Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011-12 Rockets Preview: 3 burning questions and 1 GIANT curveball


1 question was answered during the writing of this post

After finally deciding how to split their millions, the NBA will be returning on Christmas Day......just what we all asked for. Unfortunately for the Rockets and Daryl Morey, they were visited by the Grinch (David Stern) and all their hopes for a deep playoff run were stolen like a plate of who pudding. Still, as Rockets fans we are excited to see our team get back on the court. With the season getting off to such an up in the air start I figured a Rockets preview would best be done by answering 3 burning questions prior to tip off. 

3. Will Kyle Lowry continue his ascension toward upper tier NBA pg?
Last season was a banner year for Klow as he put up 13.5ppg 6.7apg 4.1rpg to easily give him his best season as a pro. At 25 yrs old he should be hitting his prime, and I don't think with his work ethic and attitude it would be too presumptuous to think he can't continue to improve. There are a lot of great pg in the league, but several of the elite ones are in their twilights (Jkidd, Nash, Billups, Parker etc.) or extremely young (Wall, Evans, Curry etc.). Lowry is a PG flying under a lot of people's radar but if he continues to improve his jumper like last season, then along with his knack for rebounding and distributing the rock he will start receiving more recognition. Lowry is my favorite player on this team right now. Despite being a hard worker I like his toughness (mental and physical) and his leadership. Of all the moves Daryl Morey will contemplate Klow is the one player I hope never comes on the trading block.

2. What will Kevin McHale bring as head coach?
Obviously it's an extremely small sample size, but watching the Rockets bigs in the first preseason game it really seemed like they all improved their skill sets. Jordan Hill looked great and even Thabeet showed flashes of an actual basketball player. There is no denying that McHale was an elite post player, and he has helped develop Kevin Love into a double/double machine. Right now the Rockets don't have a lot at the center position, but they do have a plethora of good young forwards who I think could really benefit from McHale's tutelage. Everything I've heard from inside Rockets camp is that McHale is bringing some of that old 80's era Celtic's workman-like attitude to the Rockets. It will be interesting to see who gets the bulk of playing time (especially at the forward spots) and who enters McHale's doghouse (looking at you TWill).

1. Where do the Rockets go from here?
Obviously the biggest question heading into this season is where are the Rockets headed? After several competitive seasons where the Rockets were good enough to compete each night but also too good to get into the lottery, they have been left out of the superstar carousel the last few years. Stern nixed the Gasol deal which seemed like it would have been followed up with a Nene grab, so Dmorey has basically been handcuffed with largely the same roster from last season. The organization that has arguably had the greatest run of players at center in the last 40 years, is all of the sudden without even a Chuck Hayes to fill the middle (Dalembert signed with Sacramento as I was writing this post). But Morey has been steadily compiling good role players who he must be shopping around the league to try and make a splash like the attempted Gasol deal. We have an overabundance of forwards (Rockets signed another today...Jeff Adrien) so Morey surely is looking to move some guys. I actually would love to see Martin and Scola moved. Scola is not that young, has a ton of basketball miles on him, and plays a position that we have several young athletic players that could fill the spot (and probably play much better D). Martin is a scorer. That's it. He is very talented at getting his 20 pts despite his slim build and less than impressive athleticism or shooting style. I think Martin could be an expendable piece that other teams value. AND.......CURVEBALL......As I'm writing this the Rockets just signed Dalembert to a two year deal. This is what happens when you try to evaluate a Daryl Morey team......it could be changing by the minute. Obviously this changes things as the Rockets have a legitimate big to play center. Dalembert won't approach the production of our last 2 foreign born centers, but he will vastly improve the low post defense and give the Rockets a much needed inside presence that I think will make them playoff contenders. Just like that the season got a lot more interesting. I still think Morey could do more things with this roster, but with all the games in a short period of time the team's depth should be a strength even more so in this abbreviated season.

Alright Rockets fans, from up in the air to a playoff prediction in one blog post. Of course by the time you read this the roster could have gone through another drastic change. In D Morey we trust. And if 2011-12 doesn't pan out, just remember that this franchise has given our city the only two championships we've ever celebrated. Let's Go Rockets!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

3 Big Winners from the NBA Lockout


Now that the lockout is over and we all get to enjoy the NBA again, let's look at three groups who probably stand to gain the most from the shortened season.

1. NFL: As if the most popular league in America needed a win, the NFL had a monopoly on pro sports fans for several weeks (That's right hockey......we in the deep south don't view you as a pro sport). Not only did the NFL enjoy a lack of competing pro leagues, but they also earned some goodwill from fans who just witnessed them settling their own labor dispute involving far more money.... BEFORE any of the season was lost. The NBA has been #2 for a while, but had they cancelled an entire season I think baseball could have gained some ground. As it stands, the NBA allowed the NFL to continue to distance itself so much that it now feels like the peanut butter of pro sports leagues......no other food (league) is even close.

2. NCAA BASKETBALL: I have found myself watching more college basketball earlier this year to get my hoops fix. I love the game, but normally I don't get too into the season until around February. With no Rockets games on I have found myself watching more November college games than I can ever remember. The NCAA boon isn't over yet. NBA games still won't start for several weeks and I could see a lot of fans gearing up for the shortened season by tuning into the upcoming BIG 10/ACC challenge and other great NCAA games in the next few weeks. If nothing else maybe the NBA lockout will cause some of us to be able to fill out a much more informed bracket come March (and maybe I can finally beat my wife who picks based on color, mascot, and/or religious affiliation).

3. NBA VETERANS: The obvious reason these guys win is that they don't have to put their aging knees through 82 games. Think Kobe, Garnett, or Carmelo is not excited for a shortened season? I'm almost convinced that little midget Fisher was working for Kobe to prolong the lockout and guarantee him the best shot at one last ring. The less obvious benefit to the veterans is that they don't NEED a full season of marketability. Kobe, Lebron, Carmelo these are names recognized around the world. Younger players like Love, Durant, and Rose are entering their primes and trying to take some of the spotlight from the "old guard". A shortened season favors NBA veterans because they already have plenty of experience and they will have fresher legs come playoff time.

Obviously the biggest winners are the fans who get to see their teams play again, but I think these three groups benefited most from the lockout. Should be a fun whirlwind of free agency before we get back to the games. Can't wait......and oh yeah.....Go Rockets.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 10/1/2011

Suggestions return with a four pack of ideas for the Fall.



TV: Breaking Bad. If you have not watched this show it is now at the point where you are going to have to catch it on Netflix or DVD, or you will have missed a defining moment in American pop culture. This season is such a white knuckle thrill ride. No other television show can come close to the acting on Breaking Bad. My personal favorite part of the show is the cinematography, it's like another character that they use to help tell the story (i.e. the tomb/crawl space closing scene from last week). Gus has become one of the most terrifying and evil characters in television history. Walt is spiraling out of control, and the great part is knowing that the writers would never allow the story to end with everybody walking off into the sunset. One of the recurring themes of Breaking Bad is that choices have consequences that can be immediate or delayed. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow night.

SPORTS: Baseball Postseason. We got a taste of how great baseball can still be on the last day of the season. Of course, the Astros played their first meaningful game in 5 months and promptly got blown out by the Cardinals. But the other 3 games with playoff implications were amazing. I'm sure the rest of you Astros fans have soured on baseball this season due to having to endure the nightly embarassment that your hometown team has provided, but if you love the game don't miss October. I'm pulling for a Tigers-Phillies World Series (I can't root for Texas, St. Louis, New York, or Milwaukee based on my hatred of all things evil......the Rangers play in Dallas and have a large section of Cowboys fans....sorry Nolan). Also, is there any way we could get Gus Johnson to spice up the World Series broadcast booth this year?

