Just How Houston Are You? Sports Edition

Just how Houston are you? Do you remember this team?
There was one of those stupid Twitter hashtags things about Houston this week, this one showing just how much of a Houstonian a person really is. I'm tired of writing about the depressing antics of the Houston Astros and CSN Houston, and I had to miss this week's CUSA Football Media Day in Dallas because of work issues. And frankly, I'm much too lazy to come up with something original to write about. So, with a sports theme, here's my version of #ImSoHouston...

1. ...that I remember when the Houston Rockets couldn't even sell out Hofheinz Pavilion.

2. ...that I remember Nolan Ryan pitching for the New York Mets.

3. ...that I remember what it was like to be awed by the best scoreboard spectacle in all sports.

4. ...that when I was a kid the Houston Cougars played football in a major college football conference and went to major bowl games on a yearly basis.

5. ...that I recall Tal Smith when he was the beloved, recently deposed general manager of a playoff baseball team and not the guy who helped to destroy a winning franchise.

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Five "Nights" the Astros Can Use to Sell Tickets in September

Breaking Bad night?
When it comes to the standings, Major League Baseball (or any team sport, for that matter) is a zero sum game.

One team wins, one team loses, and in baseball, by the time August rolls around, from a business standpoint, you just hope that the teams that lose regularly are in cities where the fans attach fewer conditions to attendance than in other cities. St. Louis, Boston, Chicago....those seem like places where tickets still get sold even if the team is ten games under .500.

Unfortunately, many cities aren't nearly as unconditional with their love for their hometown team, so it sends marketing and promotions departments scrambling for solutions to create buzz, fill seats, and generate revenue.

Phoenix is one of those passive sports cities.

At 44-57 heading into Wednesday's games, the Diamondbacks are on a long road to nowhere, mired in a battle for third place in the NL West with the equally underwhelming San Diego Padres. So how does Arizona get fans out to the ball park for a Sunday game against the woeful Chicago Cubs?

Here's how:

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Just When You Think Things Can't Get Worse for the Astros, They Prove You Wrong

Categories: Baseball, Sports

The Astros could be characters in one of Elmore Leonard's novels.
Elmore Leonard's novels are full of guys and girls who think they're smarter than everybody else. Crooks, con men and cops who know better than their rivals. Who have figured out all of the angles. They're arrogant about this genius, bragging to anyone who'll listen about just how damn smart they are. But then the plan's put into play and things fall apart. The mark doesn't respond properly. A confederate chickens out. Or, usually, it's because the hero or heroine, who's been dismissed as a plodding fool, figures out the genius's plan and pounces on the mistake. And there are always mistakes.

The Houston Astros would be the perfect antagonist of a Elmore Leonard novel, were Leonard still alive, and were he to have written about baseball teams and not petty criminals. The team's an arrogant bunch of wise guys convinced they're smarter than everybody else and they're not afraid to tell everyone about just how damn smart they are. They're a bunch of guys who have failed to win anything and who, in fact, built a team that for the past several years has been known more for tanking games to get high draft choices than it has for being a competitive on-field product. And just like Elmore Leonard's villains, the so-called smartest guys in the room have started making mistake after mistake.

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Tracy McGrady Records First Career Strikeout, Retires Immediately

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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Photo by Marco Torres
It's all over.
In the Seinfeld episode "The Burning," Jerry teaches George the value of going out on a high note. "Showmanship, George. When you hit that high note, say goodnight and walk off," he explains. Apparently, former NBA star and Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady has been watching reruns because he pulled one of the more fascinating high-note walk-offs in show business history.

McGrady, who racked up All-Star nominations, playoff appearances and scoring titles as a talented NBA guard, had been pursuing a career as a minor league pitcher with the Sugar Land Skeeters. McGrady's NBA career over for a couple of years, the huge baseball fan and still Houston resident decided to take a crack at it and the Skeeters were more than happy to oblige, promotional considerations being what they are in all minor league baseball, but particularly for an unaffiliated Atlantic League squad in a suburb of Houston.

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Houston Astros: Three Things to Watch in the Second Half of the Season

Categories: Baseball, Sports

Photo by Tom Hagerty
Singleton could be fun to watch, too.
The Astros return to action out of the All Star break tonight, journeying to Chicago to take on the Chicago White Sox. The Astros' record has improved from last year, and the team has not been as bad as it has been in years past. Though the team's been so damn bad in years past that just about anything is an improvement. So with the Astros returning to play, what should the fans watch for the remainder of the season?

1.The Worst Team In Baseball Race

The Astros are better this year than last. And with a record of 40-56, they are actually on a pace not to lose 100-plus games for the fourth season in a row. But it needs to be noted that the Astros, are, again, in competition for the worst record in baseball. The only team with a worse record, at the moment, is the Texas Rangers, a team in free fall that seems to have given up on the season. If the Astros lose out for the worst record, then the team will lose out on the first pick of the amateur draft. This would be a good thing as no team wants to continuously lose and lose games and earn the number one pick in the MLB amateur draft, even a team that's willing to experiment with new ideas as much as the Astros.

So if you're really desperate for a reason to watch, watching to see if the Astros lose 100-plus games, earn the worst record in MLB once again and get the first pick in the draft may be about the best reason there is because the team is sure as hell not going to compete for anything else.

