The holiday season is upon us and some of my most fun sports memories are around this time frame. My mom worked for a dentist in Houston who was a Texas Longhorns alum. One Thanksgiving Dr. Senglemann gave mom his tickets to the UT – Texas A & M match in Austin. Well, I wasn’t into the Longhorns since they were so condescending to my University of Houston Cougars who were an independent at the time. So I decided I would root for the Aggies. Imagine my mom’s embarrassment when I was on my feet in the middle of the University of Texas alum section screaming, “Gig “em!” That was the last time my mom invited me to a football game! By the way, A & M won the game.
Every Christmas, I hang a Houston Oilers ornament and as it spins on its blue string, I think back to the first year I got it. It was back in the late 70s when the Houston Oilers were under Coach Bum Phillips. He was fun to watch during games pacing the sidelines, easy to spot with his cowboy hat (except when the Oilers played inside), western style suitcoat and cowboy boots. He coached the Oilers to be a winning team; we referred to as “Love ‘Ya Blue.” The city lived and breathed Oilers football. Almost every store you entered would have the fight song streaming through the air. “Look out football, here we come …. Houston Oilers, number one.” My blue spruce tree was decorated with blue balls, blue lights, icicles and of course my Oilers ornament. My front door was covered in blue foil with a wreath – complete with blue-ribbon bow and a miniature football. Just inside my foyer stood a tall bird cage. It was home to a blue and white parakeet named “Bum.” I had Oilers fever bad. Can ‘ya tell?
One of my favorite memories is from New Year’s Eve, 1969. I was a desk clerk at the Holiday Inn on Gulf Freeway and Wayside Drive. That day I checked in the cheerleaders and several Auburn fans that were in Houston for the Bluebonnet Bowl at the Astrodome. They were playing my school, the U of H Cougars AKA Cougar High. One of the guys checking in asked, “Do you allow pets?” I assumed he meant a dog so I replied, “As long as we know and as long as you clean up after your pet.” As I retrieved a dog marker for the room card, another guy said, “Thanks for letting us have War Eagle in the room. Would you like a free ticket to the game?” It turned out that I had just checked in the Auburn mascot. Yes, I went to the game that night despite Houston being a huge underdog. My seat was pretty good — 50 yard line on the mezzanine level. It was a great night — a huge upset by my Cougars 36-7. Yes, I love the holidays with a ‘lotta sports memories.
Fall — my favorite season!! Temperatures so pleasant one can sleep with the windows open, change of season and football!! For those of you reading this that haven’t lived in Texas, let me explain. Football is the culture — an array of delicacies from the traditional fantasy football leagues to Friday Night Lights to Big 12 and SEC rivalries to The ‘Boys at Jerry’s House or JJ Watt and Company at the NRG. Fall is Texas football!
Friday Night Lights was born in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, but it truly is every community in the state that has a high school football team. Many parents send their boys to football camps to help develop them into the next Colt McCoy or Drew Brees. The girls are sent to cheerleading camps yearning for a future as a Cowboy or Texan Cheerleader. Every small town hopes their community will be put on the map as a high school football dynasty like Smithson Valley or Lake Travis.
In college ball, two Texas schools started off where they left off last season — TCU at # 2 and Baylor at 4th in the national ratings. The University of Texas Longhorns are in uncharted waters beginning the season as unranked. Coach Charlie Strong is attempting to mesh his recruits with the remnants of the Mack Brown Era. Longhorn Alum scratch their heads wondering if this current roster can harvest another Earl Campbell, Vince Young or Ricky Williams.
The Cleveland Browns coaching staff holds its collective breath to see if Johnny Manziel has indeed cleaned up his act or if the power of being a celebrity will again cloud his judgment. I’m sorry but he should have stayed at A & M where he had a coaching staff that held him accountable and out of trouble! This is Johnny Football’s chance to make the Hill Country proud of the Kerrville Tivy alum. As poet Robert Frost penned, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Here’s to a year of better choices JM!!