BLOGS: The Sideline View. Football fans visit this site and thank me later. The brain child of two of my favorite football analysts Lance Zierlein and John Harris, The Sideline View covers all things football (College, NFL, Draft, and Fantasy). They also added Adam Caplan as a contributor which means they've created a holy trinity of exhaustive football knowledge. The website looks great and more importantly it contains some of the best football analysis on the web. Whether you are looking for an edge in your fantasy football league, searching for tips before you place your "friendly" bets for the week, or just looking for analysis on your favorite team, The Sideline View is a website that all football fans will enjoy.



FOOD: Peanut Butter. As I get older I am becoming more like my Dad (he would often have a late night spoon of PB). Lately I have been craving this most delicious of foods. The other day on Twitter I proposed that George Washington Carver is probably the greatest American who ever lived. It seems as though I am not alone here as @_Derec and others quickly agreed. Really is there anything Peanut Butter doesn't make better? Bananas, Ice Cream, Bread, Crackers, even celery becomes edible by adding the creamy goodness of peanut butter. If we brought jars of PB to Congress I'm pretty sure that they could agree for once and solve our country's problems. To all of you with nut allergies: my condolences, you have unfairly missed the greatest and most versatile food that humans have ever developed.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 9/4/2011

After a lengthy hiatus the suggestions are back with the final entry in Burgers of Summer, football, and entertainment options on your Labor Day weekend.

Great bun. Tasty beef. Slightly heavy on the mayo.

BURGERS OF SUMMER: Miller's Cafe. Right off Bay Area Blvd. in a shopping center sits a simple looking cafe named Miller's that specializes in burgers. I got to eat a double meat Miller's burger recently on a work lunch. I would say it was much tastier than the usual fast food options that a 1 hour lunch normally provides. The burger was thick and juicy. Their famous poppy seed buns were easily the highlight of this burger. The one negative in my book was the 3 cups of mayonnaise that seemed to be overwhelming my meat. However, one swipe took care of the excess mayo and the tasty beef was able to come to the forefront. The best part was laughing at my coworkers' jealousy when describing their Chick-fil-a and Subway lunches. Since the calendar says September this will be the last Burgers of Summer entry but never fear, my love of the hamburger will continue to be a much practiced hobby. In fact there is an elusive fancy burger at The Mockingbird Bistro that will very soon be tamed. Hope you've had as much fun reading as I have eating, and perhaps you got some good ideas for YOUR next burger excursion.


BOOKS: Robopocalypse. This book by Daniel H. Wilson is a must for sci-fi and apocalyptic lovers everywhere. In the spirit of works like The Terminator, I Robot, Night of the Living Dead, and the Matrix this book is exciting, thought provoking, and an extremely good read. Brutal, honest, and terrifying Robopocalypse will have you staying up late reading about the apocalyptic battle between mankind and its own creation. Easily one of my favorite contemporary books in a long time. I was sad to get to the end and hoping for a sequel. I have heard rumors that the film rights have already been picked up. Let's hope Michael Bay and Shia Labeouf have nothing to do with it, right now Spielberg is set to direct.

NETFLIX: Lost. I know most of you watched this show when it aired, but I'm guessing several of you like my wife and I didn't get around to season 1 and knew this wasn't a series you could "jump into". Thanks to Netflix we are zooming through this series 1 or 2 episodes a night and having a lot of fun doing it. My friends who watched the show are laughing at my reaction to the previous night's episodes each morning, and generally agreeing that the Netflix marathon is a far better way to view the series. I can see how some people got discouraged with it, but when we get to a "filler" episode we just watch another right away to get the bad taste out of our mouths. We have 2 seasons to go and I have already had 2 requests to blog about the ending, so we shall see if it is controversial enough to demand a full post. Until then.........back to the island tonight.

FOOTBALL: Opening Week. We've already had a great weekend of college football and now the pros kick it off in style. Three match ups I can't wait to watch this week are Texans-Colts, Saints-Packers, and Cowboys-Jets. Give me Texans, Saints, and Jets for the three team parlay. If you didn't catch it earlier this week here is my Apedonkey NFL preview. Now let's all sit back and enjoy this three day weekend as good Americans: on the couch watching football on the big screen. God bless you Grover Cleveland for succumbing to the unions and declaring this sacred day of rest at the beginning of football season. Great President or Greatest President ever?

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 8/6/2011

Burgers of Summer is coming to a rapid and delicious end. Football season is ramping up so expect the suggestions to be fewer and farther between but for now enjoy the latest 4 pack!

Double meat Honky Tonk Burger

BURGERS OF SUMMER: Stomp's Burger Joint. This little place off 146 a little ways past the Kemah boardwalk might just be my new favorite burger spot. Just like the name implies this is a tiny shack that doesn't stray far from their specialty........delicious hand made burgers. We sampled the Honky Tonk Burger (sausage, bacon, and bbq sauce), The Southern Belle (wine marinated patties), The Panhandler (think juicy burger meets tasty bucket of hot wings), and The Stomper (extra large Mexican buns (insert joke here), refried beans, and guacamole). We have been to several burger spots this summer and most of them have been excellent, however usually one or two of the burgers were not quite up to our lofty standards of beefy goodness. I can verify that each of these burgers tasted like an A+. We all got double meat and not a single burger cost over $5.98!!!!! We could very well have stumbled upon the greatest food value in the Houston area. Many of the burgers you have read about in this blog cost upwards of $8, but a double meat Stomp's burger is right up there with its pricey counterparts. No doubt about it if I were to rank based on $ value Stomp's would have to be #1. The best part is that this spot is only about 15min from my house. None of us could believe that we had never been here. We have already planned a trip back to sample some more Stomp burgers. The fries are very mediocre, but the onion rings were large and tasty. When you get a chance head over to Stomp's Burger Joint on 146, you are very likely to see a certain blogger in there getting his burger fix on!
The Stomper - sorry for the terrible phone resolution.

ENTERTAINMENT: Star Cinema Grill. When my wife and I have a babysitter and want to go see a movie this theatre/restaurant is our destination 90% of the time. We have a 4 month old so packing the most entertainment into the shortest period of time is important. Star Cinema lets us see a movie AND have a good dinner before we have to get home for the little dude's next feeding. The food is surprisingly good and reasonably priced. An entree usually runs about the same as a tub of popcorn and a drink at your local theatre. My personal favorite are the Desperado Tacos. The best part of Star Cinema? They have a full bar and adult beverage list so not only can you enjoy an adult beverage with your movie but most importantly even if you don't, this means that NO KIDS CAN ENTER THE THEATRE WITHOUT THEIR PARENTS! No more groups of 13 year olds running in and out of your movie. No more 12 year old girls giggling in the back row. No more families of 9 dropping all their kids off for free babysitting. Basically it's the movie equivalent of getting your licensed renewed at a members only gated community DMV. If you have never experienced the dinner/movie double down, check out Star Cinema in Clear Lake, Missouri City, or Conroe.

SMARTPHONE APP: Wordfeud. Like the more widely known Words with Friends, Wordfeud is basically scrabble over the internet. It was available first on the Android market so I started playing it a while back, and immediately fell under its addictive spell. My wife no longer plays me as our competitive relationship caused more than one heated smack talking due to the game. She also claims that my "restroom breaks" are now 50% longer due to Wordfeud and they usually occur when my son's diaper is dirty (I can neither confirm nor deny those accusations). My best and longest running feuds are against my sister jhjackson, jwebb33, epmckenna, and DuncansteinPi. All worthy opponents who bring their A game. The best thing about Wordfeud is that I can tell myself all those wasted hours have been spent sharpening my mind and improving my vocabulary, instead of shooting oddly colored birds with no mental challenges. If you get the app look me up at stephennaron. I'm sure my wife would be excited to learn I had picked up some new opponents.......you know to fill the time during restroom breaks and all.

