4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

Gyms, Astros, power rankings, and trial by combat

A lot can go wrong here. Photo by Joshua Jordan

So I was at the gym Tuesday. Not bragging.

I've never been a fan of gyms. I like lifting, but I don't like gyms. I don't like the music (even if I actually like the music), I don't like the culture, I don't like vibe. But I also don't own a squat rack, and unless I can guarantee that my landlord won't take away my deposit for doing deadlifts in the kitchen, it's off to the gym I go.

Even if everything is perfectly fine, I unwittingly go out of my way to find things that annoy me every time. I'm constantly looking for more reasons to dislike gyms, like watching the guy with a sleeveless black button down over his red short-sleeved under armour shirt and cargo pants sitting at the lat pulldown machine for 5 minutes having a conversation through his airpods without attempting a single rep.

Now I'm not gym gatekeeping, I'm not qualified to do so even if I wanted to. I'm just grumpy. I want to be alone but I don't have the option so everything bugs me. My big giant over-the-ear headphones should suggest my preference for solitude.

So Tuesday.

I'm over by the dumbells, near a bench. Nothing of mine is on the bench. I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE BENCH.

I'm about to start a set of 15 reps. I tighten my wrist straps. Deep breath. Let's get it.

I'm facing the mirror and I see a guy approaching from behind, eyeballing that stupid bench. He stops at it and begins to stare at me.

I don't like gyms. I close my eyes to focus on finishing my set. That's when I felt him tap my shoulder.

Now this dude isn't part of the "New Year, New Me," crowd. He's this jacked little guy who has obviously spent enough time in a gym to understand that one of the cardinal sins within the Iron Temple is interrupting a set for anything short of life, limb, or loss of eyesight.

As my eyes summoned the power of a thousand suns to glare through his spaghetti strap "Beast Mode" tank top, I ripped my headphones off and whipped around to find out what was so important.

"Are you using this bench?"

I'll let you imagine what happened next, but it wasn't cordial.

I don't like gyms.

To the Astros Apologists

This advice is coming from someone who has gone to at least 30 games a season for the past four years. I've got excel spreadsheets documenting every game. I've traveled across the country for years just to catch Astros away games, and I've got an Orbit tattoo that's hard to show off in the winter. I've lived and breathed this team as long as I can remember. With that said:

Stop.

After reading reddit comments, tweets, Facebook posts, and even a few radio listener call-ins, there seems to be this idea that Astros fans should "accept being a villian," and adopt an "us against the world" mentality.

This chapter in the Astros franchise ended much like Adam Sandler's latest movie, "Uncut Gems." It ends so abruptly, that in the midst of the whiplash you're caught trying to see if there was something that was missed, and if in fact it's actually over.

It's over. The investigation is over. The Astros unequivocally cheated, and when you wake up tomorrow, they will still have cheated regardless of how mad you are about the whole thing. Adopting some "us against the world" mentality says more about your values than it does your fanhood. So let's ease off that approach and find a different way to cope.

Instead, take it on the chin. I'm not saying abandon your team, but just because it's a thing you love doesn't mean you should blindly defend the indefensible. We all knew that one kid growing up who would get into all kinds of trouble, but was never disciplined because his mom believed he was an angel who could do no wrong. Don't be that mom. Own that they messed up, handle it however you want, but don't defend them.

I'm still not sure how to process the whole thing myself. It's like looking back on fond memories with someone after you learned they cheated on you. I don't think it's enough to end the relationship, but I do need some time to step back and reassess.

World Power Rankings of the Week

#5 James Harden's new 'do

I wasn't sure if the braids were hanging around, but our dude is lookin' slick these days and Reddit's r/Rockets is having a mild meltdown over it.

#4 Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant's twitter beef

Honestly, all twitter beef is gold, but this week offered some solid haymakers from retired big man Kendrick Perkins, and the NBA all-time record holder for feelings per minute, Kevin Durant. Perk called KD a quitter, KD told Perk he was trash, and down the hill we went. I'm a sucker for NBA drama and it rarely disappoints.

#3 Leonardo DiCaprio, Lifesaver

Imagine having fallen off a cruise liner and treading water for roughly 11 hours. The thought of a rescue would begin to seem dim. Now imagine a glistening yacht arriving out of nowhere and plucking you from your impending watery grave. That's already a pretty awesome way to elude death's icy grip. Finding out who this yacht belonged to must have been pretty sweet as well.

