Best of Houston®

Best Of 2011

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Sports Talk Host

If you work in the radio biz and can somehow get associated with Jim Rome, you're automatically in the airwave gold category. That's what Travis Rodgers did for $5 an hour, reading the "Huge Fax of the Day" (dude has been in this game for a long time) before hopscotching to a better gig as Jim Rome Show producer. Rodgers became as integral to Rome's segments as the host, which made Rodgers's decision to hightail it from the left coast to Houston's 1560 AM KGOW/The Game a no-brainer. He's made the most of his time since September 2010 as the main man behind Travis Rodgers Now, which can be heard from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays, thanks to a smart-aleck sense of humor that always works well with a mid-afternoon sports talk show.

Best Dynamo

Danny Cruz might not be the most potent player on the Dynamo roster, but if he's on the field against you, chances are you're going to remember him. He's high-energy, aggressive and not afraid to get a yellow card or two. Off the field, the 21-year-old has been active in raising money to fight leukemia, and he's brightened kids' lives with his hospital visits. And hey, he helped turn a theater geek into a soccer jock on MTV's Made, so he's got that going for him, too.

Best Fans

Houston voraciously welcomed its new entry in the NFL when the announcement came. But ever since play began in 2002, the team has delivered a ton of disappointment, inept playing, coaching and front-officing, and, really, little reason to cheer. But Texans fans haven't given up. They're not blindly slavish; they've made their displeasure known by being slow to fill Reliant on game days and leaving lots of unused seats when things seem especially hopeless. But any listener to talk radio knows they never have lost their passion and blind faith that one good draft, one new assistant coach, one player out of nowhere is all that's needed to bring success. And when that success comes, this town will go nuts.

Best Texan

Defensive end Antonio Smith was probably the least sucky player on a very sucky Texans' defense last year, which, as you can probably guess, isn't really the highest praise possible. But he gets extra points for us for going after spoiled, performance-enhancing-drug-taking, and lately underwhelming teammate Brian Cushing during a game. Smith ripping off Cushing's helmet as the linebacker tried to intervene in Smith's altercation with a Jacksonville player was maybe the most spark the Texans' D showed all year.

Best Dog Park
Congressman Bill Archer Park

Your dog will kiss your ass (unless you're trying to break him of that habit) for taking you to this awesome park's 17 acres of trees, ponds and agility equipment. Unlike at some other parks, neither you nor your four-legged friend will feel penned in. Whether you want to relax in one of the sitting areas while Fido does his thing, or you want to go explore the many sights, smells and sounds with him, you'll feel good knowing that you're giving your dog the chance to get outside and be a dog. And you'll feel especially good when he's too tuckered out to be in your face the rest of the day. If dogs are man's best friend, this park is your dog's best friend. 

3201 State Highway 6 N., Houston, 77084
MAP
281-496-2177
Best Urban Nature Spot
West 11th Street Park

A 20-acre pocket forest park inside the Loop, West 11th Street Park is the hidden jewel that makes the Timbergrove neighborhood live up to its name. The glade's many tall pines abound with a variety of woodpeckers, from the common downy and yellow-bellied varieties to the mighty crow-sized pileated and the gaudy redheaded, a bird so flashy it inspired Salvador Dalí. It's also a rare urban spot to see huge great horned owls; almost everywhere else in urban Houston, only little screech owls can find suitable habitats. Even if you aren't into birds, the park has lots to offer. In addition to the forest trails, there's ample open space for picnicking. But it's the woods that will bring you back: After a rain, the smells of the forest deliver you far from this concrete, smog-choked, ozone-addled petropolis. It's a little island of Big Thicket in the Heights.

W. 11th St., Houston, 77008
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Best Sports Talk Host: Travis Rodgers

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