SPORTS: New look Astros. Look I am as concerned as you are that our veteran leadership in the clubhouse now falls squarely on the shoulders of Carlos Lee, but I might have enjoyed watching the Stros more this week than all season. The other night Jordan Lyles got his first major league win despite already throwing several quality starts, J.D. Martinez socked his first ML HR, which if my math is correct places him firmly in second place on the team in that category, and Jose Altuve continued to stake his claim as the greatest 4'2" player in MLB history. I will admit that watching the Astros with a Cuban wife has also become much more useful (I can get pronunciations down quicker). At least if the Astros are going to lose the rest of the year we get to see what we have in some of these youngsters. The answer will probably dictate whether we become relevant again in 2013 or not until about 2021.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 7/27/2011

Another burger for your culinary pleasure, real life COPS, Breaking Bad, and did somebody say football?

The "Detention" - 2 weeks worth of nutrition.

SUMMER OF BURGERS: Bernie's Burger Bus. This mobile honor roll of burgers has been on our list ever since I heard of them on Southbound food with @LanceZierlein. It may be a little smaller than the bus that picked me up in grade school, but this is definitely not the short bus for burgers. This mecca of mobile meat easily served up one of the top 3 burgers we've had this summer. My friends talked me into trying the "Detention", a double meat burger with all the toppings including some delicious caramelized onions in between two apple wood smoked bacon grilled cheese sandwiches that serve as the bun! The closest comparison I can make to picking that burger up out of the brown paper bag is when I pick my 3-month old up out of his crib. This thing was massive! Several times I thought it would get the best of me, but I can proudly say I finished the burger and I haven't enjoyed a detention that much since the last time I watched The Breakfast Club. The only two strikes against Bernie's was the outdoor heat we had to endure and the less than stellar sweet potato fries. However, the truffle fries were some of the best sides we've had on our burger tour. You can follow the bus and find out where it's going to be @BerniesBurgers. I strongly suggest you do that and find the time to try one of Houston's BEST burgers.

This bus serves burgers that are slightly better than the ones from the cafeteria.

TV: Breaking Bad. As usual I am late to the party here, but Breaking Bad is all you've heard about. I was able to watch a few episodes and read some reviews before the season premiere and felt as nervous during that show as any of the fan boys who have been on board since day 1. Really this show has become enough a part of pop culture that most of you reading this already know the basic premise of the narrative without even watching one episode. If you'd like a great review of the season opener which left me on the edge of my couch here you go. All this to say, if you are like me a month ago and still haven't got on board with Walt, Jesse, and the rest of the gang, spend a day catching up and jump right in. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

ADVENTURE: Ride Along. One of my best friends is a police officer and we had been talking about doing a ride along for a while. I thought it would be an adventure to tag along while he patrolled the night shift. Well, last week it finally happened and what an adventure it was. I'm actually not sure what all I should say here so let me keep it simple. My night featured a suspect shot, a high speed police chase, and ended with me in police interrogation. Possibly the craziest ride along of all time and I definitely feel qualified to do play by play during COPS episodes now. My adrenaline was through the roof, and I walked away with a much greater respect for what those officers do on a daily basis. We spend a lot of much needed time thanking our military (rightfully so), but the police officers deserve a lot of thanks as well for protecting us on a daily basis even in times of "peace".

SPORTS: Football is back. YES! This lockout hasn't fazed my love for the NFL one iota. This week has been like one long Christmas morning all ready. If you're like me, since Sunday night it has been all NFL all the time. If not, then you can get your football fix by reading my latest two efforts over at Apedonkey.com the Sports Report: Texans Edition and Fantasy Football 101. Now let's get these fantasy football drafts done and open the season with a statement win over the Colts. Texans fans.....I'll see you in the playoffs this year!

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 7/14/2011


Summer of burgers continues and much more to occupy your time.
Little Bitty Burger Barn

SUMMER OF BURGERS: Little Bitty Burger Barn. This place off 290W was high on ambiance. The atmosphere in this very small burger joint was great.There were lots of burgers to choose from and we sampled the Juicy Lucy (2 cheeses grilled into a 1/2 lb burger), the Big Juan (Pepper jack and jalapenos grilled into a 1/2 lb burger), and a double meat double cheese jalapeno bacon burger. All were good burgers, although after eating so many great burgers a few of us (especially those eating Juicy Lucy's) felt like the quality of the meat wasn't up to par with some of our previous spots. That being said, this spot can deliver a mean burger and the fries were excellent. If you go be sure to get there early as the room for seating is sparse. Also, it seemed the smaller 1/4 patties had a better taste than the 1/2 lb, so if you're hungry do a double meat instead of the larger patty.

Our best choice.
SPORTS: Women's World Cup. I know what you're saying, "Who is this guy telling me to watch women's soccer and what has he done with Stephen?" I didn't expect to get sucked in either, but after catching the end of Sunday's miracle win and Wednesday's improbable 3-1 victory, I am anxious to see these ladies finish the job Sunday. Contrary to popular belief I am not a complete sexist when it comes to sports. In fact if you watched Wednesday's game at my house and guessed it was me who said, "Our girls are a lot better looking than these French women." You would be wrong, although I did vehemently agree with my wife's astute observation. So congratulations ladies you have done what the men's team has never accomplished, keep me interested in soccer for more than one game. Good luck to Hope Solo and the rest of the team. I would be shocked if they don't close the deal against Japan.

TV: Friday Night Lights. Somehow I never caught this show when it first aired, but over the summer I have corrected that embarrassing line in my TV resume. I have said it here before, but this is really a great show. If you are a fan here is a great oral history of the show from Robert Mays. The finale airs on Friday and then it can forever enter the TV conversation of greatest dramas ever. It's currently on Netflix on demand, so if you haven't already dropped the service because of the price increase do like I did and start watching. I'm pretty sure Coach Taylor could solve his marriage issues, counsel young men, and win the state championship game faster than Coach Kubiak could call a play in the red zone.

BLOGS: Apedonkey. I have mentioned this website before, but I do so now to tell you that more of my sports takes will be appearing there. These guys do a great job reviewing television shows and have begun to include more music and movies too. Think of it as a Tom Haverford entertainment 720 type takeover of media. I was asked to contribute to the sports side of the site, and am excited to get another outlet for my takes. I guess I could be considered the Detlef Schrempf of Apedonkey. Anyway, I hope you get a chance to check it out. My first article is here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Andre Johnson....Still Unappreciated

The best WR in football.
       Since starting this blog there hasn't been much to write about in regards to the NFL or my favorite team, the Texans. Sunday night's conclusion of the NFL's top 100 players gave me reason to blog. In the players' poll, Andre Johnson came in at #7 overall. A very respectable spot and the highest position given to a wide receiver. However, let me take some time to explain why this was still WAY to low for one of the all-time greats.
      Since joining the Texans in 2003 Andre has twice led the league in both receptions and yards. No player in NFL HISTORY has EVER averaged more yds per game(79.7) than AJ! He brings it every single game. The one knock on Johnson is his low touchdown numbers supporting those impressive receiving stats. He has never finished a season with more than 9 touchdowns, by comparison Randy Moss had 23 touchdowns in 2007. However, talk to any fan of the Texans and one of the first of many complaints is likely to be the team's lack of targeting AJ in the red zone. For some inexplicable reason the Texans conveniently forget they have the NFL's greatest weapon and one of the finest physical specimens to ever play the game as soon as they cross the 20. The season the Texans realize this Johnson should have 13-17 touchdowns. Watch the video below to fully understand my man crush on #80. (Notice score and time of game)

