Best Male Athlete 2019 | Kyler Murray | Fun & Games | Phoenix

When some of us measure 5 feet, 10 inches and weigh 207 pounds, the doctor says, "You need to lose some weight." When Kyler Murray hit those numbers at the National Football League Combine earlier this year, the experts said it almost certainly meant that the diminutive quarterback was big enough for the Arizona Cardinals to make him the No. 1 pick in the draft. That also made Murray the first athlete ever to be drafted in the first round by both the NFL and Major League Baseball, forcing him to choose the Cardinals over the Oakland Athletics. Even though as we're writing this, Murray has only made two starts, he's our easy choice based on what he's already done, which includes winning the Heisman Trophy by passing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns in his only full season as a starter at the University of Oklahoma in 2018. We do have our concerns about Murray — not about his size, but about selecting him for this award. Our last two Best of Phoenix Male Athletes, David Johnson and Devin Booker, got hurt before the selection was even announced. Stay safe, little one.

Mesa native Julie Ertz now holds the record for world championships in the Ertz household. Her husband, Zach, won a Super Bowl as a tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles, but she has two World Cup soccer titles on her wall, starring for the winning U.S. teams in 2015 and 2019. She began playing soccer as Julie Johnston, and she and her sister, Melanie, were standouts for Phoenix's nationally known Sereno Soccer Club. College and pro soccer led her to a spot on the national women's team, where Ertz is a capable offensive player, but her forte as a midfielder is defense; she led the United States to four shutouts in its seven World Cup matches, including a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final, when Ertz totally shut down vaunted Dutch playmaker Daniëlle van de Donk.

Best Last Chance for a Sports Exec to Keep His Job

Steve Keim

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim's biggest mistakes may be the reason he still has a chance to remain employed. In 2018, Keim hired Steve Wilks as the team's head coach and traded up to select quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th pick of the first round of the NFL draft. Wilks was dismal, and Rosen never had a chance to succeed. Both are already gone, at considerable cost to the team, which finished 3-13 last season. You can't blame all that on the Wilks and Rosen decisions, however. Keim has made plenty of other errors in judgment. Many of the team's top draft picks were a disaster (where have you gone, Jonathan Cooper and Kevin Minter?), and the general manager left his team and new coach rudderless for five weeks last summer while serving a suspension for his extreme DUI conviction. But in the NFL, ineptitude pays: The Cardinals' poor performance earned them the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, which they used to select Heisman Trophy winner and human mistake eraser Kyler Murray. His talent may just make Keim look like a smart man again.

When your station's ratings are less than one-quarter of the other guy's, why not pull a Hamilton and not throw away your shot? (Sports fans: We're talking about Alexander Hamilton in the hit Broadway musical, not former Detroit guard Rip Hamilton.) That's what Fox Sports Radio 910 AM's Jody Oehler has been doing for the past year to his afternoon rival, John Gambadoro, the 2018 Best of Phoenix Best Sportscaster. Oehler has challenged the accuracy of some of Gambo's reporting on Twitter, noting that the 98.7 talker said the Cardinals wouldn't trade up to get Josh Rosen (they shouldn't have, but we checked it out, and Gambo reported that if the Cards did move up it would be to get Rosen). Oehler also said that Gambo was wrong about the 2018 NBA draft, when the Suns moved up to take Mikal Bridges (smart move). Gambo, for his part, has ignored Oehler's tweets, but at least Oehler's tactics got him some space on The Athletic, a national sports website. If he really wants to make up some ground in drive time, though, maybe Oehler should either try a Jersey accent or work his "sawrces" as hard as the transplanted East Coaster does.

Listeners got a double bonus when Arizona Sports 98.7 FM expanded the Bickley & Marotta show from two to four hours last year. Not only did we get more time with this lively midday duo (and less with the B-Train, Bertrand Berry), but we also got free access to Dan Bickley's insightful column, which had been hidden for years behind the paywall and on the pages of the Arizona Republic. (We will admit his nasal voice is best suited for print.) Part of what makes Bickley and Marotta so successful is that they don't need to talk about successful sports teams to keep their audiences engaged. They are adept at entertaining us with lengthy discussions on celebrities, rock bands, and movies. What other sportscasting team can go mano a mano reciting lines from Caddyshack? Certainly, we need a few laughs after the way our pro sports teams have been performing — like rat farts.

