A SHOUT-OUT TO JOHN AND KEN

Ken Hoffman relives his painful showdown with tennis legend John McEnroe

McEnroe's upcoming Houston appearance should be a real scream. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for The Laver Cup

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Tennis legends John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, and James Blake are coming to Houston for a one-night tournament, October 4, at Rice University's Tudor Fieldhouse. The Champions Cup will feature semifinal matches starting at 7 pm. with the winners facing off for the title. Tickets are $35 for adults and $10 for kids under 10.

Fans also can buy VIP packages that include backstage passes, the players' party, and opportunities to "play with the pros" earlier that day. 

Here's some advice. If you pay to play a doubles match with the legends, ask for John McEnroe as your partner. For two reasons:

No. 1: McEnroe may be the greatest doubles player of all time. They used to say, the greatest doubles team is John McEnroe and anyone else. He was part of 79 champion doubles teams, including nine grand slams.

No. 2: More important, you definitely don't want to play against him.

I learned No. 2 the hard way. True story:

Several years ago, River Oaks Country Club hosted an exhibition tennis match. Originally it was going to John McEnroe vs. Xavier Malisse of Belgium.

The tournament director and I cooked up an idea. I would be a linesman and call a "foot fault" on McEnroe's first serve. He would pretend to go ballistic on me, scream his trademark, "You cannot be serious," call me the "pits of the world," and demand that I be removed. Security would escort me to the parking lot and off I'd go. Then McEnroe and Malisse would play a real match.

It didn't happen that way. Malisse didn't show up at River Oaks and the tournament flew in U.S. pro Mardy Fish as a replacement. Also, I heard that somebody in McEnroe's camp killed the foot fault routine.

Instead ... the tournament director told me, "Look, McEnroe and Fish are going to play a match, then we're going to have a fun doubles match, you and Fish against McEnroe and the club champion."

Huh? Sure, I'll do it.

I love John McEnroe. He's one of my favorite players ever, seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, Davis Cup warrior, and the voice and face of U.S. tennis.  I think he's the best TV analyst of any sport. I respect him as a person for the way he's conducted his life. Plus, he was hilarious as a guest on Larry David's show, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

A few days before the match, I did a phone interview with McEnroe to drum up ticket sales. McEnroe couldn't have been more gracious and accommodating. He said he was driving one of his children to school (or something, I forget) and "take your time."

I told him, "I have your autobiography (You Cannot Be Serious). I hope I get to meet you and have you autograph it."

Things turned weird the night of the match. First, Fish beat McEnroe in a pretty tense match. McEnroe, true to his reputation, took the match dead seriously and played his guts out. He's not exactly what you'd call a "good loser," at least not during the losing. 

Now we're going to play doubles. As I was waiting in the players' lounge, an official with the event told me, "We're going to have you wear a microphone. We want you to go after McEnroe, rile him up, make him angry — the crowd will love it."

I told him, there is absolute zero chance I will do that. I should have said, "You cannot be serious!" John McEnroe is one of the reasons I stay up all night watching tennis tournaments from around the world.

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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