       
       Most wide receivers in the league would be happy to stop right there, but Johnson takes his passion for the game to more areas than just his yards and receptions. It's widely known that Andre is a rarity among the NFL's position of prima donnas. He chooses to let his game talk more than he does, and because of this he isn't in the public eye as much as T.O., Ochocinco, Moss, or even a Larry Fitzgerald. But ask one Courtland Finnegan if that silence should be seen as a weakness. My Dad always told me the ones who talked a lot usually couldn't back it up, but be careful of the strong silent types. This guy takes pride in going hard on every play. You want him to run a slant over the middle for first down? Done. You need a key block to spring a run play? He does it. You want him to clear two defenders out by selling the deep route? Fine. This guy runs EVERY route well and blocks like a tight end. The bottom line is Andre Johnson is the BEST WR on the planet AND a great teammate who will do anything to win football games.
      So where should Andre rank? I don't disagree with Brady and Manning being top 2. Those are the only two guys who surrounded by a decent team will guarantee you playoffs every year. Adrian Peterson number 3? He is a great talent, but has already hurt his team in key situations with the ball. Then there was a run on defense with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Troy Polamalu. All these guys are impressive but we're talking about two who are in the twilight of their careers and one who can't stay on the field. Also, those three guys play for GREAT defensive squads that allow them to shine without feeling too much individual pressure. Name Andre Johnson's best #2 receiver. He has had David Carr, Sage Rosenfels, Matt Schaub, and Dan Orlovsky throwing him the rock. Not exactly the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks. All 6 players ahead of Johnson do have one thing in common. They have all had deep runs in the playoffs. Looking at the fans vote for top 100 makes this fact stand out even further. Andre finished 10th in the fans ballot behind recent Super Bowl champions Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. In fact all 9 players who finished ahead of Johnson have had multiple playoff games in their careers. So AJ was the #1 rated player on both the player and fan ballots who had never been to the playoffs. I think the only thing separating Johnson from being top 5, and for my money #3 overall, is a deep playoff run. Texans fans would love to see the team go far this season and finally get Andre the National attention that one of the greatest wide receivers to EVER play the game deserves.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 7/1/2011

Look the NBA is locked out, the NFL is still not coming back, and the Astros are a train wreck. You need suggestions now more than ever.


SUMMER OF BURGERS: Rainbow Lodge. Every Friday Chef Augie at Rainbow Lodge creates twelve wild game burgers to be eaten for lunch by twelve lucky Houstonians. This Friday I was one of the lucky twelve. This week's burger was made from buffalo tenderloin, elk, and venison. It is topped with a generous portion of creamy Gorgonzola cheese and served with the freshest tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles you have ever topped your burger with. Sometimes you just want a candy bar, but sometimes you have to splurge for a chocolate mousse right? Well, this is the chocolate mousse of burgers. Priced at $11 this burger was worth every penny. It was an excellent mix of meat and did not taste too gamey in the least. If you are ever on the North loop around 11:30 on a Friday, then you should do your best to be one of the lucky 12 who gets to eat this rarest of Houston burgers. You will thank me.

TV: Colbert Report. I've been watching this show for several years now and it still can make me roll off the couch laughing. As the sports world goes silent, the political landscape is heating up. There are a lot of choices on cable for you to get your news from, but none of them are half as good as the Daily Show/Colbert Report double header. These shows get even more ridiculously funny as the campaign season begins. To be honest though, I find myself not only laughing with Colbert but often thinking he has the most accurate views on our government and political systems.


MOVIES: Bigger, Stronger, Faster. I caught this documentary on Netflix after a friend recommended it to me this week. I thought it was excellent. The film follows three brothers from New York who grew up taking steroids at various times in their lives. The brother making the documentary attempts to find an unbiased opinion of the benefits/drawbacks of steroids. I thought he did a great job demonstrating how to approach the task of making a moral choice by listening objectively to both sides of the argument and never taking a holier than thou attitude. If you think you know everything about steroids already, you should check this film out. I was blown away by some of the facts and interviews included, and the classic wrestling scenes were a huge plus too. In the end, the film examines the relationship between American competition and excellence to our history of steroid use. Beware, this doc may cause you to rethink some of your preconceived notions of "drug" use.

BOOKS: Classics. The NFL and NBA are not coming back right now so what better time to catch up on some classic literature that you never got around to reading? There is a reason these books have stayed in circulation long after they were initially written. Now is a great time to discover an old book that could fill your lazy Sunday afternoons. If you're like me, as soon as the NFL is back you're going to go on a football bender that would make Charlie Sheen and the dudes from the Hangover blush. Believe it or not, some women find a man who reads the classics much sexier than a guy who runs 6 fantasy teams. Lucky for me my wife digs both. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is a personal favorite. Some other suggestions would be: Slaughter-house 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, 1984 by George Orwell, and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 6/28/2011

Another mid-week Summer edition of Stephen's suggestions featuring the much anticipated return of Summer of Burgers.


Yes, that IS a fried egg sitting on top of my burger.
 SUMMER OF BURGERS: The Burger Guys. Located on Old Westheimer Rd. way out in Northwest Houston outside the Beltway, The Burger Guys is a pilgrimage worthy of only the most ardent burger aficionados. From LaPorte/Pasadena area it took us about 45 minutes to make the lunchtime drive to this tiny spot of burger bliss. Each burger on the menu costs $8 and is named for the city that inspired it. We had a Houston and a Sonoma burger. With ingredients like onion bacon jam, fancy lawnmower ale mustard, bread and butter jalapenos, applewood smoked bacon, and aioli these burgers sound like they belong on a five-star restaurant menu instead of a burger joint. For $1 more you can add a fried egg to your meat masterpiece (what does a fried egg NOT make better?). The Burger Guys absolutely murdered it in the sides category. Their Belgian fries made with duck fat were amazing, and with each order you can pick from two of the five homemade dipping sauces. Those fries probably deserve a 2,000 word blog unto themselves. Add in their old school Imperial Sugar soda fountains and homemade shakes featuring such flavors as Cookie Crisp cereal, and you have a pig out joint worthy of the largest appetites. If you do make the trek to this mecca of meat I have two suggestions. 1. If you don't like your burger with a lot of pink be sure to order medium well -well done. 2. If sodium is an issue you may want to opt for a shake instead of fries to go with your burger.

ENTERTAINMENT: Minute Maid Park. Got to check out my first Astros game live this season (yes, they were free tickets), and came away with an even greater appreciation for the juice box. You can see roughly 29 better baseball teams than the Astros, but there are not too many ballparks that top Minute Maid. I was most impressed by the new HD video screen above right field. WOW! That thing is truly impressive in person. Even as someone who enjoys all the intricacies of a game of baseball, I found myself staring at that monument to technological achievement more than I expected. This was probably due to the fact that the Astros could only muster three measly hits in nine innings, but still, that scoreboard is sweet! Talk about great value, I am fairly certain I saw a scalper trade two dugout tickets for a pack of cigarettes and a diet coke.


"I keep gettin older...but these aliens stay the same age"
 TV: Falling Skies. Finally got around to watching the TNT premiere of Falling Skies after hearing from several people that it was The Walking Dead with aliens. WRONG. That's a little like saying the WNBA is the NBA with women. Falling Skies didn't have the excellent mood and grittiness that makes The Walking Dead so good. It also felt like a Saturday morning special with the PSA's for American history and moral codes. The Walking Dead embraces survivors' struggles with moral dilemma, but it does so in a far more realistic and honest way. Also, Noah Wyle has a little Wooderson look to him which I found slightly distracting. My suggestion here is to skip this summer drama and wait till October when the zombies come back and show these aliens how it's done.