#2 Anything Derrick Henry does in January

Anyone watching the playoffs next to me during any Titans game has since become tired of me reminding everyone that his nickname is "Tractorsito." He's throwing touchdowns, he's stiff arm spinning opponents and pushing them into their own teammates. He's also more than doubling his quarterback's passing yards (160) with his rushing yards (377) throughout the playoffs.

#1 Trial by combat

I'm down for it anytime, anywhere. As a spectator. Especially when you're requesting it from a judge toward your ex and her attorney during a custody battle so that you can "rend their souls" from their bodies. Not sure I'd want that on record, but ok.



Getty Images

This time next week Jim Crane will have hired or be closing in on hiring the Astros' new manager. Who is it going to be? Considering Crane himself doesn't know yet, how the heck should I know? The candidate pool is deep in quality, four former big league skippers (none of whom have won a World Series) and at least three others who have never managed in Major League Baseball.

Dusty Baker. 70 years old. Over 22 seasons he steered four different franchises to the postseason. Tremendous people skills. I always felt his teams took on his upbeat but intense personality. Not a tactical wizard and a questionable resume re: handling of several pitchers. That's not a dealbreaker If Brent Strom is still the pitching coach.

Buck Showalter. Organized and prepared as all get out. Taken three different teams to the playoffs. More coincidence than anything else, the Yankees and Diamondbacks won the World Series...the season immediately after they fired Showalter.

John Gibbons. Low key personality. Two American League Championship Series trips with the Blue Jays.

Jeff Banister. LaMarque high school grad, played at UH. Back-to-Back AL West titles with the Rangers before their roster fell apart and the Astros took over the division. Also a lifetime big league batting average of 1.000. One at bat, he singled.

Any of those four would be a highly credible hire.

Those seeking experience by getting experience: Raul Ibanez, Will Venable, and Eduardo Perez. Where the Astros are, I would lean away from them. Incumbent bench coach Joe Espada is a more credentialed candidate than those three, but Espada was on A.J. Hinch's staff when the Astros are confirmed as cheaters, so can't see Crane going with him.

The experienced big league managers would command more money. That should play zero role in the choice, even though if the Astros stay largely healthy and avoid precipitous performance declines, you or I could manage their roster to 90 wins. Who is best equipped to navigate the S.S. Astros through some stormy seas bound to hit? Because, A. that's baseball, and B. they'll face some unusual stuff in their role as the lying, cheating villains of MLB. Can't know the answer to that.

Rockets fading from the spotlight

The Texans disintegrated on the field in Kansas City, the Astros' integrity turns out to have in part either disintegrated or been non-existent, leaving the Rockets among the big three to uplift the city's sports spirits over the next couple of months. Problem, relatively few seem to care. Glaring numbers of empty seats (even though sold) at Toyota Center, lower TV ratings, and a palpable lack of buzz to them. No shame in a 27-16 record, but that's not close to special and things just seem a bit stale. Dog days of midseason or larger problems?

The Rockets enter the weekend closer to the Draft Lottery than to the Western Conference leading Lakers. The Rockets are at best b-list contenders, waaaay more likely to get bounced from the playoffs in the first round than to win the West. They may be in serious trouble relative to this season's aspirations, and going forward.

Recent deep shooting slump aside, James Harden is a phenomenal offensive force, and Russell Westbrook is a force of nature. But a Harden/Westbrook backcourt headlines a non-championship caliber defense. And there just aren't good enough players around them. Harden is 30 years old, Westbrook is 31. Eric Gordon and his balky knee and erratic jumper, also 31. Over the next three seasons the Rockets are on the hook for those three guys at an average of about 106 million dollars per season.

For two straight off-seasons, the Rockets have been cheap with construction of the bench. Whatever the extent he's been following owner Tilman Fertitta's marching orders, among teams that fancy themselves contenders General Manager Daryl Morey has produced the worst bench in the NBA.

There are a bunch of teams with better overall talent, there are lottery teams with better young talent. It all adds up to the best guess being Head Coach Mike D'Antoni parts ways with the Rockets after the season. How good a job will the Rockets job be for the next coach? The answer might be, not very, in terms of pursuing an NBA championship.

While not being a big deal, it won't look good on the Rockets side if/when Chris Paul makes the All Star Game and Russell Westbrook doesn't.

Buzzer Beaters

1. If you were Kelvin Sampson would you leave UH for the Rockets? 2. The Pro Bowl is Sunday! 3. Things on TV I'd watch before the Pro Bowl: Bronze-Real Housewives of Anywhere Silver-A full XFL game Gold-Three hours of test pattern

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