There's something to be said for a team that moves to a different city and then wins two championships in its first two years. That's what Dynamo Coach Dominic Kinnear helped achieve when his San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston in 2006. Previously, Kinnear had led the Earthquakes to the MLS Supporters' Shield. Then, in 2006 and 2007, the Dynamo nabbed the MLS Cup. It's kind of cool to see a brand-new Houston team kick ass right out of the gate, as opposed to, say, the Texans' continual failures and the absolute freaking waste of $22 million on a pitcher who couldn't deliver. But we digress — this is no time for name-calling. It's a time to give props to Mr. Kinnear, who has helped to give us not only a great team, but a sense of excitement and vitality that's a nice change of pace from the rather staid corporate franchises we call professional sports teams. As of this writing, the Dynamo are second in the Western Division — an especially great achievement given that the team lost six starters at the beginning of the season. That's the kind of thing that makes a coach prove his or her mettle.

Now in her 11th year in the WNBA, the six-foot-two Thompson was the first-ever player selected in the inaugural league draft. Back then, she was in the shadow of teammates Cynthia Copper and Sheryl Swoopes, but no longer. She's the undeniable leader of the team (and the only original member left). Thompson is also a league leader: A member of the All-Decade Team and Olympic gold medal winner, she's missed only one WNBA All-Star game (she was busy giving birth to her son Dyllan). She's in the top five in the league in all-time points (No.2), rebounds (No. 4), three point shots (No. 2) and minutes played (No. 2).

Jim Deshaies had some tough shoes to fill when he took over the Astros analyst spot from Larry Dierker. But let's just say, as J.D. settles into his second decade as the Astros TV analyst, that he has not only surpassed Dierker, he has perhaps surpassed every other analyst in baseball. The former starting pitcher knows the ins and outs of the game, from pitching to hitting to fielding to strategy. Best of all, he's not a homer, and if the good guys goof up, he'll let you know how and why. And then there's his quick wit and his ability to throw out a Seinfeld reference or obscure pop culture trivia at a moment's notice. Nothing gets past Deshaies, and, if you pay attention, you'll learn more from him than just about any baseball geek in the country.

Yeah, yeah, we've all heard dozens of Aggie jokes — but the joke might be on us. Aggies call Bryan/College Station home, and the area is a lovely corner of open spaces, bluebonnets and historic buildings. Just two hours northwest of Houston, Bryan/College Station offers great restaurants, a restored downtown, dozens of antique stores and art galleries, and several family attractions, all with a down-home attitude and (here's the really good part) down-home prices. There are a number of excellent museums, among them the George Bush Presidential Library, the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History and the Brazos Valley African American Museum. If you time your trip right, you can attend events including the annual Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival, the Messina Hof Winery & Resort Harvest, rodeos and minor league baseball games.

Mulligan's Golf
Photo courtesy Mulligan's

Mulligan's Golf is a laid-back place where you can have a good time and shank a few balls without being called a "trunk slammer." The range is hidden along a stretch of FM 1960 filled with empty retail strips. But Mulligan's has survived for close to 15 years. It's a family-owned place, and the owner's son, Stephen Pierce, recently returned to serve as Mulligan's teaching pro. Pierce, who met his wife at Mulligan's, offers lessons by appointment. The pro shop will re-grip or re-shaft your clubs, and beer is also for sale. There's also a nine-hole, par-three course if you feel like getting off the range. Both the range and the course are open until 9 p.m. and lighted.

Pat Onstad is the best goalie in Major League Soccer. Period. That's why we're glad he plays for us. Nobody tops the keeper's ability at dashing a shooter's hopes of getting a goooooaaaaal! Sure, scoring helps in the winning department, but those points would mean jack if the other team were able to turn around and match them. Onstad also knows his defenders and is able to organize and work around them in order to create one killer first line of defense. If you have any doubts about his skill, just take a look at some recent 2008 season games where he's been MIA. He was actually playing for the Canadian National Team. Oh, Canada, is there anything you can't do?

Top Gun Handgun ­Training and Shooting Center

If you own a pistol/rifle/weapon, chances are you have a favorite place to shoot — and Top Gun should be that place, with its spacious indoor range and cheap fees. Monday is seniors' day, and anyone older than 62 can shoot for free. Women get the same deal on Wednesdays. There's a nice area to relax, decked out with hunting lodge-esque furniture and decor. The store has a cafeteria, meeting rooms and plenty of friendly staffers. The real genius of Top Gun, however, is that even if you don't own a gun, you can still unload with an Uzi. For $30 an hour, anyone older than 21 can rent a fully automatic weapon — including the Thompson submachine gun — though the deal comes with a "babysitter" for the range. Handguns are also available for $10 per hour. The store offers a variety of classes, from concealed handgun certification to training with tactical weapons. Top Gun gets bonus points for recycling all spent cartridges and for its nice display of Star Trek and Star Wars memorabilia, including official Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader Lightsabers, and a Storm Trooper Blaster.

Erstad isn't new in the rookie sense of the word, he's just another new guy on a team full of other new guys. Besides just being an all-around badass (he's been to the MLB All-Star Game twice and has won a Gold Glove three times), he's just a good, old hardworking dude. He's no slouch like some other unnamed Astros, and there's nobody else on the roster this season we'd rather see walk into the batter's box to pinch-hit during a clutch situation. At age 34, he'll keep performing and will still be an Astro for at least a few more years, we hope.

Eleanor Tinsley Park

As long as you're there before dark, Eleanor Tinsley offers a pleasant tour of Buffalo Bayou with plenty of pleasant scenery and shade. The trail follows the bayou below the theater district, through Buffalo Bayou Art Park, past the new public skatepark and through plenty of tree-filled openings, all with the skyline in the background. The twists and turns allow for a choose-your-own-adventure workout to keep you from seeing the same old thing day after day. But if routine is your style, there are plenty of trails perfect for your short- or long-distance trek. And with so many options, you never have to worry about breaking out of the pack or slowing down the people behind you.

The Armand Bayou Nature Center is a good place to be outside. Located in a suburban neighborhood in far south Houston, the center is not "off-the-beaten-path" cool, but it is a big area where you can experience a lot of nature-y things. One of those is a canoe trip down the Armand Bayou. The nature center offers a guided trip on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. About a three-mile round trip, it costs $25 and reservations are required. We can't guarantee you'll see anything breathtaking — you might — but Armand Bayou has enough of a backwater atmosphere to make you feel Deliverance.

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