How a perfect storm has created the ideal time and reason to reboot the Astrodome

Photos by: Wiki photo, Harris County Sports Corps via HBJ. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Did you read where the Chicago Cubs are planning to put a sports betting room right there at Wrigley Field? The Cubs are the first Major League Baseball team to acknowledge, embrace – and will host – sports betting at its stadium. Once approved by Illinois legislators, the sportsbook at Wrigley will be operated by DraftKings.

Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., home to the Washington Wizards basketball team and Washington Capitals hockey team, already is clearing space for a sports gambling room.

Imagine that, Cubs fans can arrive at Wrigley Field during batting practice, lay down a bet on the Cubs to win, watch the game, have a couple of beers and pick up their winnings on their way out.

Or tear up their losing bet tickets.

Announcing the deal with DraftKings, Cubs official Crane Kenney said, "An increasing number of sports fans want to integrate sports betting into their game experience, and we're excited to be one of the first to engage in developing a retail sportsbook at a professional sports venue."

Wouldn't it be something if Texas allowed a sports gambling room at Minute Maid Park or Toyota Center or NRG Stadium?

Or the Astrodome! Why do I have to come up with every good idea around here?

Houston's iconic, Space Age building isn't busy these days - not since Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo squashed a $105 million project to renovate the Dome. The Dome makeover was a pet project of her predecessor, Ed Emmett.

"The plan that had been designed wouldn't have yielded truly a usable building," Hidalgo said. "Right now we don't have specific plans for the Astrodome. It's just not a priority."

So the Astrodome sits empty and unloved, slowly sinking deeper in despair. It's sad to walk by the once-mighty stadium on our way to eat turkey legs and watch Alan Jackson perform at the Rodeo. Gee, I hope he sings that Chattahoochee song.

The thing is, the Astrodome's structure is sound. It just needs lots of money, a new coat of paint, some TLC and a visit by the Orkin man. My position: either fix it up or tear it down. Letting it fade away and rot is ridiculous. It makes us look stupid.

Many ideas to renovate and repurpose the Astrodome have been floated in recent years. Some were kooky, like indoor ski jumping and a Wild West movie studio. Some made sense, like a new convention center and hotel in the same historic building.

But nothing makes more sense than creating one of the world's largest casino, hotel and convention center complexes. Of course, this would require the approval of the Texas Legislature. However, a bill to legalize sports betting and casino gambling would have to be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, which would be a bad beat.

Of course, the final say should rest with Texas voters, but our fearless leaders in Austin refuse to put sports betting or casino gambling on a ballot, where approval would be a lock.

Fun facts: WinStar World Casino, the largest casino on Earth, is located in Thackerville, Oklahoma, just north of Texas. Louisiana, our neighbor to the east, has 28 casinos.

You know what WinStar World Casino and all those casinos in Louisiana have in common? Their parking lots are filled with cars with Texas license plates. We're missing out on millions of dollars.

It can't be that our governor is opposed to gambling, because we have the Texas Lottery (a sucker's play), horse racing, dog racing and bingo. Meanwhile, Sam Houston Race Park has limited live racing days and Gulf Greyhound Park closed its doors back in June.

I wonder why Abbott is against casinos. Any guesses?

A Texas-sized casino and hotel within the Astrodome would be a monster hit. Just think, tipsy convention goers wouldn't have to stumble outside for their Uber pickup. Texans fans could drop by the casino for some action before walking to NRG Stadium for football games. The NRG Park has tons of parking space. It's all right there.

The Woodlands did it right. When there's a Friday or Saturday night concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, fans often make a weekend of it. They spend money on concert tickets, restaurants and hotels in The Woodlands.

Repurposing the Astrodome into a casino and hotel would be a windfall for Houston and Harris County. Maybe we could present the Dome to Texas' superstar renovators Chip and Joanne Gaines as a Fixer Upper. Restaurants along 610 would thrive. Fans could spend weekends around a Texans game. Families could spend more days at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Rolling Stones fans could spend $50 plus tax for a $5 T-shirt.

Spend, spend, spend. That's the whole idea. We sort of could use a few extra bucks around here.

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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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