Linebacker Connor Barwin, late of the Houston Texans, recently traded a solid music scene for a better cheesesteak by defecting to the NFC's Philadelphia Eagles. He began his professional football career in Houston and parlayed nearly 15 sacks over the last two seasons into a six-year, $36 million contract with his new team.
Barwin's departure not only creates a void in the Texans defense - expected to be filled nicely by 2012 draft pick, Whitney Mercilus, not to worry - it opens a vacancy in the unofficial position of Best Local Music Fan Among Area Sports Figures.
Barwin knows music. He was not only a contributing member of the Texans' "Bulls on Parade" defense, he's credited with branding the group, culled from the Rage Against the Machine song that was played ad nauseum on Sundays at Reliant this past fall. Barwin took the same aggressive approach to searching out Houston's best music offerings as he did to getting after opposing quarterbacks.
During his time here, he blogged on happenings at Free Press Summer Fest last year and touted local hopefuls like The Tontons.
With No. 98's Texans jersey now hung up for good - or at least being re-stitched with some other guy's name on it - which Houston sports figure is most qualified to promote area musicians in a similar fashion? The post is open, but the best candidate should know music and be able to share Houston's best in a far-reaching, meaningful way. Here are some candidates who might consider applying.
5. Omer Asik The Rockets' center was born and spent his formative years in Turkey. In an international city like Houston, he could be a big proponent for locals performing world music. His nickname is "Asik and Destroy," which recalls the Metallica classic, so there's some hope he could be seen banging his head from way on high (he's seven feet tall, folks) at the next Venomous Maximus show.
4. Bud Norris According to Major League Baseball-sanctioned blogs, Norris's favorite music is rap music, but his favorite song is "any Journey song." With tastes that divergent, the Astros' opening-day pitcher could cover a broad spectrum of Houston musical talent, pitching (pun sadly unintended) every ilk from punk to country. If it's an Astro, it's got to be Norris because he's the only Astro anyone knows.
3. Ed Reed The newest Texan is a probable Hall of Famer with a Super Bowl ring currently being fitted for him. He'll bring pedigree and class to an outfit already considered one of the league's best. But, can he do the same for a music scene that, not unlike the Texans, is good, getting better and nearing championship status?
A recent peek at Reed's Twitter feed shows at least one sign of hope. He's posted a clip from the 1976 comedy Car Wash. That film's soundtrack featured more than a dozen songs written by Motown legend Norman Whitfield, primarily performed by funk band Rose Royce. "I Wanna Get Next to You" is a standout and the titular song's familiar handclaps bolster burgeoning rallies on home fields across the country.
Maybe Reed could bring the same hope to the R&B artists he discovers here that he's bringing to his new home team.
2. Marlen Esparza The first American to qualify for and medal in Women's Olympic boxing is from the Houston area, specifically Pasadena. She's only a shade more than five feet tall, but she's got reach, a fact not lost on the smashed faces of the challengers she pummeled on the way to bronze.
She could have similar reach in extending opportunities to Houston musicians. She's known to be deeply religious, which bodes well for the next Yolanda Adams, whomever that might be. Esparza bilingual and has done Spanish language television and commercials, so up-and-coming Tejano and reggaeton acts, take note.
Finally, she's got a CoverGirl endorsement deal and has begun her own fashion line, so local DJs should start lining up at her gym for chances to spin tunes for her catwalks.
1. Lance Zierlein Zierlein is a sports reporter whose commentary is prolific, thanks to social media, blogs, news writing, TV spots and radio work. He's also a well-known music fan, with a soft spot for rap. He's hosted podcasts with Bun B, quoted Tupac and has referenced Die Antwoord in his written work.
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He's well-versed in the history of what is arguably the city's strongest musical genre. His ability to spread the word on new acts from H-town is broad, thanks to all the gigs he's taken to express his opinions. All local rap artists, managers, groupies and potential rap acts posses should start beating down his door with demos today.