Saturday, February 4, 2023 Feb 4, 2023
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Sports

The Best of StrongSide, 2022

A sampling of our best work in our first full year of existence.
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Time to celebrate the sports journalism! Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Before we begin, I should be transparent about something: I am writing this post for myself as much as you. I am doing so because, on the heels of StrongSide’s first full year of publishing, I need a moment to reflect on what our spectacular, sprawling team of writers has done. You have read my missives before about what this thing is supposed to be on a broad scale and what it’s becoming. I think about it literally every day. But that makes it easy to lose sight of the trees that make up the forest. Because we published a lot of really damn good stuff in 2022.

We said farewell to Roberto José Andrade Franco, who moved on to the bright lights of the Worldwide Leader in Sports. But the rest of our original crew remains intact and only got—wait for it—stronger in our first full year. (I’m sorry.)

Which you know if you read Jamey Newberg on Martín Pérez taking the roundabout way to stardom in Texas. And Jake Kemp, brilliant as he is, somehow finding a fresh spin on Micah Parsons’ brilliance. It’s so hard to pick just one piece from Dan Morse, who writes one of the smartest columns out there each week on the Cowboys. But if pressed, I suppose I’ll recommend this one-stop shop on how the Cowboys struck draft gold once again (and why the 2022 rookie class won them a recent game against Indianapolis). I absolutely loved reading about Iztok Franko’s travels this summer as he followed the Slovenian national team around in EuroBasket. And who couldn’t catch feelings reading Brian Dameris, at that same tournament, write so eloquently about his pal Dirk’s second jersey retirement? David Castillo is maybe StongSide’s greatest success story. A year ago at this time, this city was only beginning to learn his name. Now he’s on the shortlist of people it reads for a definitive position on the Stars. Speaking of stars, Dorothy J. Gentry’s only continues to rise. Reading her on Wings center Teaira McCowan made me appreciate last season’s big trade acquisition in a new light.

But, like the best television shows, we added a new cast of characters for our second go around at this. Such as Sam Hale, who bolstered our coverage of the Wings and FC Dallas alike. Did you know that we have our very own Ted Lasso in Dallas? Thanks to Sam, you do. Nobody writes Cowboys draft coverage like The Freak’s Jeff Cavanaugh, and he more than delivered for us this spring. Aidan Davis, the youngest StrongSide contributor, keeps finding clever Cowboys angles, like calculating exactly how much a poor kicking game cost Dallas last season. Meanwhile, Austin Ngaruiya has a knack for getting to the heart of the subjects that drive every Cowboy fan nuts, like the absurd quarterback non-controversy from a few months ago. On the hockey side, we coaxed Robert Tiffin out of semi-retirement, and he roared out of the gates with this beautiful tribute to the now-departed John Klingberg. And what could I say that you don’t already know about the coup that is bringing Sean Shapiro’s writing back to the market that put him on the national hockey map? It is a joy to work with one of my great friends in the business once more, and I know you’re having just as much reading gems like this incisive look at how the surging Stars are a reflection of their general manager’s patience.

None of those names include the contributors in our building, either. Zac Crain’s piece on Dirk’s Mavericks jersey retirement is as essential as his book. Tim Rogers’ piece on the Dirk statue? Less essential, but I dare you to read it and not laugh. Will Maddox keeps coming into his own as a soccer columnist. Brandon Call gave us a peek at the organization revolutionizing women’s professional sports. Our food critic, Brian Reinhart, is a hell of a baseball writer when he wants to be … plus, at least in his mind, an average NBA general manager, too? And a pair of talented 23-year-olds played a role, with Ben Swanger providing a great look at NFL Network’s Jane Slater while our fall intern, Ian Kayanja, wrote a lovely piece about why the State Fair Classic means so much.

Want more? How about Mark Godich, an essential piece of our StrongSide editing team, writing such a heartwarming story about he and a pack of his fellow sixty-something Richardson High School classmates reuniting over Eagles high school basketball this spring. And Jon Arnold taking a trip down memory (fast) lane to recall the tragicomic disaster that was the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix. And Mark Dent teaching us about how the United States Men’s National Team’s growth can be traced back to FC Dallas, of all teams.

Last, and hopefully not least, I wrote plenty, too. That’s part of why I’m here: to get back to pushing myself as a writer. On the column side, that meant deadline pieces on Jon Daniels’ firing and the Kristaps Porzingis trade. But I’m most proud of my cover story from our February issue, about how Frisco became the most powerful sports suburb in America. I also loved getting to know the most interesting sports owners in Dallas and getting to the bottom of one of hockey’s great urban legends. And nothing I did this year matters more than the piece I wish I never had cause to write: a remembrance of my friend, Jonathan Tjarks. We’re worse off without him, and always will be.

So, yeah, that’s a lot of trees—er, articles. I speak for all of us at StrongSide when I say that it’s been a joy to write for all of you this year. We hope it’s the first of many, and that you have a wonderful holiday season.

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Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…

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