BEST SPORTING GOODS STORE - 2004
Past winners have included some enormo-dome one-stops and second-hand gear chains, but let's hear it for this underdog, which has been in the game for more than 40 years. General Sports' one and only shop may not have every conceivable item, but it packs a lot into one location, and keeps up very well on the popular activities from season to season--as well as year-round on hockey, rollerblading, and school-spirit wear. It's not for bargain hunters; however, the General offers starter kits that put all the essentials together at a small discount. It's a nice feature for casual players and exasperated parents trying to keep up with the times (Lacrosse is the new soccer!). If that weren't enough, General Sports' real achievement is supplying all kinds of merch for the working game official. Have you always wanted one of those beanbags the football refs throw, or a little scorebook like the soccer refs carry? They're here, along with linesman's flags, umpire's caps, and whistles galore. Granted, most people prefer life on the other side of the zebra stripes, but if the refs in your rec league are looking shabby, you can tell them where to go. Literally! On a recent stop, we encountered two brothers who'd made the trip from Mankato for ump gear. Ask a local varsity basketball ref and they'll say the same. So there. We've made our call. You can argue this choice if you want, but do it nicely or we'll toss you.