In a bizarre twist, Jeff Passan might be rooting for the Astros

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Jeff Passan joins First Take and shares his thoughts on how he would love to see a dramatic series between the Astros and Yankees in the ALCS, and an Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup. Crazy how things change. Check out the video to learn more.

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RIP, Hoffy. Photo by Trish Badger.

Editor's note: Gow Media founder and chairman David Gow — the company that owns CultureMap, our sister sites SportsMap and InnovationMap, and ESPN 97.5 — shares his memories of Ken Hoffman, who died on Sunday, July 14. Gow hired Hoffman twice — once for 1560 The Game, the company's first radio station where Hoffman co-host a show, and again for CultureMap in 2017, where he continued the column he wrote at both the Houston Post and Houston Chronicle. We join him in mourning the loss of our friend and colleague.

In the annals of Houston history, Ken Hoffman was unique. Full stop.

Since news of his passing, I have been flooded with messages, calls, and heart-felt remembrances – from his fans, work colleagues, and many friends. The words affirm what we all know: he was one-of-a-kind, creative, quick-witted, iconic and quirky.

I thought to myself, if Ken could hear this showering of affection, he likely would have winced and cried out “ENOUGH!” Today Ken’s son, Andrew, noted to me that Ken hated to be in the spotlight, which was ironic since Ken’s writing continually placed him front and center in the narratives of our city.

Ken Hoffman was a multi-dimensional man of many passions. Years ago, when he and I were planning to discuss the potential of his joining CultureMap, I offered some great restaurant options, and Ken insisted we meet for lunch at Fuddruckers. As he savored his favorite burger, he explained to me why Federer had a more complete game than Nadal; why the Beatles stood above all others; why West U Little League was tops in the city — amongst many topics. His potential move from the Chronicle to CultureMap was almost a lesser thing to him.

Finally, the lunch moved to the matter at hand. Ken was a writer, a storyteller — perhaps the best in the city — and he would be bringing his talents to Gow Media. Alleluia! Ken could look at an event, issue or even just a small occurrence and see something that no one else could see. I was thrilled that we would get his distinct style, voice, and perspective.

Notably, his passions rubbed off on others. In short order he had many work colleagues going with him to his latest, favorite fast-food offering. He hosted many colleagues at his house on Lake Conroe. He loved talking baseball with everyone up and down the halls.

For me, he tapped into my latent love for the Beatles. Twice he convinced me to fly — first to New York City and then to Mexico City — to watch Paul McCartney live on the “Get Back” tour. After each song, Ken would share the backstory on how the song came to be. His knowledge and entertaining manner made it fun to love what he loved.

Importantly, his diverse interests and personality enabled him to connect with many. In the building of Gow Media, he established a personal connection with nearly everyone — other writers, on-air sports guys, account execs, and administrative team members. Outside the company, Ken’s network of friends included top city politicians, the owner of one of Houston’s iconic jeweler stores, a top grocery CEO, leading media stars, etc. Ken’s range of relationships was impressive. He had an ability to ask sometimes blunt questions in a way that never seemed to offend — rather his questions and genuine interest nearly always led to a strong relationship.

A colleague at work used to note that Hoffy would often present himself with a sometimes flippant, almost gruff manner. Some of this was due to Ken’s writing, which was regularly filled with sarcasm — delivered in an artful way. Some of it was due to Ken’s humor where he would enjoy good-natured back-and-forth banter with others. No one was safe from his barbs — not even the CEO of the company. I would often try to get ahead of him (“Ken, your profile picture looks like it was taken when you were working at the Houston Post”) — but it was impossible to “out-Hoffy,” Hoffy.

Though he would assuredly resist my writing this, underneath his seemingly carefree façade was a tender heart. He committed himself to meaningful causes, for example, he was a consistent participant in the MS-150 bike ride (and probably the event’s number one recruiter). As recently as the morning he passed away, he was talking with a colleague about how to manage work-life balance.

One family in West U hired him as a writing tutor for their son, but Ken provided so much more. Ken invested extra time with the boy and developed him as an intern at Gow Media. When the boy’s father died suddenly, Ken was faithfully present amidst the family’s grief. Ken’s ongoing commitment over years helped the boy mature into an exceptional young man.

His all-too-soon passing has created a void. In our city, we will miss his voice and perspective. Amongst his many work colleagues and friends, we will miss his wit and talent. And with his family, his wife Erin and son Andrew, we grieve with you.

But I take heart that my friend Ken is likely approaching all the luminaries in heaven asking sometimes blunt questions — maybe even tossing around a few barbs. He has likely already discovered the best cheeseburger in paradise. He is undoubtedly connecting with others, sharing his unique perspectives and passions. And he will assuredly make a mark there, as he has here, with all of us.

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