4th and a mile with Paul Muth

Houston's sideline untouchables

Mattress Mack
Photo courtesy of Gallery Furniture

Nothing makes sense anymore.

This is already an insane start for a year by any measure. Well it seems Chaos heard our cries of bewilderment and had a "hold my beer" moment in the sports world on Monday night.

In a shocking move, famed director (and likely final Knicks fan) Spike Lee announced he would no longer be returning to Madison Square Garden for the remainder of the regular season to watch the Knicks after a run in with employees and security.

There are conflicting stories, but sometimes in life, even if you're right...you're not right.

Short of an actual crime, there is little that Lee shouldn't be able to get away with in that building. He's cemented him self as someone as analogous to the Knicks as he is to the film industry. And when you spend close to $10 million to watch a team as Lee claims he has over the years, then yeah, special treatment is probably expected.

The whole debacle got me wondering though. If a similar situation occurred, are there certain Houston A-listers (that never played) that deserve the same benefit of the doubt? Who out there would fans storm the battlefields of Twitter to defend if they were ever treated improperly inside the confines of Houston's hallowed(ish) sports venues? Here are my candidates.

Minute Maid Park: Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale

In 2017 Mattress Mack rolled out his "Win it all, Get it all" promotion where anyone who bought a mattress during the Astros season would have their bed fully compensated if the Astros won the Won the World Series. After the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Harvey, Mack opened the doors of his massive showroom to displaced refugees, and continued paying his employees while they served instead in a volunteer capacity. When the Astros won the World Series that year, not only did Mack throw out the first pitch to game three, but he also kept his word to everyone that bought into the promotion back in the beginning of the season. The bet set him back roughly $12 million, but that's a drop in the bucket for a guy who simultaneously cemented his legacy in Houston lore. Also, I'm fairly certain I haven't seen Mattress Mack without an oversized Astros jersey on in two and a half years.

If you need an idea of how big of a deal he is, I watched grown adults peel away from our playoff game group this past season to take pictures with a man who sells couches. When I got to my seats and people asked where the lost party was, I explained that they were trying to get a picture with Mattress Mack and everyone accepted that as a viable excuse for missing first pitch.

Runner up: George and Barbara Bush.

Toyota Center: Travis Scott

Locally sourced, and global hip-hop phenom Travis Scott owns Toyota Center. On game nights, he's the closest thing the Rockets have to a Lakers Jack Nicholson or Knicks Spike Lee. He's done promos for the team, he's collaborated on custom jerseys, he name drops them in his albums. Scott is all in on the Rockets (and Houston in general), and it's apparent enough that the Rockets reciprocated the appreciation just this past month:




Fans arrived seven hours before tip-off to get in line, and the bobble head is currently running $150-$200 on the resale market.

Runner up: Beyonce, she just doesn't come to enough games.


NRG Stadium: Simone Biles

Look, there just aren't a ton of over the top, ride or die celebrity Texans fans to be completely honest. You've got big names like Dennis Quaid, Jim Parsons, and Rico Rodriguez ("Manny" from "Modern Family"), sure. I don't think anyone would boycott a game over them though. Then there's Joel Osteen, but I think there's a decent crowd that might pay extra to watch him get tossed. Nope, it has to be Houston's adopted daughter, world's greatest gymnast, and honorary Houston Texans cheerleader for a day, Simone Biles. She exudes charm just as effortlessly as she dominates her entire sport, and if anyone did anything to her I would personally expense the torches and pitchforks for everyone that accepts the mob group invite I would inevitably be sending on Facebook.

Runner up: Every local Houston Rapper

4 Downs of the Week

1st Down - Super Tuesday.

Look, I don't exactly care what your political leanings are on a sports website, but I think we can all agree that the fact that we got through Super Tuesday and don't have to deal with anymore political ads and unsolicited texts is something to be pumped about.

2nd Down - 21 days: amount of time left until the start of the Astros' baseball season. In this house there are two seasons: baseball season, and baseball offseason.

3rd Down - Let's talk dedication. And lack of awareness:


Her rubber duck is probably alive and well also.

4th Down - This week's edition of Minor League Baseball Marketing Genius goes out to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, specfically their chiropractor themed night, "Say Yes to Crack."

Fly high, marketing eagles. Fly high.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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