HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

When it comes to attendance, nothing about Houston is average

Astros attendance is up over last year, where the season ended in a title and parade. Getty Images

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When we saw the stories, they honestly sounded like fake news.

Major League Baseball is worried. Attendance is down. Lowest numbers in 15 years.

It didn’t make much sense to us here in Houston where fans are streaming the Minute Maid every home stand. And definitely not when the numbers prove that attendance this season for our  defending World Champion Houston Astros is actually up 22 percent over last season.

Then we noticed the asterisk. Average attendance.

And, well, Houston these days just isn’t average.

Call it #HoustonStrong or the road to the playoffs. Then add this little tidbit – the only other MLB teams bucking that average 8.6 percent downturn with positive numbers? Houston’s playoff rivals – the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners. Three of the four have at least 62 wins at the All-Star break and the fourth – the Mariners – are at 58. And, yes,100-win seasons could be on the horizon.

Here, we crowd into Minute Maid to see which player is going to wow us on any given night. Will it be Alex Bregman with the walkoff? Or maybe George Springer or Jose Altuve? We can’t get enough of our Boys of Summer who are on pace for a total attendance of 2.9 million this year.

And those ring and bobble head giveaways? Just a little frosting on another summer of delight.

Honestly, the Astros are on center stage right now, but Houston has morphed into one great sports town. Forget those dog days of lost seasons and fan apathy. Houston sports are back.

Focus on an 82 percent increase in Astros’ attendance since 2012 or the Houston Texans selling out season tickets. Or the Rockets rocking Toyota Center all season.

And, of course, the future.

As forgettable as last year’s Texans’ season was, attendance was just down slightly. And the upside – they’re ranked 17th in the league in attendance -- is tremendous.

Now, the possibilities of what a healthy Deshaun Watson could do for a full season is enough to pull you in, right? Add in DeAndre Hopkins, injury comebacks by  J.J. Watt and D’onta Foreman and . . . well, pretty nice dreams of a great season, right?

Yes, the Rockets lost more than anyone thought this offseason and the battle for Carmelo Anthony is nearing an end, but MVP James Harden and Chris Paul will be back to make another run at Golden State. That’s enough right there to keep us coming back.

Soccer is growing with the Dynamo and Dash and the Sabercats are about to break ground on a rugby stadium. And with fall around the corner, nothing says Texas – and Houston – like high school and college football where Friday and Saturday night lights are a tradition like no other.

But the best draw in the city? As solid as the season totals are for Houston’s three major professional teams, there’s one sporting event that blows them away every year – the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

In those short three weeks of saddle-bronc riding, roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling and the carnival have drawn more than 2.4 million total attendance each of the last two years.

Like we said, there’s nothing average here. We learned a long time ago to never underestimate the hearts of our champions.

#HoustonStrong

 

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Justin Verlander had Tommy John surgery in 2020. But at age 39, he may have put together his best career season, leading the American League with 18 wins and a 1.75 ERA, the best mark in the AL since Pedro Martinez in 2000.

He's a lock to win the AL Cy Young Award, which would be his second in Houston. He also helped the Astros win a World Series and go to another. So where does he rank all time among Houston athletes?

Paul's rankings... 1. Hakeem Olajuwon 2. Jose Altuve 3. Justin Verlander 4. Moses Malone 5. J.J. Watt 6. Earl Campbell 7. Nolan Ryan 8. Jeff Bagwell 9. Craig Biggio 10. Andre Johnson

That's right. No James Harden. Fight me.

Check out the video above to watch the full conversation.

Listen live to the Paul Gallant Show every weekday 10 - noon CT on ESPN 97.5 & 92.5 Houston.

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