The Payoff

Following a baseball team over the course of a season has a lot in common with a good friendship. You follow them day by day, reading box scores, listening to their games on the radio, and get to know their strengths, weaknesses, personality, and character. Last year, I followed the Red Sox and the Astros, and as each team went on a run into the playoffs, it felt rewarding to see them come together in the playoffs. The Astros went on quite a ride this year, winning an 18-inning game to beat the Braves in their first playoff series, then shrugging off a towering (and potentially devastating) home run by Albert Pujols in the NLCS to go to their first World Series behind the pitching of Roy Oswalt. It has been a lot of fun...

...and it may be over soon. The Chicago White Sox currently have a 1-run lead in the 8th inning of Game 3 of the World Series, and the Astros are showing little life at this point. They lost Games 1 and 2 in Chicago, but looked to bounce back with Roy Oswalt (their money pitcher) going in Game 3 at home. Taking a 4-run lead into the 5th inning, RoyO gave up 6 hits and 5 runs, the equivalent of a mid-game stomach punch that the 'Stros have yet to recover from. I'm still watching, and I haven't lost hope yet, but things aren't looking good.

So unless the 'Stros are able to mount a comeback (like they have all season), I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed this team tremendously this year. Craig Biggio, a superstar in the 1990's (Bill James ranks him as the 2nd best player of the decade), has had a solid season at the age of 39. Jason Lane, Chris Burke, Willy Taveras, and Wandy Rodriguez were playing for the Round Rock Express last year, and have all had nice rookie seasons in the Show. Roger Clemens pitched out of his mind this year at the age of 43, finishing the year with an ERA under 2.00, and with Andy Pettite and Roy Oswalt also on the team, he may not have been the best pitcher on the team. All in all, a likeable blend of young guys and veterans that never give up.

The 'Stros started the year 15-30. They went on a run to take the Wild Card lead by the end of July, and fought through the next two months to take it by a game over Philly. They beat the Braves in 4 games, and then beat the Cardinals in 6 games. They have played hard in every game this World Series, but fell short each game to a Chicago White Sox team that hits well, fields well, and pitches well, and as a result seems to win most games they play. No shame losing to a team like that.

So the 'Stros made their first World Series this year with a young team that has a long future ahead of it. Well done guys...

(And with that said, Ensberg is up to bat with a full count and 2 outs. He hasn't hit it too well in the playoffs, but I think he's due. Gotta watch...)

(He drew a walk. The go-ahead run is at the plate...)

(Lamb draws a walk. Jason "Solo-Homer King" Lane is up. A base hit ties it...)

(Lane hits a double! Tie Game! Guys on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and Ausmus coming up. I guess I'll mention that I went to the rally cap two pitches before the double...)

(Ausmus caught looking on a dubious strike three. Tied going into the 9th, and the big hitters coming up for Chicago. Hope is alive...)


A little score prediction for the big Tech game this Saturday...

(And Ellie, it'll be NATIONALLY TELEVISED AT 2:30, in case you want to watch it.)



[Censored]! [Censored]! [Censored]! I can't [censored] believe what I just [censored] saw. [Censored]! [Censored] Pujois just hit [censored] hit the [censored] ball six hundred [censored] feet! [Censored]!

OK, I think I've got that out of my system...

Oh, not quite yet...

[Censored]! We were one [censored] strike from the [censored] World [censored] Series, with no one [censored] on, and a [censored] two-run [censored] lead, and, well, [censored]!

OK, that was it.

Oswalt pitching Game 6. We'll be alright...

A Guest Column on Houston

I just got this email from Eric. It was written in response to Ryan Kiblinger, who argued that Houston isn't really a part of Texas. Let me just add, I am in full agreement on Reason #6...
After the 'Stros completed last night's very routine
double play, I called Mr. Kiblinger to let him know
that the first World Series game in our great state
would be played in Houston, not in Arlington. His
response? With a bit of paraphrasing, he said that
Houston is not a part of our state because,
culturally, it bears no resemblance to the rest of the
state. I believe that he believes that Houston is
only a rancid ghetto built on a swamp, owing its
limited prosperity to the 1900 tragedy in Galveston.

