Having recently looked at sporting goods retailer Sports Authority (NYSE:TSA) -- with an article that got me a lot of reader mail from people with questions, comments, and concerns about how the sector's pure-play leader does business -- I thought I'd follow up by looking at its chief competitor outside the broadline retail business: Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS).

Perhaps handily, Dick's shares reached a new 52-week high today. That's notable in part because both Dick's and Sports Authority have been strong performers lately -- strange, to me, because I've never had much interest in either investing in the industry or shopping at most sporting goods outlets. Generally speaking, I'm used to leaving such places empty-handed and suspecting that I would have been better served at a specialty store.

Investors, however, continue to fund these companies. Each hopes to recreate some of the "magic" other category killers -- like Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Home Depot (NYSE:HD) -- have created. Even with Sports Authority consistently buying up the competition over the last several years, investors can still choose from competitors likes of Dick's, Big Five (NASDAQ:BGFV), and Galyan's (NASDAQ:GLYN).

All of the sporting goods companies in this story (except Galyan's) have outdone the S&P 500 by a good margin over the last 12 months. But Dick's is the darling, for reasons Matt Richey discussed in a two- part series he wrote earlier this year: strong profit margins, great service, and a history of capital-efficient growth.

That the company still has plenty of room to run before having anything close to a national footprint only encourages investors. The secret, however, is out -- based on trailing 12-month data taken from Reuters Investor, Dick's commands the highest price-to-earnings ratio in the business.

How best to use that information is a tricky subject. There is, at least, plenty of good in the fact that there's room to grow and investors are enthusiastic about the prospects both for Dick's and, it would seem, the sector as a whole.

Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own shares of any of the companies in this story. He can be reached at dmarnach@fool.com.