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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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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