Ryan asked me to list five reasons Houston is an
important cultural location in our state, confident
that I couldn't come up with that number. He's
already agreed with the first three, and I don't think
he can argue with the others:

1) Love it or hate it, Houston's petroleum/natural gas
industry is pretty Texan. You have Texans buying,
selling, finding, drilling for, transporting, and
refining "awl". You've got the roughnecks and the
J.R.'s (with apologies to the city of Dallas).

2) My dad's high school alma mater shuts down each
year for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. It
doesn't shut down for the State Fair, the Ft. Worth
rodeo, or any other similar event. The Houston rodeo
is our state's Super Bowl of livestock shows and is
one of the country's most important rodeos. Ryan
thinks it's pathetic that so many people focus on the
concerts, but based on my brief time living in
Houston, I know that folks in Houston really and truly
love their rodeo.

3) So Gilley's isn't really in Houston, but Pasadena
is basically Houston, right? It makes me shudder to
think of Travolta playing a kicker, but how many
real-life honky tonks do they feature in movies?
Billy Bob's is just a Gilley's knockoff.

4) The city is named after freakin' Sam Houston. What
more needs to be said?

5) T.J. Ford and Vince Young are from Houston. I
challenge Ryan to claim that they aren't Texans.
They're Texans now, and they were Texans before they
moved to Austin.

I'll add a few more:

6) Ryan claims that Beyonce, while beautiful, is not
uniquely Texan. I argue that she's clearly Texan
because no other state could produce a woman that hot.

7) Maybe it's a bit of a stretch, but I think ZZ Top
does the state proud. They introduced us to the
beautiful marriage of classic cars and T&A.

8) Marvin Zindler qualifies because of his role in the
demise of the Chicken Ranch. He's always reminded me
of the creepy guy who hosted the "Faces of Death"
videos. Check out this great sand sculpture of the

9) Red Adair is known to be a real SOB in person, but
he's as Texan as it gets. Our state's great
Hellfighter, born and raised in Houston...

10) Houston was our state's capital for a brief
period, and that counts for something. Folks
eventually wised up and moved it to Austin, but
Houston did put up a fight to keep it.

So even though Houston...

...is a wasteland of asphalt and concrete...

...is unbearably hot at 3:00AM...

...smells funny...

...floods frequently...

...has the state's worst traffic...

...is a vast, crime-filled ghetto...

... has no idea what zoning could do (residential
areas next to smoke-belching refineries?!)...

...has air you could swim through (humidity+heat+worst
pollution in the nation)...

...is the home of Tom DeLay...

...is the home of Enron...

...is the home of way too many fatasses...

...it's a good, Texan city that has contributed a lot
to our culture. Any good Texan should be rooting for
the Astros to take it to the Cards, then to the White



A Good Texas Weekend

Before I start, let me apologize for not writing much in the aftermath of the OU game. After 27 holes of golf, about 3 pounds of meat (and a 6 am breakfast at Waffle House), and 5 years of heartache wiped out in one day, I was wiped out as well. That said, it just felt like another game. Oklahoma wasn't that good, and Texas could have played better. Mission Ain't Accomplished yet...

I was actually much more worried about Colorado coming into this weekend. They had just dismantled Texas A&M, and looked a lot like the team that beat Texas in the 2001 Big 12 Championship. I shouldn't have been...

So let me sum up the weekend, starting between the hours of 2:30 and 6:30 on Saturday afternoon:

1) Texas beat Colorado handily in a flawless performance, especially by Vince (25-29 for 336 yards and 2 TD's, with 3 additional TD's running). Tommy and I left for Double Dave's in the 3rd Quarter...

2) ...where the Astros were in a close game with St. Louis and Clemens pitching, and Notre Dame had a lead on USC. Both games ended up ending within a couple of minutes of one another, so the crowd in the place was cheering with each turn in each game. To sum up - The Astros won 4-3 on a save by Brad Lidge, and USC won a game that they were very fortunate to win (I mean this - Leinart was stopped at the 1 with 7 seconds left, and if he didn't fumble the ball out of bounds, the clock would have run out). If USC had lost, Texas would be number 1 today, but they won, so we'll have to wait until January to be #1.

