You can't go wrong with whiskey. Courtesy photo
So you have waited until the last minute to get a gift for the degenerate sports fan in your life. It’s getting tight on something from Amazon, but it is still possible. However, if you want to get a gift that looks like you put some effort into it (even though you didn’t), and in most cases not spend a lot of money, you have options and can get most of these without waiting in line for much. Sure, you can always get golf, running, tennis or crossfit equipment, but if the person in your life likes good alcohol, gambling, fun and sports (yes, that’s me, so I would love any of these), here are five last-minute gift ideas:
Local beer and spirits
There is no shortage of great choices; the craft beer scene in Houston is the best it has ever been, and there are several great options. The Downtown Spec’s has entire area dedicated to Houston and Texas beers, including some nice barrel-aged options. The staff is very knowledgeable and if you just ask for guidance they will help. If you want to go more high end, whiskey is always a good choice. We recommend keeping it local. The Whitmeyer’s Texas Whiskey and Texas Peach are great options, and if you want to go high end, the Single Barrel is the way to go. Your degenerate will thank you. Spec’s downtown has them on a regular basis, but you can also swing by the distillery and pick up a bottle if you are on the north side of town. A distillery tour (or a brewery tour) gift card makes a nice complement. This is a good, affordable option, because you can spend as much or as little as you like.
Astros World Series memorabilia
Your sports fan will still appreciate Astros World Series gear. Academy still has a great selection and you can swing by there. If you want something a little different, the audio book HIstory Earned makes a terrific gift, or you can hit them with a coffee table book. Again, affordability is the key. The audio book is just $13.99, and most gear is under $60.
Poker room membership
Legal poker rooms are cropping up everything, and a membership for your favorite degenerate works very well. Check for the one nearest you; a google search will do it. My personal favorite is Lions Poker Palace on Richmond near Dave and Buster’s. You can’t go wrong with this one. A yearly membership is the best option for someone who is playing a lot, but even a monthly membership works. You can create a nice gift card online and give your degenerate a money order and it makes it look like you put in a lot of effort.
Rent a suite at Sam Houston Race Park
Live racing returns in January, and there are affordable suite packages available. It’s a great way to have a fun night with friends, perhaps win some money and do some business networking. If you want to keep it more personal and keep the price down, a nice romantic dinner at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant or a night in the Jockey Club works as well. That way, you have a nice dinner together, while the degenerate in your life can get in a few bets.
Rockets partial ticket packages
In case you haven’t noticed, the Rockets are on a tear right now. Five-game packages are available and a night at Toyota Center can be fun and entertaining. Ticket prices vary based on seating so there are very affordable options.
Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.
Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.
The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.
“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”
With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.
“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”
Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.
A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.
MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.
“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”
Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.
Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.
“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”
While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.
“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”