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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As the Ronaverse continues, emotions are high. People are getting upset over the dumbest things. Maybe it is simply because Twitter has the worst people in the world, but endless topics are being "debated" that really have no reason to be questioned.

One of the oddest of these is starting to pop up as athletes opt out of returning to play among the Covid-19 shortened seasons. People are actually critical of athletes who make these decisions.

Those people are simply what we call "dumbs."

It doesn't matter what their reasoning is. Athletes - like all of us - have the option to worry about things other than their job. Simply because they have the wherewithal to take time off without pay is no reason to be critical. David Price became one of the latest this week and explained his decision well.

But they owe it to us, the fans.

Sports is not life. These athletes do not owe you anything. You choose to buy their gear and wear their numbers. That's your right. It's also their right to be concerned for their own health and that of their families.

They are young. The disease barely affects young people.

True. But if you are the one young person it does impact? And what about your parents and grandparents? Are we to fault players for caring about things like that? They are people. There are those who dehumanize them because they are famous, make a lot of money and live lives most people will never have. But that does not mean they aren't real people with real life concerns.

They make millions. It is worth the risk.

What good are those millions if you are dead? Or a family member becomes gravely ill? This should not even be a debate. Players have the right to make up their own minds, just as you do. I am not one of the Rona Paranoid Crew, but I don't rip people who are overly careful. We should all deal with this in ways we think are best. Everyone loves to throw out terms like "personal freedom" and "it's my right" when it suits their needs. In this case, it applies to the athletes.

The sad thing is not everyone can afford to stay away from work in order to survive. Many waiters, cooks and bartenders were forced to go back to work to pay bills. Many were not comfortable doing that, but they had no real choice. That sucks.

But those who do have a choice should be able to make it without facing criticism. Maybe it costs your team a World Series if a key player opts out. Or an NBA title. So what? There will be other years, other chances. That won't be the case for a lot of high school and college athletes who may never get to play again. Sure, they might be bitter that pros can sit out, while they have been robbed of one last chance at the game they love. But the Rona is not their fault. Neither is the fact that these athletes have the means to follow their principles.

What will their teammates think of these players abandoning them?

That's a fan argument. Most players will completely understand, because they, too, are human. If the season winds up shutting down halfway through or never getting started, no one will remember who wasn't there. Nor should they care.

But for some reason, people do. They have the right to choose whether to play or not. You have the right to choose whether or not you will keep buying their jerseys. That is how freedom works.

It would be nice if we would all just allow people to make the best decisions for themselves without turning it into a stupid debate.

In today's world, I realize that is not reality. The dumbs are inheriting the earth.

So memo to athletes: If you want to be on the field, awesome, we will be rooting for you. If you believe it is not worth the risk to you or your family? Stay safe and we will see you when you feel comfortable again. Simple, right? That really should be the end of it.

Sadly, it won't be. That's not the world we live in anymore, if it ever was.

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