My favorite venue of all of football season is my annual Fantasy Football draft! After dabbling in the free Internet leagues, I ventured with the big boys and have been in a pay league in the Hill Country for several years. I have won the Playoff/Super Bowl pot twice and runner up once — unless you’re the IRS — then I came in dead last. For those of you who have not played, trust me — it’s mostly luck and good guessing! You can have the best team in the world, but an injury or two can send you back to the drawing board. It is fun and a lot of smack talk with my Commish and the rest of the league. It is what football is all about — especially for those us who can’t be out on the gridiron in the numbered jersey, pads, helmet and cleats — like me!!
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As I write this column, I am recovering from a night of four hours of sleep. Why, you may ask? I stayed up until midnight-thirty watching the LA Clippers at the Houston Rockets for game six. Now if you are a fan of basketball and also watched that game, you will remember that at the end of the third quarter the Houston Rockets were behind 92-79. Most “normal” people would have just turned off the TV and waited until in the morning to hear or read about the results — especially if they had to work early the next morning.
There is a type that is not the “norm” who is a sports devotee such as me. I have superstitions like wearing the same “lucky” attire down to underwear. It is not usual to start yanking off clothes mid-game and substituting with might have been the “lucky” color or item. During a Super Bowl, my team was losing until I discovered after going through my checklist that I had the wrong hair holder on my pony tail. I know, it sounds certifiable, but the team made a turnaround and eventually won. There are also the rituals of “if I don’t get the dishwasher unloaded before a series of commercials ends” or “if my contact lens doesn’t get unstuck by the third try;” my favorite driver won’t get a top five in a race. How many wives would stay planted at a TV to watch the Super Bowl on their honeymoon instead of basking on the sands of the Waikiki? I also found myself setting my alarm for 325AM to watch the Medal run of the 4-Man Bobsled in the 2014 Olympics.
YES, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to watch the fourth quarter of game six of the LA Clippers and Houston Rockets game as the fat lady was obviously tuning up. I even found myself having doubts there was any way they could muster a comeback. Then it happened!! The comeback of the year! I did not miss witnessing the Rockets unbelievable run of forty-nine points to LA’s eighteen in the last fourteen and a half minutes!! Sure I could have watched on the morning news four hours later, but there’s something about the instant euphoria of the win and then the adrenalin that doesn’t allow one to fall asleep. Was it worth it? Sure! Could I have watched it on a replay four hours later? Sure! Would I in the future? Nah…. That’s not part of being a sports aficionado — it’s just not allowed!
Fun watching the Texas Rangers vs. the Oakland A’s at Bark at the Park. Roxie and Rex walked us around the perimeter of the field an hour before game start, then we took in 5 complete innings of baseball. As we got to the car, the Rangers finally hit a home run so we watched the fireworks from our car.
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Here is the complete schedule and national television for all first-round playoff series.
