Amazingly, the Comets Couldn't Survive

Who's Got Next?

Shocking news came this week — the Houston Comets are no more.

First reactions were predictable. "The Houston Comets were still around? Do tell." But then reality began to sink in.

The Comets won the first four WNBA championships at a time when no Houston team was winning anything. They brought joy to the dozens of hardcore fans who avidly followed them.

Seven things we'll miss about the ­Comets:

1. Their steady progression down the attendance scale. First they tried to sell out the Compaq Center; they quickly learned to block off upper areas to preserve the look of big crowds. Then they pretty much limited themselves to the lower bowl at Toyota Center. Then they moved to Reliant Arena. Another season or two, and they would have been playing at the Fonde Rec Center.

2. The lesbian vibe, and how to live with it. From its beginnings, the WNBA dealt gingerly with the whole gay thing. The league once put out a release for reporters covering the games that listed all the league's married players. Then, when they discovered that lesbians were the ones spending the money and buying tickets, they became a bit more open-minded. Heck, Comets star Cynthia Cooper even married a guy named Dyke! (Ha ha! Gay humor!) Comets officials always talked about the "family atmosphere" at games; they didn't specify too often that the family in question was proudly flying the rainbow flag.

3. Their ability to attract disgruntled employee quotes. We once wrote about how sports-talk king KILT was no longer having guests who talked about spreads and betting odds on football games. One of the hosts wasn't too happy about the decision, which the boss had based on the fact that he found such segments boring. As we wrote:

"Come on, we're the station that broadcasts Comets games," he says, in a tone that equates the WNBA audience with that of radio backgammon. "Not to mention the Comets postgame show."

4. The festive parades held downtown after each Comets championship. Held at lunchtime, to preserve the idea that the people on the sidewalks going to lunch and looking oddly at the women on firetrucks were actually there to cheer on those gritty ballplayers.

5. The Sheryl Swoopes soap opera. Swoopes, the WNBA's Michael Jordan at the league's inception, was perpetually the subject of "is she or isn't she?" rumors. She married her high-school sweetheart and had a kid, which seemed to settle matters. Until they got divorced, when the talk began again (It helps, rumorwise, that in addition to being a star, Swoopes is a very good-­looking woman). Finally, in 2005, she announced she was a lesbian and was living with former Comet Alisa Scott. She's now 37 years old, so guys — there's still time for another switch.

6. The fact that Hilton Koch, the poor man's Mattress Mac, bought the team for two million dollars from Rockets owner Les Alexander two years ago. We like to think of Alexander struggling mightily to keep a straight face as he pretends to ponder the offer for more than one nanosecond before grabbing the check.

7. That mascot, pictured above. Haley was its name, according to the WNBA media page. A blackfaced, goggle-eyed, oddly haired female who looks like she just received the money shot in a porno film — what's not to like? — Richard ­Connelly

The Bank-Robbery Record Has Been Broken!

Last year was a banner year for bank robberies in Houston, more than doubling the number from the year before.

But last year's record has already tumbled, and we've still got a few weeks to go.

Doing their best to help in that effort are the robbers who keep hitting the IBC branch bank at 3939 Montrose, near the University of St. Thomas.

They've been hit three times since September 1, FBI special agent Pat Villafranca tells Hair Balls.

It might just be location, she says; but there are steps to take to prevent robberies that banks are hesitant to take because branches end up looking "non-customer-friendly."

"There are banks that have a lovely atmosphere, nice furniture, blah blah blah," she says. "But they don't have 'teller glass,' they don't have a no-hats policy."

The FBI tries to push a "No hats, no hoods, no sunglasses" policy at banks, but it's been slow to catch on.

"Many banks are worried about offending their nice customer with sunglasses," Villafranca says.

She admits that "if a guy is coming in there with an AK-47, your little sign saying 'No hats' isn't going to stop him."

The latest incident happened last Wednesday at 9 a.m., when a black male, about 5'9", went up to the teller with a note saying, "Give up the money and no one will get hurt."

There's a $5,000 reward out there from Crime Stoppers for the suspect. — Richard ­Connelly

 
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