Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
On the field, Connor Barwin was able to make Texans fans forget the loss of Mario Williams to injury. Off the field, we're not sure Houston's ever seen an athlete like him. He's intensely into the local music and arts scenes — he even wrote a Summer Fest review for us — and he's come out in favor of gay marriage. He's easily accessible to fans who wonder if they're hallucinating seeing a Texan digging the music at some dive, and — probably most important — he's become a key part of the team's vastly improved defense.
Houston is really going to miss Aero Jon DiSalvatore, who was team captain and a top offensive player who did tons of charity work and loved interacting with fans. He's left to play with a team closer to his home in Connecticut. We'll remember him as a coach's dream who sacrificed the best parts of his game — including his scoring ability — to help set up the younger players so they'd fit into the team.
A lot has changed at the 86-year-old resort village on the rim of one of the Frio River's most scenic canyons. Sure, the boulder-strewn, aquamarine-watered old swimming hole is still one of the finest in Texas, the dining hall's still offering up chicken-frieds to die for (or kill over), and all ten million of those Mexican free-tailed bats are still boiling nightly from that guano-reeking Hades of a hole in the ground a few miles down the road. The Frio's still a pleasant float through some of the most breathtaking of wild western Hill Country terrain, if a little shallow and light on rapids most of the time. Skunks, 'coons and white-tailed deer will raid your campsite for scraps once the moon rises, and mama mockingbirds will still harass nest-plundering roadrunners from scraggly ancient hillside oaks. Those are the eternal verities of this angel-kissed Eden on the Edwards Plateau. What's new? More amenities. There's a family-friendly icehouse now on the premises in Joe Jimmy's, where bands play country and classic rock hits under Milky Way skies to two-steppers and tricyclists alike on the large outdoor dance slab. There's a catch-and-release fishing pond, and a return to the Neal's Lodges of old in guided horseback rides in and around the Frio. It's Texas distilled, and it's only about five hours away: a little more if you take the gorgeous route over the roof of the Hill Country through either Tarpley or Vanderpool.
In an industry becoming increasingly cluttered with boisterous blowhards who want to be Jim Rome, stat geeks who worship at the Moneyball altar, and seriously unfunny wannabe comedians, Lance Zierlein is a rare triple threat. He is equally comfortable asserting his opinion, dissecting complex statistical analysis or creating funny characters. His ability to be both informative and entertaining is the radio equivalent of a five-tool player in baseball. Now that he has a partner in Charlie Pallilo, who is his equal in terms of experience and sports intellect, the two could dominate sports talk radio in Houston.
When Galveston Island gets overrun with tourists, one of the best and easiest things to do is hop on over the San Luis Pass to the tiny hamlet of Quintana, a wonderful summertime Gulf haunt. Just south of Freeport and its factories, Quintana Beach Park has picnic facilities, hook-ups for RVs, cabins, camping facilities and other amenities, but it's the swimming you're here for. The beach is "unmaintained," meaning the park officials don't comb the sand other than to remove trash, so you'll often find small shells, driftwood and more along the water. Speaking of the water, for some reason it always seems bluer here than in Galveston. That's not to say it's clear — but it is more private, more quiet and more convenient than nearly any place else along the "Houston coast."
No, he doesn't get this award for tweeting a picture of his MRI when he suffered a hamstring injury. Although that's certainly an indication of the freewheeling content on Texan running back Arian Foster's Twitter account, which can range from philosophical observations ("There is life outside of your beliefs") to random WTFs ("Even though it isn't an accurate rumor, I may go Einstein on y'all and wear one suit this whole year") to talkin' smack with fans about other sports ("Lol, I'm done. I'm arguing with highlight watchers"). Hands-down the best tweeter among Houston athletes.