EASTERN CONFERENCE – FIRST ROUND
(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets
Game 1 – Sun. April 19, Brooklyn at Atlanta, 5:30 PM, TNT
Game 2 – Wed . April 22, Brooklyn at Atlanta, 7:00 PM, NBA TV
Game 3 – Sat. April 25, Atlanta at Brooklyn, 3:00 PM, TNT
Game 4 – Mon. April 27, Atlanta at Brooklyn, TBD
Game 5 * – Wed. April 29, Brooklyn at Atlanta, TBD
Game 6 *- Fri. May 1, Atlanta at Brooklyn, TBD
Game 7 *- Sun. May 3, Brooklyn at Atlanta, TBD
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics
Game 1 – Sun. April 19, Boston at Cleveland, 3:00 PM, ABC/R
Game 2 – Tue. April 21, Boston at Cleveland, 7:00 PM, TNT
Game 3 – Thu. April 23, Cleveland at Boston, 7:00 PM, TNT
Game 4 – Sun. April 26, Cleveland at Boston, 1:00 PM, ABC
Game 5 * – Tue. April 28, Boston at Cleveland, TBD
Game 6 * – Thu. April 30, Cleveland at Boston, TBD
Game 7 * – Sat. May 2, Boston at Cleveland , TNT
(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
Game 1 – Sat. April 18, Milwaukee at Chicago, 7:00 PM, ESPN
Game 2 – Mon. April 20, Milwaukee at Chicago, 8:00 PM, TNT
Game 3 – Thu. April 23, Chicago at Milwaukee, 8:00 PM, NBA TV
Game 4 – Sat . April 25, Chicago at Milwaukee, 5:30 PM, TNT
Game 5 *- Mon. April 27, Milwaukee at Chicago, TBD
Game 6 * – Thu. April 30, Chicago at Milwaukee, TBD
Game 7 * – Sat. May 2, Milwaukee at Chicago, TNT
(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Game 1 – Sat. April 18, Washington at Toronto, 12:30 PM, ESPN
Game 2 – Tue. April 21, Washington at Toronto, 8:00 PM, NBA TV
Game 3 – Fri. April 24, Toronto at Washington, 8:00 PM, ESPN2
Game 4 – Sun. April 26, Toronto at Washington, 7:00 PM, TNT
Game 5 *- Wed. April 29, Washington at Toronto, TBD
Game 6 * – Fri. May 1 ,Toronto at Washington, TBD
Game 7 * – Sun. May 3, Washington at Toronto, TBD
WESTERN CONFERENCE – FIRST ROUND
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans
Game 1 – Sat. April 18, New Orleans at Golden State, 3:30 PM, ABC/R
Game 2 – Mon. April 20, New Orleans at Golden State, 10:30 PM , TNT
Game 3 – Thu. April 23, Golden State at New Orleans, 9:30 PM, TNT
Game 4 – Sat. April 25, Golden State at New Orleans, 8:00 PM ,ESPN
Game 5 * – Tue. April 28, New Orleans at Golden State, TBD
Game 6 * – Fri. May 1, Golden State at New Orleans, TBD
Game 7 * – Sun. May 3, New Orleans at Golden State, TBD
(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Game 1 – Sat. April 18, Dallas at Houston, 9:30 PM, ESPN
Game 2 – Tue. April 21, Dallas at Houston, 9:30 PM, TNT
Game 3 – Fri. April 24, Houston at Dallas, 7:00 PM, ESPN
Game 4 – Sun. April 26, Houston at Dallas, 9:30 PM, TNT
Game 5 * – Tue. April 28, Dallas at Houston, TBD
Game 6 * – Thu. April 30, Houston at Dallas, TBD
Game 7 * – Sat. May 2, Dallas at Houston, TNT
(3) L.A. Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
Game 1 – Sun. April 19, San Antonio at L.A. Clippers, 10:30 PM, TNT
Game 2 – Wed. April 22, San Antonio at L.A. Clippers, 10:30 PM, TNT
Game 3 – Fri. April 24, L.A. Clippers at San Antonio, 9:30 PM, ESPN
Game 4 – Sun. April 26, L.A. Clippers at San Antonio, 3:30 PM, ABC
Game 5 – * Tue. April 28, San Antonio at L.A. Clippers,TBD
Game 6 – * Thu. April 30, L.A. Clippers at San Antonio,TBD
Game 7 – * Sat. May 2, San Antonio at L.A. Clippers, TNT
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
Game 1 – Sun. April 19, Portland at Memphis, 8:00 PM, TNT
Game 2 – Wed. April 22, Portland at Memphis, 8:00 PM, TNT
Game 3 – Sat. April 25, Memphis at Portland, 10:30 PM, ESPN
Game 4 – Mon. April 27, Memphis at Portland, 10:30 PM, TNT
Game 5 *- Wed. April 29, Portland at Memphis, TBD
Game 6 * – Fri. May 1, Memphis at Portland, TBD
Game 7 *- Sun. May 3, Portland at Memphis, TBD
* = if necessary
All times are Eastern
TBD – To Be Determined
R – ESPN Radio