4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

When it comes to Houston sports, believe the hype

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I'm not going to stop you if you want to keep listening to everyone trash Houston sports. It's pretty easy to find at this point. I'm also not going to spend another week complaining about it or defending it. It's becoming repetitive and lazy.

While all of this is going on, people are forgetting that there is plenty to be excited about with the Houston sports scene.

Small ball with big promise

The Rockets are looking poised to make another strong second half push for the second season in a row, but the difference this time is just how much it's going to bother basketball purists. The past two seasons prior, the Rockets made respectably deep runs in the playoffs on the heels of James Harden, reliable three-point shooting, and a center that was faster than any other traditional center.

So what did the Rockets do? They replaced the fast center completely and pushed all their chips into a full time small ball rotation the likes of which the NBA hasn't really ever seen.

Small ball lineups are nothing new. Complete dedication to a small ball lineup as your primary starting five is. It's weird. It's different.

It's working.

The last time former Rocket center Clint Capela took the floor was a January 29th loss to Portland. Since then, the Rockets have lost two games. TWO. One was a beat down against a short-handed Rockets team, and the other was lost on a last second buzzer-beater. In the last four games since the All-Star Break, the Rockets have won by 30, 10, 11, and 28 respectively.

This small ball approach is built solely with the post season in mind. It would take a crazy turn of events for the Rockets to find themselves outside of the playoff picture, so it shouldn't alarm anyone if the catch a few losses here and there while they finish ironing out what few wrinkles are left. The postseason teams Houston are likely to face rely on one big man or another, and all would be rendered virtually unplayable in a seven game series because they just wouldn't be able to keep up.

The days of Harden dribbling the air out of the ball are over. This is a team that has completely evolved to play through Russell Westbrook and has become infinitely more watchable as a result.

Roughnecks are a tough out

Let's shift our focus to a team that has never lost a game in its entire existence. Yea, it's a corny dad joke, but it's also fun, and true, and I'll wear it out until I can't.

Hyperbole or no, the brand new Houston Roughnecks are 3-0 to start their season and look like the team to beat in the XFL. The last time the Texans started a season 3-0, Matt Schaub had yet to be run out of town, Arian Foster hadn't even considered a professional career in rap, and Andre Johnson was only two years removed from serving Courtland Finnegan a three piece knuckle sandwich.

2012. The year was 2012.

In the XFL, defense just is what it is. The rules are designed to make scoring easier, so it really just depends on the day. From a betting perspective, it's best to take the over until further notice.

On offense though, the Roughnecks are obscene. Houston leads the XFL in offense, with 13 touchdowns scored in the first three weeks. All of this is behind the arm of PJ Walker, who is currently averaging roughly 250 passing yards per game and has accounted for 11 of the aforementioned 13 TDs (10 through the air, 1 rushing). The "MVPJ" shirts are already available to find on the internet.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Cam Phillips is looking more and more like a "one and done" XFLer, especially after last weekend's 8 reception, 194 yard, 3 TD performance. Phillips currently leads the league in receiving yards and touchdowns.

It doesn't matter what league we're talking about, those are fun numbers to watch guys put up. If you STILL haven't given the XFL a chance, you should. It's way too much fun, and they play Dallas this weekend.

This weekend in Houston

It's PACKED.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest (Cook off) - Vegetarians can skip ahead. If you're a real Houstonian, you know that the real party at the rodeo is Cook off. Your Facebook is about to be flooded with friends either searching for or offering wristbands. They're referring to cook off and they're as good as gold if you can get your hands on them. Most of the time a wristband equals all you can eat and, more importantly, all you can drink. If you're invited, get there.

Overwatch League - For the first time since its inception, the Blizzard smash hit video game Overwatch brings their entire e-league into Houston for a weekend of season play. The tournament takes over Revention Center downtown on Saturday and Sunday, and wristbands can be purchased for single day or weekend passes. This is Houston's first opportunity to see their hometown Outlaws take on the competition live without leaving the city. Houston's first match is Saturday vs London, and Sunday vs Toronto.

Houston Dynamo vs LA Galaxy - It's the season opener, and LA is bringing in their latest big name soccer import in Mexico's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. Expect a huge crowd for both reasons.

What to watch this weekend

Rockets at Celtics, Saturday, 7:30 pm (ABC)

Roughnecks at Dallas Renegades, Sunday, 3:00 pm (FS1)

4 Downs of the Week


1st down - A unicorn flying over a double rainbow. Actually, something we all assumed was even less likely:

I could cry right now.

2nd Down - Flat Earther proves that natural selection is a thing


3rd Down - I'm mad, but I want one


4th Down - Apples are (for) good

In a recent interview with Rian Johnson, the Hollywood director provided an interesting bit of trivia to IndieWire. According to Johnson,

"I don't know if I should say this or not, not because it's lascivious or something, but because it's gonna screw me on the next mystery movie that I write. But forget it, I'll say it, it's very interesting. Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies, but, and this is very pivotal, if you're ever watching a mystery movie, bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera. Every single filmmaker who has a bad guy in their movie that's supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now."

That's right. I've never, ever seen a bad person use an iPhone.

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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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