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Stuart Scott's ESPY Speech Receiving the Jimmy V Perseverance Award Brings Down the House (VIDEO)

Not all that long ago, I was complaining to a buddy of mine with knowledge of the inner workings at ESPN about the "shtick" of some of the anchors/hosts.

Specifically, I told him that I was not a huge fan of Stuart Scott's work and that Chris Berman's gravelly barrage of jokes that were fresh in 1989 made me want to jam a crowbar through my brain. My friend proceeded to tell me that if anyone was going to have to change in my relationship with ESPN, it would be me because those two guys weren't going anywhere.

"Berman and Stu are the most powerful guys in the building," he said.

Let me just say that I'm still trying to reconcile my feelings with the two of them (both are, by all accounts, pretty nice guys, for what it's worth), but I struggle.

As it pertains to Scott, I respect his longevity, I respect his professionalism, I definitely respect his ability to build a brand. I'm just not wild about the brand.

I'm still not, but after last night's ESPY's, I am a huge fan of Stuart Scott the person and Stuart Scott the father.

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Is the CSN Houston Madness Almost Over? Maybe

csn houston.jpg
Please let this nightmare be almost over
The Beatles once wrote that happiness is a warm gun. They were singing about heroin. But truthfully, it's not to hard to imagine them digging their way through the latest happenings arising from the CSN Houston bankruptcy and literally figured that happiness involved putting a gun to their heads as a way of ending the madness.

The madness flared to life again yesterday with an emergency hearing arising from the request of the Rockets and the Astros to keep certain information confidential. And not just confidential from the public, but kept away from the third owner of the network, Comcast. The request, they stated, was the wish of a prospective buyer of the network with whom they're currently negotiating. The potential buyer is asking that its identity and the terms of its potential purchase be kept from the network board until it gives permission or until July 31, whichever date comes first.

Before getting to the nuts and bolts of the legalities and arguments, let's get to the really important part. There is a third party out there willing to step in and complete the restructuring of the network. Or rather, there's a sucker out there willing to buy a bankrupt Houston-based regional sports network with only about 40-percent carriage in the Houston area and whose prime assets are one of the worst teams in baseball and a basketball team that got bounced in the first round of the playoffs last season and just made it worse for the upcoming season.

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Astros, Number One Pick at Odds Over Bonus, Alleged Injury

Categories: Baseball, Sports

Not so fast...
George Springer got the cover of last month's Sports Illustrated story on the Houston Astros. But the actual story was less about Springer than it was about how lessons learned by a blackjack dealer can be applied to building a baseball team. And a large portion of the story was set in the Astros draft room as the team prepared for last month's amateur player draft, and the discussions that led to the team drafting left-handed high school pitcher Brady Aiken with the number one pick.

Aiken has yet to sign a contract with the Astros. He and his family flew to Houston on June 23, supposedly to sign his contract. The Astros were supposedly prepared to announce his signing and introduce him to the fans inside Minute Maid Park before a game. The team store was supposedly prepared to start selling shirts with Aiken's name. But none of this has happened. The deadline for signing amateur players to a contract is this Friday.

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The Future Is Just Over the Horizon: A Little Patience for These Astros

Categories: Baseball

Photo by Marco Torres
This could sound a bit familiar. A respected national sports magazine does a feature on a woebegone baseball team. The team's coming back from the depths. The farm system's been rebuilt and is now the best in baseball after having invested huge amounts of time and money. The GM was hired after having helped to build one of baseball's most consistently winning franchises, and he raids that franchise for his staff. There's not a lot of TV money coming in, but it doesn't matter because the team's building the right way. It sucks really badly right now, but just hang on a few years because, that magazine predicts, the team will win the World Series and all will be right with the world.

This is not Sports Illustrated touting the Astros as 2017 World Series champs just a few weeks ago. This is Sports Illustrated in March of 2011 trumpeting the Kansas City Royals as the future of baseball.

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Even Wile E. Coyote Must Think CSN Houston Is Poorly Conceived

Was CSN Houston actually designed by the fine folks at ACME?
We've all seen the Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Those classic Warner Bros. cartoons where the coyote ran through the desert trying to catch the Road Runner. And we all remember the grand plans Wile E. would hatch, most of them courtesy of ACME and most being incredibly complicated Rube Goldberg contraptions that would invariably blow up at the last instance.

The CSN cartoon returned to the court of Judge Marvin Isgur on Wednesday. The parties were supposed to present to Isgur a reorganization plan. They were supposed to have done this last month, but couldn't. So after being granted a month's continuance, they once again failed to come up with a plan, asking the judge to give them another month's continuance, which the judge granted. But being as this whole thing had reached cartoon levels of idiocy, the request for continuance was not unanimous since Comcast objected, which was surprising as it's normally the Astros objecting to everything under the sun.

CSN Houston must have been designed by ACME and assembled by Wile E. Coyote because there's no other explanation for the joke that this thing has become. There's the partnership agreement that allowed any of the three partners to veto any agreement. There's the most favored nations status clause that lowers the price Comcast pays to carry the network lower than that of any carrier. There's the whole insistence by the Astros that the network be distributed over the same five-state network as Fox Sports Southwest despite the fact that Rockets games can only be aired over a tiny sliver of that proposed network map.

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