A DIFFERENT SPORT

The Houston Gaels want you for the 2018 season

Gaelic football provides a fun workout. Brien O'Donal

In the fourth largest city we have come to appreciate the vast number of cultures and the great diversity it has brought us in our restaurants, artwork, and celebrations; but how about our sports? The Houston Gaelic Athletic Association, founded in 2011, is a gateway to another culture in the sporting world. They have brought the sport of Gaelic Football to Houston in the form of the Houston Gaels. Their connection to a national network of other GAA’s and with the Irish community at large has opened its’ participants to the universal language of sport. Now, during the fall offseason in Gaelic Football the Houston Gaels are looking for you to join their ranks for the 2018 season.

Gaelic Football is one of the most interesting and intense games I’ve seen played. It has elements of rugby, soccer, volleyball, basketball and American Football. Anyone who likes to play any of these should make their way out to Memorial Park Soccer Field #8 from 10 a.m. to 12:00  on Saturday Oct. 28; Nov. 4 and 11; or their last day Dec. 2. These are the Fall Ball practices where they teach basic skills and scrimmage in small groups in preparation for next season. They are co-ed so all are welcome, but in the regular season the teams are split.

Multi-sport athlete and new player Patrick Moore described it as, “One of the most awesome sports. It connects all different games that are out there and combines them into one.” It’s well worth the effort, as he followed up by saying, “It’s fun because you have to try to remember all the different rules of all the different games and put them into one.”

Everyone I spoke to had the same words of advice, come out and try. There may be a lot of different skill sets, but if you have basics and knowledge of any of the sports that are combined into Gaelic Football, it won’t be too difficult to play. Passing the ball to other players is like hitting a volleyball. There are self passes like kicking a soccer ball to yourself (called keepie uppie), and even bouncing the ball like a basketball. The battle for position and spacing is like soccer and football. Scoring is done by putting the ball into the goal with your hand like hitting a volleyball or kicking it through the uprights like punting a football. But the play in the field is like rugby and Aussie Rules Football, very physical.

The Fall Ball practices are designed to teach you the rules and help you develop the skills to play the game. There is still time before the 2018 season starts, so learning now will allow all the players to develop chemistry.

The season consists of games against the other GAA’s in Texas; San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. Games are played about a month apart between January and May followed by the finals in May/June. This year the Texas finals will be held in Houston. There are also National GAA Finals and other tournaments across the country. The Houston Gaels chose to miss National Finals in 2017 in favor of a tournament in Denver.

If competing in the regular season doesn’t work for you, there is still reason to join the GAA for their fall practices. According to Adam Robertson, the 2018 Chairman of the GAA, “This sport is almost like a cross-fit sport. There’s constant play, it’s very physical, and it makes you run faster and jump higher.” If you’re into getting an intense workout then this is your sport

If all you want is to have a good time there are gatherings afterward for lunch and drinks. The practices are over around noon and many of the players migrate to a local spot to enjoy themselves after a hard day’s effort.

If that still doesn’t get you, maybe the community service will. The long-term goals of the GAA are to spread the game of Gaelic Football to Houston and surrounding areas but also community service. I spoke to Elaine O’Connor, one of the few Irish players there, about this and she said, “With the recent events of Harvey, we had a lot of folks in the club band together. We had tear down crews going around to different homes and help people move furniture and rip out sheet rock. Now we’re actually going through to help with the re-build.” She described the Houston GAA as an adult social network. “We do a lot of happy hours and social events and have an annual awards dinner where everyone gets all cleaned up.”

With so much to get out of joining the Houston Gaels and the Gaelic Athletic Association, will you be there for practice Saturday? You should be. Find out more information at houstongaels.com

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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