CELEBRATIONS: Fireworks. Not only is this current Saharan drought threatening to turn my front lawn into a sandbox, but now it is taking aim at an American institution.... 4th of July fireworks. It appears that most cities in the Houston area will be cancelling their annual fireworks shows due to dry weather. Never fear though, my sister informed me that Crosby will only be "postponing" their much anticipated show until Labor day. Sure Crosby we will all make the journey to your town for some good old September fireworks. Please. My suggestion is to go on with the show. There are few things that I am adamant about keeping tradition, fireworks on the 4th is at the top of the list. Besides what is the worst that could happen? Our ugly lawns could burn and we may all be drenched with ice cold hydrant water? I say we take our chances.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Friday, June 24, 2011

SNL ROCKETS

Need a talent evaluator NBC?
"Daryl Morey is a basketball genius." Here in Houston we get told this on a daily basis. Of course when your in town comparisons are Ed Wade and Rick Smith, you can look like Stephen Hawking by simply being able to solve a Rubik's cube. I do think Morey is a good talent evaluator, and I definitely think the Rockets are Houston's best run sports franchise. However, because the NBA is now a league where the best players actively recruit each other to chase championships and trade gold digging groupies, it seems the Rockets may never be able to land the star they so desperately need. If the Rockets were a TV show, I would say they most resemble Saturday Night Live. Every "show" has some really good parts, none of the "players" are overly impressive on their own, and occasionally the whole performance produces a "win". SNL isn't the star powered juggernaut it used to be, and neither are the Rockets. Last night's draft brought in Marcus Morris, Jonny Flynn, Chandler Parsons, and requisite Euro talent Donatas Motiejunas. A Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan, Andy Samberg, and Kristen Wiig type haul (For the record, the Euro dude is Kristen). I have nothing against these guys (except maybe the Euro) and obviously there was no Lebron James available, but really last night was another big YAWN. The Rockets have put together a solid team with a lot of very good NBA players on it, but we need an Eddie Murphy or John Belushi. I am not ready to call for Daryl Morey's head. Let's see what he can get done with all these pieces he has acquired. With the lockout looming he should have plenty of time to consult his IBM Supercomputer and turn some of these guys around for a big. After the draft I tweeted that the Rockets look a lot like most of my junior high teams I have coached; 5 point guards and 5 forwards, but I don't think they will start the season with the roster they have now. If this is the team Daryl is rolling the dice with then we can all get ready for another season of Seth Myers type mediocrity and the 14th pick. For the record, if we are comparing Houston teams to television shows, then Texans = The Killing (always promising but throw you off the cliff in end) and Astros = Keeping up with the Kardashians (train wreck throughout).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 6/21/2011

Midweek Summer special edition. Back again with a foursome that would make the U.S. Open jealous.



MOVIES: Super 8. Caught this flick last weekend and thought it was a lot of fun. If you grew up between 1977-1989 I have to think you would at least get a kick out of seeing this movie. It was Stand by Me wrapped in E.T. with some Goonies on the top. Just like those great flicks it was really more about the kids than the alien, monster, or mysterious dead body. A welcome throwback picture in a Summer full of poo poo platters like The Green Lantern, Pirates 4, and a movie I would only see if you held my family hostage and the only way I could get them back was to sit through 2 hours of torture ......... Transformers 3. I will admit the last 1/3 of the movie fell a little flat for me, but you could do A LOT worse at the theatre this Summer. Solid film. Go see it and let me know what you think.

ENTERTAINMENT: Netflix. Just signed up for Netflix this month. I know, "Congratulations for joining the 21st century Stephen." This service is probably the best value you can get for $7.99 a month. Right now we're going back and watching the first season of Parks and Rec, (for my money the best comedy on TV right now) since we came to the Pawnee party late. I'm also plowing through Friday Night Lights, a show I am amazed I never watched. It features 3 of my favorite things in life 1. Texas 2. Football and 3. Texas HS Football. The show is spectacular and Coach Taylor is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in television history. Now that The Killing Lebron Jamesed me in the finale, it's nice to be able to fire up some great television at will. I will say the only drawback is finding out that many selections are only available via the $2 mail upgrade. Seriously Netflix, it's not so much the $2 but the idea of having to use an antiquated service like the U.S . Mail when I can just click and start watching. Check it out. If you need some suggestions for what to watch read some of the excellent reviews of TV shows at apedonkey.com, those guys do a great job reviewing television.


Will Rockets draft pick look something like this?
SPORTS: NBA DRAFT. Thursday night. What's more awkward than watching uptight David Stern shaking hands with dozens of inner city brothers and socially inept foreigners? Watching him do it as he is simultaneously freaking out over an impending lockout. With the lack of top level talent in this year's draft, we could see a new standard set for unintentional comedy. The Rockets once again were neither great or terrible, so they are stuck in draft purgatory at #14. Daryl Morey is said to be on the phones looking to make a deal (PLEASE not Josh Smith). So it should be a lot of fun to see if the Rockets can move up or trade for an established player. Worst case scenario: they stay at #14 and draft some foreign dude with a name like Stepvanovich who smokes 3 packs of cigs a day and rocks a Euro-mullet. Welcome to the 2011 NBA(Bizarro World), where Dirk Nowitzki reigns supreme over Lebron and Dwade.

PARENTING: Helicopter Parents. My final suggestion this week is in reflection of Father's Day and this story about a Little League Mom in New York who sent threatening letters and falsely accused child molestation after her son was not picked for the traveling all star team. Pitiful. Parents, let your children do their thing. It's summer, let them be kids. In this season of AAU sports, remember that your kids are still just that......kids. 9 out of 10 times you are wrong. They are your children and therefore it is impossible to look at them objectively. When they do face hardships....GREAT. You know what is worse than being 13 and not picked for your sports team? Being 22 and unable to deal with the real world because your parents always sheltered you and made you think the entire Earth revolves around you.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

NFL Reality Check

What would you do if you couldn't watch me?
      
 So far every talking head on ESPN, Ray Lewis, Magic Johnson, The President, and pretty much everybody else on TV and the Internet has told me how important it is for the NFL to end this lockout. Now if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am a self described "huge sports fan". However, I am tired of hearing how my entire existence depends on whether or not the owners and players can solve their differences and end the lockout. Guess what? I love football, but it doesn't define my life. Do I look forward to Texans games and Sunday-Monday night NFL? Absolutely. Guess what else I look forward to on Sundays? Worshipping at my church. Gorging myself at the traditional Sunday afternoon lunch at my parents' house. Spending time with my wife and kids. I think I will be able to prevent myself from committing suicide if the NFL doesn't come back by Labor Day. Whatever will I do with myself if I can't spend 4-10pm wondering how in the world the Texans managed to blow another game in the 4th quarter? Don't get me wrong, I care if this thing gets solved and would love for football season to start on time. What I don't care for is the ridiculous language being thrown about to try and describe how important football season is to us common folk. Ray Lewis, I think I will be able to stay out of jail on Sundays even without the NFL on TV, as a Texans fan there is probably a 1000x better chance of me doing something to go to jail BECAUSE football is on TV (just ask my wife). Is it any wonder how we have created athletes like Lebron James who tell us smugly, "You will still have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life." ? Yeah Lebron I will, and you know what Mr. Goodell if the NFL doesn't come back this year I will STILL wake up and have the same life I had yesterday. Last I checked college football WILL be returning. The way ESPN broadcasts 3 games a night 7 days a week, I'm pretty sure I will be able to get my football fix on without the NFL. So here's to you guys figuring out how to divide the million dollar profits of America's most successful sport, just realize that if you can't, most of us will be able to make it without you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Heartfelt Plea for the NL

       
              Saturday brought news that MLB was discussing possible realignment and that one team thought to be the favorite to switch leagues was the Houston Astros. BOOM. Twitter explosion. My timeline was suddenly filled with passionate arguments for or against this theoretical move to the American League. I found myself strangely passionate about the subject as well, and it took me a little while to process my emotions. I am strongly against the Astros leaving the National League. I can understand those who have an opposite opinion. They are currently frustrated, they see the AL as a more exciting game(more runs scored), they see the major draws in the AL(Yankees & Red Sox), but I just couldn't shake my initial impression that this was a bad idea. You know what I realized? To those of us who grew up here in Houston, the Astros mean a lot more than we thought. We have witnessed decades of National League baseball. As a kid I loved all the Houston teams, but the only one my family could afford to go see regularly were the Astros. I grew up sitting in the outfield seats watching the Stros battle the Braves, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals and other National League foes. I have grown up learning to appreciate the way baseball is played in the NL. Sure we don't have as good a rivalry as Cubs-Cards, but what teams do? Last I checked the Astros have been around a lot longer and enjoyed more success than the Rangers. Why should we change our history to create a rivalry with a team that has only been good for a few years? Sure everybody is frustrated this season, but the Stros are rebuilding. Every team except for the Red Sox and Yankees has to do that. Heck, the Rangers had to do it for 20 years. I could go into the scheduling implications and debate the superiority of one league over another, but I realized that this is a whole lot bigger than that. This is part of my childhood and my life as a Houston sports fan. I can't fully put it into words, but all my memories of the Astros belong in the National League. The series with the Mets. The rivalry with the Dodgers. The multiple playoff wars with the Braves. The only Astro memory that is AL heavy is the no hitter against the Yankees. Even the greatest Astros' season ended with them being the NATIONAL league representative in the World Series. You want a true Texas rivalry that would put the national microscope on baseball here in our great state? Wouldn't an Astros-Rangers World Series be 100x more interesting and awesome than a few regular season series? Should we move the Texans to the NFC East so they can play the Cowboys more? A lot of sportswriters who are tooting the horn for the AL didn't grow up watching the Astros. I understand why they would like to cover a higher scoring game and the two biggest teams in baseball, but they don't understand what the Astros and the National League mean to us fans. So while I won't belittle you if you favor a move to the AL, please understand that I, and I think a lot of fans like myself, would like to keep the Stros in the National League.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 6/11/2011

Burgers, pop culture, and sports. Do you really need to know anything else?


