DALLAS — Walking around the halls of the American Airlines Center and looking at the championship banners that hang from the rafters, the reality for our winter professional sports teams is not entirely pleasant: Jerry, you’re our best hope.Your Dallas Stars season has begun. (Yes, we still have a hockey team that plays on frozen water.) It is looking like a repeat of the past few forgettable years that have helped make this proud franchise so sadly irrelevant.Your Dallas Mavericks are less than one week away from beginning their regular season, and while the roster is dramatically improved, we know the score: This is LeBron’s league. Even with one of the best coaches in the NBA and one of its premier players in Dirk, the way this league is stacked, the Mavs’ best might mean the middle of the pack.Both of these teams represent this area’s most recent titles — the Mavs in 2011 and the Stars all the way back in 1999. Yes, the Rangers should be the most recent but Game 6 pooped on that parade.Let this torpedo of truth strike you: As these teams are constructed, our best shot to buy a “title” T-shirt of any sort is our 4-3 Dallas Cowboys. Nooooo, not a Super Bowl T-shirt, silly goose — an NFC East Champions T-shirt.This is more of an indictment of the stinky state of the NFC East, but that’s not on Jerry or Coach Process. They can only beat who they play, and right now we just know for sure they would be a giant bomb as a member of the AFC West.The Cowboys are merely a product of the financial realities of the NFL, and the giant middle class that it created. The Cowboys ain’t perfect, but let’s celebrate that they’re not the Jaguars, whom they will play in London in 2014 as a “road” team.They are better than our winter alternatives.Only now in the past few months did the Stars finally bottom out and rebuild themselves with a new general manager. They have a pair of talented young kids to build around — Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are serious players.“It feels totally different around here,” Benn said. “We have a good group of guys.”We heard that last year. And the year before.Benn isn’t the problem. Their defensemen remain an embarrassment, and the Stars’ next generation of “great young things” is about a year away. Of course, that phrase has been peddled for years.Only if goalie Kari Lehtonen remains healthy can this team contend for a seventh or eighth seed and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. That’s the only way for you to care about this team again anyway — if it reaches the playoffs.This leaves us with the Mavericks, who will be OK as long as Dirk is just that.Our favorite German import (beer not included) is 35 and healthy. I asked Mavs coach Rick Carlisle if Dirk was still in his prime, albeit at the back end.“He’s a great player,” Carlisle said.Making sure the coach could hear me, I again asked if Dirk was still in the prime of his career but at the back end.“He’s a great player,” Carlisle repeated.Dirk is a great player, but his best years are gone. Dirk has one or two years of big-time ball left, if that. If Dirk’s body holds up, the Mavs will be competitive.He should have two titles, but let’s celebrate he got one.The additions of guards Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon give him competent teammates, who can pass it and shoot it. The prayer, which was a necessity after Dwight Howard became the third big-time free agent to pass on Mark Cuban’s money, is center Samuel Dalembert. The idea is he’s the second coming of Tyson Chandler.“Tangibly, we need rebounds and we need rim protection,” Carlisle said of Dalembert.He can do both. The question is, will he?The knock on Dalembert is that he coasts, and embodies the big-guy NBA player who likes the NBA lifestyle and check but is rather blasé about the game itself. Chandler loved the game, and was the spirit of that title team two years ago.After Howard passed on the Mavs, this was the next best option.What Cuban has built is a nice little team that should hover around a playoff spot.They’re not too different than the Cowboys, only the latter enjoys the spoils of a rotten division in a league that loves it some mediocrity.It’s not ideal, but Jerry’s boys are our best chance.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof