A BIG TEXAS PARTY

David Gow: Re-celebrating Super Bowl week in Houston, and why this city will beat Minneapolis as a host

The Big Texas Party was better than anything Minneapolis will do. ABC13.com

Every year thousands of media members travel to cover the Super Bowl, leading to widespread reviews of the host city.  This year will be no different.  There will be stories about the weather, the logistics, the food, hotels, transportation, hospitality, etc.  The point: The Super Bowl is so much more than the game; it is a week-long, deep-dive experience of learning the dynamics of the host city.  

Last year, Houston truly shined.  This year, we have Minneapolis.  Minneapolis in February -- a head-scratcher that has media members and fans from both sides grumbling.  As a member of the media, I have travelled to the Super Bowl city each of the last eight years.  Never has there been a back-to-back comparison of cities that is so one-sided.  Allow me to offer my top five reasons why Houston is a superior host city to Minneapolis.  

Weather

Idyllic conditions vs. artic freeze.  This one is stating the obvious.  It is almost too easy, like telling everyone that Tom Brady is a better QB than Nick Foles.  Of course.  But, more than any other year, the weather will define the experience leading up to the game.  Last year Houston weather ranged between 60-75 degrees.  The forecast in Minneapolis: temperatures ranging from 10 degrees to 0 degrees – the coldest host city experience, ever.    

People

Minnesota Nice vs. Texas Hospitality.  Having visited Minneapolis many times, I will affirm the unofficial state motto: Minnesotans are, indeed, “nice.”  But sometimes I feel this is stated merely due to context.  Think: well, given that the winters they endure, they do a good job of being nice.  It is hunkered-down, grit-your-teeth, survivalist “nice.”  Last year one of the common themes I heard from visitors about Houston: the hospitality was over the top.  From the moment visitors arrived at the airport, to the time they needed directions, when they wanted restaurant recommendations, etc., there was a pervasive spirit in the air: Texas-sized Hospitality.  

Nexus of Activity

Mall of America vs. Discovery Green.  Every year there is a hub of all the week’s activities: the site for the NFL experience, radio row, restaurants/hotels, bands performing, etc.  I don’t want to revisit the point about weather, but as I said, it defines the week.  In Minnesota, the hub will be the Mall of America, a sprawling indoor monster mall.   In Houston, guests strolled outdoors, sat on the lawn listening to bands, ate at covered patios.  For the removal of doubt, ours was Discovery Green.  

Food

Booya vs. Barbecue.  Minnesotans make stew in large vats and call it booya.  Other signature dishes include cheese curds or casserole.  MMM.  Give me a plate of Pinkerton’s barbecue – please.  I might have touted fresh walleye, a delicious fresh water fish found in Minnesota’s many lakes but, right now, those lakes are frozen – ugh! (and, no, I do not recommend ice fishing).  Of course, what makes Houston’s restaurant scene world class is our incredible ethnic diversity.  If Minnesota is “twin-cities,” we are about “10 cities” of different ethnic groups.  Thus, the challenge for last year’s visitors was how to try it all: barbecue, Mexican, steak houses, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, etc., etc.  You get the point.    

Parties

The Big Texas Party vs. Anything.  Every year there are large parties thrown by out-of-town entities: the Maxim Party, the Leather and Laces party, the Playboy party, etc.  Those parties took place in Houston; they will take place in Minneapolis – same thing.  But here is what is different.  I am now revealing my ultimate “homer” status. The best party I have ever attended was last year: The Big Texas Party.  Thrown by CultureMap and ESPN 97.5, the party headline was beer, bourbon and barbecue.  The Mayor came.  A ton of former and current football players showed up -- Mike Barber, Chris Dishman, Bubba McDowell and legendary Cowboys Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White. Even a few Patriots, who would play in the big game a few days later, snuck in to enjoy the festivities.  Most Super Bowl parties are a bunch of men hanging around drinking beer, wishing there were more women or staring at the few models who have been paid to attend.  But this party had the perfect balance: CultureMap turned out women; ESPN 97.5 turned out the men.  When Bart Crow fired up his band, the dance floor was full.  The event was such a success we had folks suggesting we do it again this year.  Rather, we will cling to a great memory, a party that capped off a week where Houston put its best boot forward!