SUMMER OF BURGERS: Hubcap Grill. A few blocks from Minute Maid Park in a building about the size of my living room you can get some of the best burgers the Earth has to offer. If you blink you will miss this Burger Mecca, but don't let the size fool you. This little burger joint on Prarie St. brings some serious heat. We had the double meat cheeseburger, the greek burger, the bacon cheeseburger, and a philly cheese steak burger. All four burgers made me stop and savor every inch of juicy tastiness. I'm almost certain I could feel the double meat cheeseburger french kissing my taste buds. The philly cheese steak and greek burger were extremely satisfying variations on the classic American sandwich. I cannot give a more hearty endorsement for a good burger.

SPORTS: NBA Finals. Let me throw some names at you: Dirk, Dwade, Bosh, Jason Terry, Udonis Haslem, Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea. What do all of those guys have in common? They have all scored as many or more points than Lebron James has in the 4th quarter of this series! Save your fundamentals argument, I know enough about basketball to understand that a player can impact a game without scoring, but this is getting ridiculous. The worst part for the Heat? For the first time, as I watched game 5, I felt like the Mavericks were the better team. The other 2 wins felt like David Blaine specials where the Mavericks pulled a win out of thin air (largely due to terrible end of game strategies by the Heat), but Game 5 felt like a Mavericks win from the get go. Do I think the Heat will still win? Yes, I can't shake the fact that they have 3 of the 4 best players on their team. However, the impending collapse of the big 3 makes this must see TV. Erik Spoelstra is probably coaching for his job this weekend. Lebron is playing to silence millions of critics. And 20 years ago if you had told me I would one day witness a 7 foot German who listens to David Hasselhoff albums knocking down threes to defeat the 2 best players in the NBA Finals, I would have pooped in my Z. Cavaricci's from shock.


MOVIES: True Grit. One of my favorite movies from last year is finally coming out on DVD. If you didn't catch this flick at the theatres, do it now. It stars Jeff Bridges, who once played "the Dude", which firmly placed him in the "I will watch anything starring this guy" category. He is awesome as always. He uses a drunken western accent that might remind you of your 90 year old uncle who gets sloshed at family gatherings and is the life of the party, despite no one knowing a single thing he says. The real showstopper though is Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie. She steals every scene she's in and puts in the best underage performance I've seen since Doogie Howser M.D. Netflix it. Redbox it. Or if you live in rural Alabama head to Blockbuster and thank me later.

ANATOMY: Breasts. Whooa. Hang on there cowboy it's not what you think. The wife is teaching our future to speak Spanish during the summer afternoons (Good thing too cause it could be our state language by 2020). So your neighborhood teacher/coach/blogger who gets summer off is doing his best Michael Keaton impression for 3 hrs every day (Minus the bad perm). During this time I have gained a new found respect for the mammaries. When my 2 month old son gets hungry he doesn't politely ask for food, he SCREAMS William Wallace style until something milky enters his mouth. Normally I don't notice that much because my wife is equipped by God to give him immediate food. Can you imagine every time you got hungry a tasty burrito or burger falling out of the sky? Now that I am stuck listening to the wailing while preparing and warming a bottle (I am getting much faster), I can only say that God knew exactly what he was doing when he equipped women with built in milkshakes. Also, I hear they are excellent for other stuff as well.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Want your team to win an NBA Finals..... Get a Superstar

   



          All the talk of the Big 3 in Miami and the emergence of Dirk in these Finals got me thinking back to the NBA Finals I have seen. All of the winners have contained top 5 to arguably top 3 NBA superstars. When everybody was jumping on the Shaq bandwagon after his retirement, I (and my Houston peeps) were busy making the point that Hakeem carried lesser teams to championships. Then I heard Kevin McHale say these quotes at his recent Rockets presser: "You’re always looking to get a superstar, you’re always looking to trade for a guy like that, but to say, oh, we don’t have that guy we can’t win – I don’t believe that. I believe we’ll go out there and we’ll win as a unit. So am I going to turn down a star? No, I’ll tell you what we all like them. But I think you can win without them." WRONG! I am cool with the McHale signing, but his quotes here have 30 plus years of proof to show they are unequivocally false. I started looking at the NBA champs from 1980 to now and you know what, it reads like a who's who of the last 30 years: Magic, Bird, Worthy, Abdul-Jabbar, McHale, Isaiah, MJ, Dr. J, Moses, Hakeem, Duncan, Kobe, Shaq, Dwade, Pierce, Garnett etc. The only outlier of the bunch would be the 2004 Pistons led by Chauncey Billups. As much as I would like to say that was because the Pistons were the better "team" and they won despite not having any superstars who are 1st ballot sure-fire HOF, I have to place most of the blame on the Lakers. If you remember, that was the year Malone and Payton's corpses showed up to try and piggy back a ring. That was also the last year of the Kobe-Shaq marriage, and it ended uglier than Pitt-Aniston. So while the Pistons were a great team without an NBA top 20 of the last 30 yrs, they also lucked into drawing the train wreck that was the Lakers of 2004. Remember how they quit in the clincher? Yes, Phil's teams actually do have a track record of falling apart prior to this season. So Rockets fans, the real question is not who the Rockets hire as coach, he could be the difference in a few more wins and a playoff berth. But if we want to win another title then we need to find another Hakeem, or Dirk, or Lebron, or another superstar, because according to my data that's the only way you win in the NBA.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The case for keeping Hunter Pence

         
          Let me start off by stating that I was the biggest cheerleader for the Astros to begin the rebuilding process. Despite their terrible record this season I am glad they have decided to get younger before the change in ownership. I have heard a lot of grumbling from the Astro faithful about the possibility of trading Hunter Pence for even more prospects. I would like to argue why I think the Astros should keep Hunter in the fold using both my brains (statistics) and heart (gut feeling). Before I begin let me also say that I think every player should have a price. While I think keeping Hunter around is the right decision, if a team offered a young stud pitcher and can't miss every day prospect then you always do what is best for the organization.
     First off, Pence is having a very good season at the plate. He would easily be my Astro MVP right now. I know, on a last place team that's a little like saying he has been the best actor in a Michael Bay flick. He's hitting .311 with a .355 OBP. Pence is second in the NL in hits(76), third in 2B(17), and fourth in RBI(43). The Astros have been very disappointing, but Pence has been a bright spot at the plate. Those statistics only begin to show the kind of season Pence is having. As my friend and I debated the issue of trading Pence, I told him "Yeah, but Hunter has been extremely clutch this season." At the time I only had my perception of games I have seen this year, but after looking it up I can now back that statement up with facts. Pence has batted .382 when the game is tied this season driving in the go ahead run 12 times. In the classic 2 outs runners in scoring position situations, Pence is hitting a whopping .391 with 11 RBI's! Imagine how we would be looking at his season if the Astros could hold onto leads and were within a few games of first.
     Again, I am all for the Astros rebuilding. I think all of us can agree that if we ever see Carlos Lee in Houston after this season it better be at a Rodeo cookoff booth. However, we will need some veteran leadership around the clubhouse. Pence is 28 years old this season and I would argue is just hitting his prime. Berkman is 35 years old and we have all seen he can still produce now that he is healthy and able to perform. I could be wrong here, but Pence strikes me as the kind of player who will always work hard in the offseason, weightroom, and batting cage to get better. His hustle has made him a fan favorite and a great example for the younger players. In MLB unlike NBA, superstars do not guarantee titles (see 2010 Giants), you need 9 good players and an above average rotation. Pence is definitely an above average right fielder. Is he a HOF? Probably not, but there are several World Series contenders who would love to have him patrolling their right field. I for one would like to see Pence in RF when Jim Crane rebuilds our beloved Astros into a contender again. (Fingers crossed)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 6/4/2011

Things to occupy your time. This suggestions contains the first entry in my summer of burgers. A short review of a burger I was able to devour this week. As always enjoy!

