Best Arcade 2017 | Cobra Arcade Bar | Fun & Games | Phoenix
Lauren Cusimano

If you're of a certain age (say it with us: "old millennial"), you spent part of your youth hunkered down at an arcade machine, mashing buttons and jostling joysticks. Chances are less likely you did so with a frosty mug of Kiltlifter in hand. Well, young-ish person, you're in luck. Your adult and kid sensibilities now can peacefully coexist at Cobra Arcade Bar, which features incredible machines like NBA Jam, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the X-Men side-scroller, and more, along with an impressive roster of craft beers and cans. Even better are the video game-themed cocktails, including the cucumber-infused RyuKen, which is much more refreshing than a hadouken to the face. Drink up, play on — young you would be proud.

You've no doubt noticed Christown Lanes. With its jutting angles and midcentury style, the bowling alley has long been one of the coolest-looking buildings in Phoenix, a reminder of our Atomic Age past. But recently, the folks at AMF have given the place a striking makeover and new name: Bowlero. While everything you dug about the place remains intact — from league nights to a bustling bar and arcade — the new attention is certainly an upgrade. It's a thrill to see a kitschy Phoenix treasure actually treasured, and even if the whole black light trend doesn't entirely bowl us over, the excitement of an old-school meets new-school attraction in Christown certainly lands like a strike.

There's something about the sound of tires skidding over concrete that gets our blood moving. Even better is to feel them skidding underneath us, followed by the snappy sensation of the go-kart suddenly sticking to a straight line, zooming out of a curve. We love Octane for those visceral reasons and a whole lot more. First, Octane's a winner based solely on presentation. The facility is clean, modern-looking, and professionally run. The cafe sells beer, hamburgers, and other staples for an afternoon out. But it's the driving you come for, and Octane sure doesn't disappoint. Adult races go 14 laps; kids get 10 on somewhat slower cars. All the track's electric cars have punchy acceleration and relatively high top speeds. Yes, it's possible to get out of control if you're careless and don't follow the rules. That's what makes Octane special — it's real racing. But the last couple of times we've experienced the place, one feeling has risen above all the personal enjoyment — and that's the joy of watching a daughter scream around corners, slam into sidewalls, and raise her fist in excitement after a particularly well-driven lap. She may not have been proud of her overall finishing time — some of these kid drivers are really good! — but, unlike any video game, the sense of accomplishment that comes with learning how to race will ride with her for years.

It's hard to keep an eye on your ball with the distracting beauty of the Sierra Estrella mountain range in the background, but that doesn't stop Arizona golfers from flocking to this saguaro-spotted course. Eighteen well-maintained holes flow along the contours of the Sonoran Desert, accommodating washes and Bermuda grass-covered hillsides that add to the challenges already presented by water hazards, creatively cut sand traps, and split-level fairways. Friendly and attentive pros, groundskeepers, and staff will keep you coming back to the Nicklaus-designed course.

Let's give a Pantera call-out to the Wolf, who cleanses his vocal chords each morning with a primal scream about whatever is annoying him in sports that day. Wolfley, the co-host of Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM, is more than just your typical aging jock-turned-sportscaster. He's an avid reader and is more likely to quote Sun Tzu or Edgar Allan Poe than he is to regurgitate the latest drivel from ESPN's Adam Schefter. Wolfley never possessed star athletic ability or size, but he not only hung on for 10 seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, the Rams, and the Browns, he made the Pro Bowl four times. He seems to apply the same work ethic to his talk show and his job as color announcer for the Cardinals' radio broadcast team. He'll watch hours and hours of game film and tends to drone on about whether the Cards should be in an 11 formation or a 12 (who cares, just score a touchdown) — but he is at his best when he delves into the darker corners of the athletes' lives, a place where he's been many times, dissecting what drives them to excel or leads them to fail. So here's a howl for the Wolf — who never played on a winning team in the NFL. He deserves a victory here.

