race, almost certainly leading to a runoff between the top two vote getters. Election Day is May 4. You should register. You should vote. Here are the candidates, listed in order of the date they filed to run.

(Note: We rounded these up throughout the day on Friday, and in the wee hours before the 5 p.m. deadline, two more names popped up: Miguel Patino and Heriberto Ortiz. We’ll look into these two. In the meantime, here’s Ortiz’s campaign Facebook page.)

UPDATE: Patino and Ortiz, as well as Stephen Smith—listed below—failed to get the needed signatures and will not appear on the May ballot. We’re down to nine.

Read More

Law

The Making of a $242 Million Verdict

| 4 months ago

Inertia can be dangerous. when a speeding car comes to a sudden stop, its passengers continue their travel forward, toward the windshield, reason for the inventions of seat belts and air bags.

The same inertial properties work against passengers when their car is stationary. When a car is struck from behind and accelerates suddenly, its seats slam into the occupants. If those seats give way, if they’re engineered to give way, the bodies sitting in them can move in surprising ways.

That’s what happened to Kristi and Ben Reavis on a September Sunday in 2016. They were leaving Mockingbird Station, where they’d gone after church because 5-year-old Emily’s footwear was giving her a blister. The girls went to The Gap. The boys, Ben and 3-year-old Owen, headed for a taco spot, where Emily soon came skipping through in brand-new sparkly blue shoes.

After lunch, the parents buckled the kids into the back seat of the Lexus that Kristi had convinced Ben to buy a decade earlier. Emily sat in a booster seat, Owen in a traditional car seat, both facing forward. Ben turned southbound on Central and stayed in the right lane so they could exit on Woodall Rodgers toward downtown, home. But traffic stopped, and Ben had to abruptly brake to avoid hitting the car in front of them. Ben and Kristi gave each other a look like That was close. And then, without so much as a warning sound of screeching tires, their lives changed forever.

Testifying in court last summer, Ben described a nightmare. After the impact, he and Kristi discovered their kids unconscious behind them, the back window of the Lexus blown out. They feared the kids weren’t breathing. Each parent gingerly held a child. Ambulances arrived. A paramedic called out, “We need to go now!” At Children’s Medical Center, Owen was wheeled by, and Ben thought he saw on his 3-year-old son’s pillow a piece of his brain. He was sure the boy was gone. A neurosurgeon arrived, as did a social worker and chaplain. It was surgery for Owen, a procedure for Emily. Medically induced comas. A month in the hospital. Another month in a room at a Children’s Health facility, Ben and Kristi sleeping nearby on an air mattress. In the end: both kids suffered traumatic brain injuries. Permanent damage.

Somewhere in there, a few days after the accident, a young lawyer named Chip Brooker walked into the Reavises’ hospital room and found Ben and Kristi hovering over their children, Emily and Owen sharing a bed.

Read More