SUMMER OF BURGERS: Fajita Burger. Original Ninfa's on Navigation. My buddies and I have deemed this the summer of burgers. We will be partaking in some of the best burgers Houston has to offer over the course of the summer. If you haven't heard, our amazing city was ranked #1 in the country for burgers http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-best-burger-cities/1. We didn't even place on the recent Amazon list of most well-read cities, but really people what's important? EXACTLY......burgers. We decided to begin our tour with this non-traditional entry from one of the legendary Houston landmarks. The best way I can describe the fajita burger is to take everything you love about Mexican culture in one hand, everything you love about being an American in the other, and mash the two up into a cheese topped patty of deliciousness. Then you can appreciate the $9.99 fajita burger. Add all you can eat tortilla chips and the best green salsa in town and the pricey burger is much easier to stomach. I highly recommend you try this burger.

SPORTS: NBA Finals. That just happened. Yep I still have no idea how, but Dallas evened the series up on Thursday night. The Heat were doing their best Globetrotters impression by dunking from every conceivable angle, while the Mavericks dutifully performed their role as the defense lacking Washington Generals. Then just as I was going to go to bed the Heat inexplicably decided to stay out of the lane and jack up about 10 threes in a row. Dirk started doing his thing, and the Mavericks bench found out they really are better than 8 dead guys. Before I knew it Dirk made a lefty lay up while being guarded by Chris Bosh (are you serious Spoelstra?) and the series was tied. I have never seen a game that didn't involve Frank Reich turn around faster than that. Sunday's game 3 is now must see TV. Will the Heat realize they could have ran Dallas off the floor and put them away? Will the Heat feel mounting pressure from the choke job and start gripping? Will Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson french kiss Lebron directly in front of Mark Cuban? I can't wait to see the answers to these questions.



Kevin McHale. Welcome the big Frankenstein to Houston. A lot of fans have been complaining about the Rockets new coach, but I am fairly ambivalent. As I said on my Twitter feed, coaches usually get too much blame(Stan Van Gundy) or receive too much credit(Phil Jackson). If Kevin gets great players the Rockets will most likely win. If he doesn't have an upgraded roster then we will be middle of the pack again. I will say McHale's press conference showed that he is a likable guy who the players should respond to. His previous teams enjoyed playing for him, and he should be good for some great quotes throughout the season. Rockets fans should be much more concerned with what Morey is going to do with all the pieces he has accumulated to bring a star player to Houston. Plus with McHale on the sidelines we will constantly be reminded of the 1981 NBA Finals......wait uh oh.

WEATHER: Heatpocalypse Now. Welcome back Houston heat. While we are busy watching the Miami Heat in the Finals, the actual heat has made an early return to our great city. On Thursday we hit 100*, setting a record high and marking the earliest recorded triple digit temp on record. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's going to be a hot summer. However, I don't want to hear any complaining! We get great weather during the winter months, and I wouldn't trade our summers for a northeast winter. Houston has a plethora of pools to cool off in, so go swimming! As a coworker of mine once said, "I'm on the tanning diet. When you get a tan, you immediately look 10 lbs. lighter." - Tell me that's not brilliant advice. If you're a redhead? Sorry. Eating less works great too.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Miami Heat: Get Used To It


Let me start my Finals preview blog by saying that there could be some truth to the rumor that I'm secretly hoping the actual rapture occurs before game 4 so neither of these teams wins the title. Honestly, Dallas is the one team that could make me root for Lebron, Bosh, and the Heat to win it all. However, I am a HUGE fan of the game of basketball. I have spent 1,000's of hours playing, watching, and coaching the game, and I can appreciate individuals who are exceptionally great. This series should be a lot of fun. Three of the NBA's top 5 offensive players will be in this series. Lebron may go down as one of the 3 greatest of all time. Although Scottie Pippen saying LBJ COULD be the best player ever is a little like french fries announcing that mustard COULD be the greatest condiment ever invented. Sorry Scottie, but without MJ's fancy ketchup you would just be a soggy afterthought. As for this talk of Dirk being one of the 10 best players of all-time, or comparing him to Larry Bird? Please, not since Hitler has a German been able to improperly sway so many minds as Dirk apparently has. Let's just sit back and enjoy Nowitzki for being one of the most uniquely talented basketball players ever. NEVER has a 7-footer possessed the offensive skills of Dirk. He is impossible to stop on the offensive end of the floor, and he is automatic from the free throw line. However, he is not very good defensively, he is not an exceptional passer, and he has never won a ring in his lengthy career. Amazing player, but I could rattle off 20 names who were better all around players off the top of my head, and two of them play on the Heat. The thing I am most looking forward to watching in this series is  how both teams close out. Obviously the Mavericks and the Heat looked great at the end of their Conference Championship games, but some of that was due to the inexperience of OKC and the Bulls. I haven't seen a team choke at the end of games as badly as those two did since.......every night I decide to turn the Astros on. I would give the closer nod to the Heat. Lebron has been amazing at the end of games. Nobody on the Mavs, or the planet for that matter can guard him. On the other hand as great as Dirk has been, I see Lebron switching onto him late in games much like he did with Rose last series. Lebron can make it difficult for Dirk. Dirk couldn't guard Lebron if he was 8 feet tall and had 6 extra arms. The Mavericks biggest advantage is obviously their bench. The crew of Barrea, Terry, Haywood, and Stojakavic needs to outplay the Heat bench by a wide margin. I think this will happen at least twice and allow the Mavericks to make a series out of this thing. However, if Udonis Haslem continues to gain momentum and Mike Miller finds his jump shot this could be a very short series. Let's be honest Dirk, Kidd, and Cuban have a lot more pressure to win than the Heat. Barring major injuries the Heat are going to be back in the Finals SEVERAL more times. Dallas may have one shot at this thing. With that being said I think the Heat are focused and as much as some of you may hate to hear it, they might be poised to rattle off 3, 4, 5, or more titles. Get used to the Heat because you are going to be seeing them a lot this time of the year. Prediction: Heat in 6.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 5/21/2011

Here comes another round of suggestions with a side order of sarcasm from yours truly.


SPORTS: Bulls/Heat  I know it's kind of a big deal, but I thought you may need a reminder that this series was still going on since NBA playoff games occur about as often as paydays come around. The first two games were good and this series has all the makings of a classic. No disrespect to the Thunder or Mavs, but no matter who makes the Finals I can't imagine either of them being favorites. If Udonis Haslem brings 13 points a night like he did in game two, then the Heat will have a much better chance to beat the more balanced Bulls. At the start of the Playoffs I had the Heat coming out of the East, but I switched to the Bulls before this series. I just think it is going to be hard for the Heat to score the win when their supporting cast is about as attractive as a 50 year old maid named Mildred...........then again. Also, look for the refs to continue to impact both series as much or more than any of the players.

