First off, in this case, shuffleboard is not the game of big sticks pushing huge disks across the deck of the "Love Boat" or the hotel patio in Del Boca Vista. No, this is the game of 15th-century English taverns, where besotted patrons push small red or blue disklike weights down a 22-foot-long, wax- and sand-covered wooden table. It's also the game of select 21st-century bars, where pretty much the same type of people execute the same 600-year-old moves. It's a game of precision and deft touch: You want your weight to stop near the end of the table without falling off. Shuffleboard is hugely popular, and people all over the country have organized into leagues and vied for world rank. Yes, world rank in shuffleboard. And during the next week, the best of the best will gather for the eighth annual Houston Holiday Open. The No. 1 player in the world, Darrol Nelson, will be there, as well as dozens of others, competing in 14 events at all levels, from "pro" to novice. Thursday, December 25, through Wednesday, December 31; check Web site for schedule. Sheraton Brookhollow, 3000 North Loop West. For information, call 281-597-8840 or visit www.shuffleboard.cc. Free for spectators; event fees will vary. -- Eric Norvell
Hoedown, Set, Hut!
The Ev1.net Houston Bowl has thrown its ten-gallon hat into the college bowl-game ring. It seems the pep-rally organizers have chosen to emphasize Houston rather than football in the rally's scheduled lineup of events. Professional rodeo riders will don Texas Tech and Navy jerseys for bull riding, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping and barrel racing. There will also be mechanical bulls, calf-roping machines and C&W music on hand for all you amateur rough-and-ready types. We're not too sure what these countrified attractions have to do with college football (even if pigskins are actually made out of cowhides), but we do know the rally should be a doggone good time. Rally: 6 p.m. Monday, December 29. $20 in advance; $25 at the door. Game: 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 30. $17 to $67. Reliant Arena, 8400 Kirby. For information, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.houstonbowl.net. -- Keith Plocek