Like we've said before, there's no bad place in the Valley to see a spring training game, because if you're there, it means you're off work or on vacation, and you're watching baseball. But let's give props to Phoenix and the Milwaukee Brewers for their $60 million renovation of the facility formerly known as Maryvale Baseball Park. The upgrades include a new entrance and better parking. American Family Fields is also the most centrally located of all the Cactus League stadiums, the only one actually inside the Phoenix city limits. There are no bad seats in this cozy 10,000-seat park, and the experience includes a few authentic touches from Wisconsin, including Kent "Iceman" Meyer, a legendary beer hawker at games in Milwaukee who accompanies the team to spring training and greets fans with his signature cry, "The Iceman be in the house!" A brew is the perfect pairing with the park's bratwursts slathered in Wisconsin's famous beer brat red sauce. It's a treat that rivals the Sonoran dog as the best in the Cactus League, putting the overhyped Dodger Dog to shame.

Pecos Skate Park is one of perfect dimensions, featuring fun and challenging obstacles, rails, and transitions for skaters of all skill levels. There are a number of prerequisites when it comes to selecting a skate park that will be attractive to every skater, because if you've spent any time carving and grinding through skate parks around town, you know that some can be a bit intimidating, while others are too simple and boring. Pecos is the Goldilocks of Valley skate parks: just right. In choosing Pecos Skate Park, we have taken into account approachability for young grommet skaters, as well as a difficulty and combination potential for even the most experienced skaters. Never too crowded, and with plenty of room for everyone to spread out and get their runs in, Pecos is shred-ready for skaters one and all.

Benjamin Leatherman

Metro Phoenix is what you’d call a hotbed of professional wrestling fandom. (To quote Kurt Angle, it’s true, it’s damn true.) Just ask all the marks who flock to the events that WWE brings here on the regular (including its Royal Rumble pay-per-view earlier this year) or any of the smackdowns put on by the half-dozen independent wrestling promotions in the Valley. So much spandex-clad action happens in the Valley, in fact, that it takes something unique to stand out from the competition — and Party Hard Wrestling has been doing just that the past few years. Since its debut in 2016, PHW has become the weirdest, funniest, and quirkiest entry into Phoenix’s busy wrestling scene. It stars characters like the garbage-covered El Rey Basura (literally, “the trash king”), Cereal Man (who’s half-human, half-breakfast option), and the Party Ranger (a parody of “Super Sentai” kids’ shows). Competitors battle for Party Hard’s main title, the Championship of the Multiverse, and storylines sometimes involve supernatural or otherworldly elements. PHW has proven to be popular so far; its shows at The Nile Theater in Mesa, which run monthly from September to May, are usually packed with fans. It even appeared in a recent episode of the Netflix show Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father. It’s ribald, rowdy, and ridiculous, not to mention a blast to watch.

We'll acknowledge our tastes (and abilities) run more toward golf courses that feature windmill holes and clown mouths, so we're deferring to the experts on this selection. Golf Digest, the bible for those who spend their Sundays praying for a birdie putt to fall, this year again ranked Quintero among the top 100 public courses in America, a list that includes such legendary names as Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Sawgrass, and, alas, Trump National. No other Arizona course made the list. Golf Digest wrote that "perhaps no course in the greater Phoenix area provides a better experience of the area's diverse topography. Some holes are framed by mountain ridges, others are out in the Sonoran Desert. Still others are edged by manmade irrigation lakes or natural desert washes." But to paraphrase Mark Twain, why spoil a good walk among such beautiful scenery trying to knock a little white ball into a hole a quarter mile away?

The best staycation spots give you plenty to do on-site, plus lots of nearby options when you want to explore the urban landscape. Hotel Valley Ho beautifully blends it all, with amenities that include spa time, yoga, a pool with DJ-provided tunes, a chef's table culinary experience, and tours focused on the hotel's history, where you'll hear guides drop names like Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, of Psycho fame. The hotel can also hook you up with a tour of Midcentury Modern architecture in Scottsdale and the area's eclectic assortment of food, drink, and shopping options. You can get off the grid, getting around by electric scooter, trolley, or golf-cart taxi. Walk just a few minutes, and you can explore cultural resources from art museums to performance venues. Bottom line: Guests leave refreshed and ready to tackle the real world.

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