FOOD: Buffalo Quesadillas Some of the greatest foods ever were invented in the middle of the night when little ingredients were available. This exact situation a few months back led me to my current favorite snack food. I like to call it the Buffalo Quesadilla. Take two tortillas and throw about 1/2 a bag of shredded fiesta cheese in the middle of them. Place said quesadilla in microwave for 50 seconds. While that is being perfected into a greasy heap of cheesy goodness, gather one bowl, ranch dressing, and buffalo wing sauce. In the bowl mix 4 parts ranch with one part buffalo sauce. Take your quesadilla out and dip into the buffalo ranch dressing. For best results eat alone on the couch. My wife refuses to even sit next to me while I eat this, and my stomach has cursed me for eternity, but the tasty revelation that is the buffalo quesadilla is worth every hardship.


BOOKS: Pirate Latitudes The new Pirates of the Caribbean came out this week, but do you really want to subject yourself to another one of those terrible movies. Instead I would recommend this action novel from the late Michael Crichton. The completed manuscript was found after his death in 2008, and really, can you imagine finding any movie of substance from Jerry Bruckheimer after he kicks the bucket? I'm only 100 pages in and already the book is more fun than all of the Pirates movies combined. If you absolutely must have some pirates in your life this summer read Pirate Latitudes and encourage Disney to give up on the boring sequels.


SAFETY: Zombie Apocalypse In case you missed the news this week the CDC issued recommendations for preparing for a zombie infestation. YES, that CDC. The government run centers for disease control is making sure we are all prepared in case Michael Jackson comes back to chase our first born sons. As someone who has seen more than a few zombie films, and counts The Walking Dead as one of his favorite TV shows, I feel like a minor expert on zombie issues. The CDC is saying to have food and water stored, a first aid kit, blah blah blah etc. etc. If zombies run the Earth, I will be furiously chomping down on asparagus and drinking pickle juice. Anything that makes your urine smell that bad has got to be a deterrent for flesh eating zombies........... On second thought, maybe we have found a new purpose for the tasty yet repulsive buffalo quesadilla.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two and Half Men vs The Octabulls

           




             This blog posting is courtesy of a heated discussion I had with a coworker after game 1 of the Bulls series. I stated that this series boils down to whether the Bulls 8 legitimate NBA players are better than the Heat's 2 and a half. Am I selling Chris Bosh a little short? Probably, but I cannot give him full credit as long as he continues to resemble Lisa Leslie more than Karl Malone. My coworker then began chastising me for not giving the Heat supporting cast enough credit. Is that even possible? That's like saying Michael Bay is not getting enough credit for his theatrical genius. We are talking about a group of has beens, never beens, and disappointments. Juwan Howard and Mike Bibby are ballers. That last sentence could only have been written before 1999. Those two were NBA stars back when everybody had pagers and wore Zubaz pants. Mike Miller has probably been the biggest free agency disappointment of the season. Udonis Haslem has been injured and ineffective and Joel Anthony is your starting center. After the big 2 and 1/2, Mario Chalmers is probably the Heat's best player. Would Mario Chalmers crack the Bulls top 5? 6? 7? Please hear me out, I don't think the Bulls are going to win 4 straight by 20+ pts. I did pick the Bulls when the series began though, because as the playoffs have progressed the Heat role players continue to be exposed. The Bulls are a well balanced team that can exploit the Heat's reliance on so few players. Can LeBron, Dwade, and Chrissy lift the Heat to victory? Yes, but they will have to be legendary and at least get 25 pts from the rest of those clowns. My money is on the Bulls in 6 or 7. I just think Noah, Gibson, Bogans, Deng, Brewer, and Korver will continue to outplay the Heat role players. This series is very appealing to basketball fans because not only does it have star power, but we are about to see whether 2 legendary talents can overcome the best TEAM in the league. Let's just hope the officials don't skew the results either direction.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Goodbye Phil

      Let me start this blog by saying I don't think Phil Jackson was a bad coach, he was a very good coach. But the way ESPN, including one of my favorite writers Bill Simmons have been trying to saint him faster than Pope John Paul II, is making me sick. When ranking basketball PLAYERS, I think one of the most important qualities is number of championships. However, when ranking basketball COACHES I prefer to look at the amount of times a coach is able to overachieve with the players he is given. A coach like Brad Stevens would be greater in my opinion than Roy Williams based on what they did with what they had. The only way I see Phil Jackson overachieving is in the significant other department. He parlayed being "Phil Jackson" into a much younger girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, his boss's daughter by the way. Really if MJ never showed up, don't you picture Phil spending the twilight of his life in a cabin with a Bea Arthur look alike?
Nice job Phil! Now as for all those wins. Practically every year Phil won the title his team was one of the favorites to win. He almost always had the best 1, 2, or sometimes 3 players on the court. He ALWAYS had the best closer on the court. Can anybody go out there and win 11 championships? No. Were there other coaches who in those same situations, with those same players, could have won 11 championships? I say yes. How "legendary" was Phil Jackson the year Scottie Pippen was his best player? The NBA is a player driven league, and without Phil Jackson it will still make money hand over fist. Bill Simmons thinks it was a shame Phil left with his players quitting and him sitting with that smug look on his face? I say it was the perfect ending. He realized he couldn't do anything about the fact he had inferior players, and as usual let them take the blame for the loss. Sometimes I picture Jordan sitting at a poker table with a big cigar in his mouth laughing at the whole notion of the "Zen master". You think Jordan couldn't have pulled a Russell and coached himself to a ring or two? In 2011 America, when somebody reaches their twilight it seems we have to deify them. Phil Jackson was a great coach who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, let's just not rename the place after him.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 5/7/2011

Another installment of award winning recommendations to fill your free time with.
SPORTS: OLD GUYS DIE HARD. If you haven't been paying attention, this year's NBA playoffs are signalling a changing of the guard. We haven't seen a takeover this hostile since the American Revolution. Spurs? Taken out back and euthanized....Old Yeller style. Lakers? Down 0-3 and attempting to replace Pau with Lamar's husband. Celtics? Down 1-2 and looking older than Dick Clark. Something tells me this is a trend and not an aberration. Sorry fellas, I'll just give you a quote from my wife last time I came limping into the house after playing pick up basketball. "You're getting too old to do that." - Take note and start remembering the good old days.


RADIO: THE GAME. 1560 AM. Sports talk can be a Sahara desert of bumbling idiots, inflated egos, and mentally deranged callers. If you like your sports radio to be smart, funny, and entertaining then I suggest you tune in to 1560. Don't give me that, "But the signal is too weak in my car" crap. Get with the 21st century and use your smart phone to download one of the many free apps to listen to live radio. I have an android and listen regularly using the Tunein Radio app. The sound is always crisp and clear. Basically, what I am trying to tell you is that if you still listen to 610 or 790 in Houston, then you are the radio version of the San Antonio Spurs.

FOOD: BULLRITOS. Most of my friends know by now that one of my guilty pleasures is an occasional burrito from Bullritos. Although to be fair, calling it a burrito is like calling the Titanic a boat. These suckers are bigger than my month old baby. Packed with meat, fresh veggies, and rice and beans, a standard bullrito is large enough to feed a small African nation. Top it off with their signature cilantro ranch sauce, and you are headed for a very enjoyable afternoon nap. Check it out. Thank me later.

LIFE: JUST DO IT. I know that is an overused phrase, but I want to encourage you to do something you have always wanted to do. I spent a couple of hours today tweaking this blog, and it was a lot of fun. I've been saying for 2 years that I would love to start doing a blog, and finally a few months ago I did. Now the content here isn't going to solve the world's most pressing issues, but hopefully it provides some people with an entertaining take on sports and other stuff. Most importantly, it has become a labor of love for me. I really enjoy writing. I love sports. This blog has become an extremely fun hobby and an exciting diversion from everyday life. I'd like to thank my wife for encouraging me to do it. Hopefully this will encourage you to do something you keep saying you're going to get around to, from my experience you might really be missing out.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.