There is a remarkable photo taken on June 4, 1967, in Cleveland, where longtime Valley resident Muhammad Ali is surrounded by 11 of the leading African-American athletes of the time, including superstars Bill Russell and Jim Brown and a 20-year-old college basketball player named Lew Alcindor, who would rename himself Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They came to hear why the heavyweight champion was surrendering his title to oppose the Vietnam War. They left persuaded to join their voices with his to speak out on social justice and change. "This recalls a time when Ali, not silenced by disease, was so vocal in his expression of outrage against injustice, not only against people of color in this society, but against people of color the world over," Georgetown sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson says about the photo. Ultimately, Ali's stance was credited with helping turn public opinion against the war. He returned to boxing and recaptured his crown. His voice was later silenced by Parkinson's disease, but he continued to be an ambassador for social justice and, before his death last year in Scottsdale, he helped raise millions to research the disease that robbed him of so many years of good health.

You know Diana Taurasi is something special when NBA legend Kobe Bryant brought his daughters to watch her and the Phoenix Mercury play on Father's Day. Bryant, the "Black Mamba," has nicknamed her the "White Mamba." The day that Kobe showed up also happened to be the day Taurasi became the Women's National Basketball Association's all-time leading scorer. Add that to a list of laurels that includes four Olympic gold medals, three WNBA titles, three times Euroleague player of the year, and three NCAA championships at the University of Connecticut. Phoenix also has been fruitful for Taurasi off the court: She married her former Mercury teammate Penny Taylor before the start of the 2017 season. So what did Bryant want his daughters to take away from seeing Taurasi play on Father's Day? "She takes no crap," he said.

Best Sports Legend Who Swims With the Sharks

Michael Phelps

We're hoping Phoenix's adopted son Michael Phelps didn't "jump the shark" when he raced a shark during Shark Week on The Discovery Channel, even though he lost. Not even publicity stunts should diminish the swimmer's status as another animal, the GOAT (that's Greatest of All Time) in Olympic history. Phelps made his first U.S. Olympic swim team in 2000 at age 15, and over the next 16 years, he set record after record, accumulating 28 medals: 23 gold, three silver, and two bronze, the most ever by an athlete in any Olympic sport. In the 2008 Olympics, he won eight gold medals, breaking swimmer Mark Spitz's record for the most by an individual athlete in a single Olympics. More impressive, perhaps, was his performance in the 2016 Games in Rio, when he came out of retirement at age 31 to become the oldest swimmer to win a gold medal. But one wasn't enough: He won five golds and a silver in the competition, including his fourth consecutive gold in the 200-meter individual medley. Phelps officially became a Valley resident last year when he purchased a $2.5 million home in Paradise Valley, where he lives with his wife, Nicole Johnson, and son, Boomer. He also was hired as an assistant coach for the Arizona State University swim team. But unless ASU is recruiting sharks, it's not likely to have any swimmers who can outrace their coach.

Early in the Amazon documentary All or Nothing, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim is about to select University of Nebraska star running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round of the NFL draft, when the Detroit Lions jump in and get him ahead of our Birds. So Keim, desperate for depth at the running back position, is forced to settle for little-known David Johnson from Northern Iowa University in the third round. By the end of the documentary about the Cards' 2015 season, assistant coach Stump Mitchell is telling Johnson that's he's going to be a Hall of Famer. Never has bad luck turned out so good for an Arizona sports team. Johnson starred as a rookie in 2015 after starters Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson went down with injuries. Then he became one of the most potent weapons in the league in 2016, when he led the NFL with 20 touchdowns and more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage — 1,239 rushing and 879 receiving. So after beginning his career as the 86th person taken in his draft class, he is now ranked by the NFL Network as the 12th best player in all of pro football. And even though Johnson suffered a wrist injury in the season opener against the Detroit Lions that will keep him on the sidelines for a while, we're hopeful that he'll be healthy and back in the game soon.

Maggie Ewen learned the hammer throw as a child in a barn on her family's farm in Minnesota. But this hammer has nothing to do with building a barn. The women's hammer is a nine-pound steel ball attached to a four-foot chain, which the ASU junior spun around and around until she hurled it farther than any other female athlete in NCAA history. Ewen won the 2017 NCAA hammer throw with a collegiate record of 70.32 meters (240 feet, seven inches for those of you who haven't converted to metric yet). She also finished second in the discus and sixth in the nation in shot put. And she won all three events in the Pac-12 championships. Ewen was named the 2017 Outdoor Women's National Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Obviously, she's long since outgrown throwing the hammer and the shot and the discus in the barn — or else that barn has a lot of holes in it.

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