3) And the Coup de Resistance - The Walker, Texas Ranger Movie on CBS at 9 tonight. My heart is aflutter, and for those of you scoring at home (or even if you're alone...), I will be keeping a diary...


We gotta win this game...

We gotta win this game.

Five years. Five times have the Texas Longhorns travelled to face the Oklahoma Sooners in a Cotton Bowl split half-orange/half-crimson, and five times have they lost in excruciating fashion. Five games Mack Brown has been outcoached by Bob Stoops. Five fatal flaws finished us.

We gotta win this game.

For the first time in five years, there is no doubt coming in - Texas is the better team. It starts with the lines on both sides of the ball, both big, physical, and nasty, and both a class above anyone they will face this year. The linebackers, led by senior Aaron Harris, can cover from sideline to sideline, and the defensive backfield is scary fast and experienced. The defense doesn't allow people to score save out of mercy. On the offensive side of the ball, a much-maligned recieving core stepped up their game, and made the plays that keyed the win in the Horseshoe. True freshmen Jamaal Charles (Lightning) and 270-pound Henry Melton (Thunder) possess the quickness of a cat and the rumble of a rhino when running the ball, respectively. Then there's Vince, the dynamo quarterback that makes jaw-dropping play after jaw-dropping play and simply doesn't know how to lose (my brother's words, not mine). At this point, he's a cross between Michael Vick, Marv from Sin City, Aragorn, and Gandhi. If ever there was a man to break the Curse, it's Vince.

Oklahoma is not the same team. After getting blasted/exposed in the national title game against USC, they opened the year losing to TCU at home, then struggled to beat Tulsa and lost again to UCLA. Their freshman QB, Rhett Bomar, runs well but turns the ball over often. Their stud running back, Adrian Peterson, has a bum ankle. The defense can't defend the pass, and the entire team lacks depth after losing numerous players to transfers and injury. The game should not even be close.

We gotta win this game.

As down as Oklahoma is this year, they still scare the crap out of me, for one reason: Bob Stoops. He seems to lose at least one game he shouldn't each year, but he smartly has built his entire team to beat Texas from the time he took over. His strategy is nothing short of brilliant, and he will do anything to beat Texas.

And then there's Mack Brown. He enjoys great success at Texas, and is probably the nicest man in college football, but because he hasn't beaten Oklahoma in five years, he endures endless abuse from media all over the country. This year, he has the edge. He is surrounded by better players and better coaches (especially on defense). If any man deserves to win this game, it's Mack.

We gotta win this game.

So go out there and take that Golden Hat, Horns! Win it for Major Applewhite, who never got his chance to lead the comeback in 2001, and for Chris Simms, who never got enough credit for four years of relentless hard work. Win it for Derrick Johnson and Cedric Benson, two phenomenal players who carried this team on their backs for four years and never beat Oklahoma. Catch a few touchdown passes for Roy, BJ, and Sloan, who never caught one themselves in this game.

Win it for Jeff Turner, who sat with me at the 63-14 game in 2000, and who has waited too many times under the Crying Tree the last few years. Win it for all the Longhorn fans who went toe-to-toe with Sooner fans in the West End District on Friday night and who yearn to simply tell them "Scoreboard." Win it for me, who drove to Pasadena and back in a weekend and who entered the Horseshoe covered in beer and barbeque sauce.

Win it because the Red Sox broke the Curse with a wrecking ball last year, and if they can do it, you can too. Win it because, even if y'all are down 35-7, face a do-or-die 4th and 18, are down 10 in the 4th quarter of the Rose Bowl, or are down 6 in the Horseshoe with five minutes left, you guys just don't lose.

Win it for the poor Dave South, who is still shell-shocked after the Aggies lost 77-0 a couple of years back (though they did beat the hell out of halftime).

Win it convincingly enough to wipe that smirk off the face of Bob Stoops, and make him answer some of the same inane questions that Mack Brown has endured in the last five years. Win it for Mack, and lift him up on your shoulders after you do.

The Eyes of Texas are upon you.