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One more win and they're in. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As they were at the start of the 60 game season, the Astros are a virtual lock to make the expanded postseason field. Unexpectedly, the only reason the Astros have a shot in October is because the field is expanded. Still, all they need is one win in three shots at the Rangers or one Angels loss as they play three at the Dodgers and the Astros are in and an absolute threat to win another American League pennant. This Astros squad is an average squad. The losses of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Yordan Alvarez combined with all their key hitters dropping off from 2019 make Astros' mediocrity a simple fact of life. A mediocre but potent team can beat any better team in a best of three, best of five, or best of seven series. Heck, a bad team can beat a great team two out of three. The format is such that the Astros will be the sixth seed among the eight AL playoff teams, so they will be the road team in each game of a best of three series at the number three seed. They could be headed to Oakland, Minnesota, or Chicago.

A couple of peripheral bummers of the Astros to this point disappointing 2020…

One, Justin Verlander's dream of 300 career wins pretty much died with the ulna collateral ligament in his right arm. Verlander's one win this year combined with zero next year will have him at 226 career wins when he turns 39 in February of 2022. That Verlander can then average 15 wins per season through age 43 isn't utterly impossible but is extremely unlikely. While cementing his Hall of Fame credentials, Verlander didn't average 15 wins per season from 2015 through '19.

Two, Jose Altuve's collision course with the 3000 hit club has hit a major detour. I'm not declaring Altuve washed up, though only apologists and homers would describe his short season performance as better than feeble. He's been among the worst regulars in all of Major League Baseball this season. Altuve's best baseball is behind him. If he can get back to 2018 or 2019 Altuve that's plenty good, though not close to 2016 and 2017 Altuve. Well, Altuve failed to reach 170 hits in either 2018 or '19. Giving him 170 hits per season for each of the next eight seasons (bet the under), Altuve would be within about 30 hits of 3000 when approaching his 39th birthday at the start of the 2029 season. Craig Biggio remained a lineup regular at age 40 only so he could get to 3000.

Texans face another tough test against Steelers

It's no shocking upset if they win but the Texans probably come home from Pittsburgh Sunday night with an 0-3 record. As only four point underdogs they should have a much better shot than they did against the Chiefs and Ravens. Not that that is saying much. The Texans were pretty pitifully overmatched by the Chiefs and Ravens, the faint silver lining is that they're the two best teams in the AFC. It's possible the Steelers are the third best team (I'll take the Bills but it's possible). So even at 0-3 the Texans' season wouldn't be dead. Just two years ago they opened 0-3 before ripping off nine straight wins and finishing 11-5. But just as the 2018 Texans wound up, this season's team would be a total pretender.

All five starters back on the offensive line was supposed to be a boon to the Texans' offense. The pass protection has been porous and now has to deal with a top tier pass rushing Steeler defense. Deshaun Watson has been his usual terrifically elusive self, but merely okay throwing the ball. Offensively, 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger has looked all right at quarterback after missing all but the opener last season with a blown out throwing elbow. Big Ben is not close to the mobility threat Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are, but the Texan D which has thus far been sieve-like against running backs will see two backs each over five yards per carry thus far in James Conner and Benny Snell.

At least the Texans will have no crowd noise to deal with at Heinz Field. The Steelers are 2-0 but have only beaten the awful Giants and the injury-battered Broncos.


Buzzer Beaters:

1. One game is one game but Bregman, Altuve, and Springer all homering Thursday night had to create some warm feelings for any Astros fan.

2. The Lakers-Nuggets series has been outstanding. Number of Rockets you think are watching any of it: over/under 2 1/2.

3. Greatest Bennys: Bronze-the one with the Jets Silver-Jack Gold-Goodman

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