RANKING THE BEST

The top 5 moments in Houston sports for 2017

Alex Bregman's Game 5 hit will be remembered for a long time. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Ranking the top sports moments of 2017 in Houston was shockingly difficult. In many lists every hit from Game 5 of the Astros World Series run could be a top moment, but I had to branch out. So here we go.

5. Hosting Super Bowl

Only fifteen cities have ever hosted a Super Bowl, making it one of the more exclusive lists out there. Houston has hosted three times but not since 2004. Since then, the downtown scene has been completely revitalized, the METRO rail has gone from one lonely North-South route to three routes out of downtown. The festivities downtown and the around the city presented Houston area families with plenty of exciting things to do and famous people to see. But this isn’t No. 5 on the list simply for all of the changes made around the city. The game itself will be remembered as one of the best Super Bowl endings ever. The Patriots, down 28-3 late in the third quarter, scored 19 unanswered fourth quarter points to win the game 34-28. The debate rages on – was this the greatest comeback of all time, or the biggest meltdown of all time?

4. Drafting Deshaun Watson

Ever since Warren Moon, the football team in Houston has had at best competent quarterback play and at worst play so physically vile that it causes women to run from the stadium clutching their pearls and children to scream for their mothers. The best quarterback the Texans have ever had was Matt Schaub, the man who set and still retains the record for consecutive games throwing at least one pick six. The NFL is a quarterback’s league, and as is far too evident when watching the boys on Kirby toil away in mediocrity, they’ve never had one. Cut to draft night. The Texans orchestrated a trade with the Browns to secure Deshaun Watson with the 12th pick. Now, it’s hard to say just how good that trade will be for the team because Watson was injured after playing in only six and half games. In the six games he started, Watson threw for 19 touchdowns and almost 1,700 yards with only eight interceptions.

3. Chris Paul Trade

When Chris Paul was traded to the Rockets back in June for players including Sam Dekker and Patrick Beverley, there were skeptics. Beverley was a fan favorite. Could Paul and Harden effectively share the ball enough to create meaningful offense? Twenty-six games into the season, the Rockets are 22-4, winning 11 straight since Paul returned from injury. They are scoring 114 points per game and have made 416 three pointers. Whether they have what it takes to make to the Finals for the first time since 1995 only time will tell, but if they continue to play at this high level, I don’t see why they can’t compete with the Warriors and Spurs.

2. Justin Verlander Trade

As the trade deadline loomed in August, the Astros had a team capable of making a long run in the playoffs. What they didn’t have was enough solid starting pitching to win the pennant or the World Series. Initially the team traded away some farm players for Francisco Liriano and fans and players were understandably frustrated with the lack of trade activity with a team that was so close. Dallas Keuchel was vocal in wanting the team to beef up starting pitching and he made his voice heard in the locker room and with the media. The Astros were able to trade for Verlander at the 11th hour. He was undefeated at Minute Maid and lost just one playoff game – Game 6 against the Dodgers in LA. He pitched a complete game in Game 2, which was a huge part of the Astros win.

1. Alex Bregman’s walk off single in World Series game 5

Alex Bregman’s walk off single in Game 5 wasn’t just the greatest Houston sports moment of 2017, it is the greatest of all time in Houston. If Bregman doesn’t walk off in Game 5, the Astros don’t win the World Series. Had they lost that game, they would have gone down 3-2 heading back to Los Angeles. Winning that game gave them the confidence they needed to go into LA and win in seven. Over 40,000 fans packed into Minute Maid and sustained a remarkable level of cheering through 10 innings of baseball. The game went on for five hours and 17 minutes with 22 home runs.  There was high drama – four ties and five lead changes, undeniable comedy – a fan ripped Yasiel Puig’s home run ball out of his sister in law’s hands and threw it onto the field while her flabbergasted husband attempted to reason with his brother, and a redemption story for George Springer after mis-judging an outfield hit that allowed a run to score and then hitting a home run in the next inning to tie things up. By the time Bregman singled in the winning run by Derek Fisher, everyone in Houston’s nerves were completely shot.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The 27th out of World Series game seven marked the first time the Houston Astros had ever won a world series, ending the second longest drought in baseball history, and the first time a Houston team had won a major championship since the Rockets in 1995. Even though this game didn’t take place in Houston, there were thousands of people watching the game at Minute Maid Park. Videos from inside the ball park are moving as people scream, cry, and throw beer and food in pure joy. People took to the streets to honk their horns, shout with ecstasy in the streets and blast Houston rap anthems from their stereos.

  • The World Series parade had almost one million attendees and had to be extended by five blocks right before it kicked off because the original route was so packed. Schools were closed, and people took off work and travelled into the city for the festivities. Streets downtown that had once been flooded with water, were now flooded with fans holding signs and cheering. The parade also had the best show of teamwork since the actual game when a group of fans helped a woman retrieve her dropped hat by throwing it up eight stories of a parking garage.

Patriot Paws/Facebook

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

It's that time of year: Houston Ballet's packed and popular Nutcracker Market will be held Thursday, November 14, through Sunday, November 17, at NRG Center with more than 100,000 shoppers expected to scoop up everything "Christmasy" that can fit under a tree, down a chimney, on a dinner table or you can put a bow on it.

About 260 merchants, including 23 rookie booths, will kick back 11 percent of their sales toward the Houston Ballet Foundation. When you add in all the admission money, thousands of Houston area students will get a valuable lesson in the arts.

As always, all roads will lead to booth 920, to the back and to the right in NRG Center, where the Donne Di Domani ladies will be selling their legendary marinara sauce for the 28th year. Donne Di Domani means "Women of Tomorrow" in Italian, or "Spaghetti Sauce Ladies" in plain English.

The sauce is still $10 a bottle, credit cards accepted. If you buy a 12-bottle case for $120, they'll throw in a dozen recipe cards guaranteed to please the family, including your uncle who comes to your house each Christmas and does nothing but complain about your cooking.

Here's why I love writing about these ladies. Sure their sauce is amazing. Consider this a warning: If you wait till Sunday to buy the sauce, you'll be the little piggy who had none. But the real story is what Donne Di Domani does with their profits — we're talking millions here. Yeah, they sell a lot of sauce.

Each year, after the market closes and they total up the profits, the ladies decide which charities they'll support. It's a long list of organizations such as Shelter for Cancer Families, Casa Juan Diego, Triumph Over Kid Cancer, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Carmelite Nuns of New Caney, and many more.

One year, when I was in the hospital getting my X-rays touched up, I heard that Sister Angel and the Carmelite Nuns said a prayer for me. Wrong church, wrong pew, but I'll take it.

Pawsing for our heroes
The charities may change, but the ladies will always support an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families. Last year the charity was Folded Flag, which lends a hand to widows and children of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

In recent years, Donne Di Domani sponsored service dogs trained by Patriot Paws in Rockwell, Texas. I've been to Rockwell and seen how these remarkable dogs help wounded veterans get through their day. It costs $30,000 to train a dog, and the dogs are given free to vets who need them. Donne Di Domani so far has sponsored four Patriot Paws dogs:

"Hoffy," who was named after me (best honor I ever received), didn't make the grade. His mind wandered and he didn't concentrate on his studies. (The acorn sure didn't fall far from the tree.)

Continue on CultureMap to find out what happened to "Hoffy."

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