Opening-Day Orgasm

Apparently some sort of baseball stadium has opened in Houston. It received a little coverage from the local media, so maybe you heard about it.

No one quite referred to it as the Second Coming, but it got about as much ink and airtime as that event would.

Not surprisingly, the coverage about Enron Field was glowing, glowing, glowing.

There was, of course, a front-page Houston Chronicle story March 27 headlined "A Few Critics Take Their Swings at New Ballpark's Architecture," but fully four-fifths of the story consisted of architects praising the design in reaction to a critic who "sniped" about the stadium in a local architecture review.

There were far too many instances of excess to cite in the weeks leading up to opening day, so we'll leave it at one: Houston Chronicle business columnist Greg Hassell told us March 29 that, according to the headline, it is a "Ballpark Built On 11 Principles."

Hassell said Astros owner Drayton McLane (a.k.a. God, as long as you define God as someone who gets a taxpayer-funded gift of a stadium and immediately cuts His player payroll) wrote out 11 principles as "an intellectual blueprint for Enron FieldŠ.Item No. 1 is a simple word: integrity."

Simple, yes. But so indicative of this Great Man.

One annoying factoid that keeps cropping up in the Enron Field coverage relates to the short distance from home plate to the left-field wall. The Astros' media guide notes that the 315 feet to the fence is the shortest such distance in the major leagues, a claim that has been repeated consistently on local TV broadcasts and in the Chronicle. It has even shown up in the New York Daily News and (alas) the Houston Press.

Every time we see it, we ask, What the hell ever happened to Fenway Park?

Fenway's towering Green Monster is the most famous left field in baseball, and it's 310 feet from home plate down the line. Have the Red Sox moved the damn thing?

Apparently not. We called Todd Fedewa in the Astros' media office when we finally couldn't take it anymore. He did some checking and called back.

"We're incorrect," he said. "Fenway is shorter. We got the information from HOK, the architects [of Enron Field], and they got it wrong."

Glad to be of service.

We're Not Worthy

A lot of people cringed when they read the "open letter" to George W. Bush from Texas Monthly editor Greg Curtis in the April issue. "Dear Governor Bush: So, congratulations on your wins in the March primaries," it opens cheerily.

Curtis then describes how he once saw "a pretty good band" playing for free years ago and he has followed their career ever since: "I thought of them as 'my band,' " he writes. (As Paul Harvey would put it: And that unknown bar band turned out to beŠ Creedence Clearwater Revival!)

"I feel a little bit the same way about you as I watch you run for president," Curtis continues, "and so do a lot of other people in TexasŠIt's impossible to shake the feeling that you're 'our' band out there on the campaign trail."

Maybe not that impossible, when you think about it.

At any rate, Curtis's paean to Bush, complete with hand-wringing over how hard it was to watch the national press criticize him ("We knew you weren't such a bad guy"), was at least limited to those folk who still read Texas Monthly.

But now Curtis and the magazine's staffers have taken their fawning to a national audience. For the past week they have been singing W.'s praises in a roundtable discussion for the on-line magazine Slate.

"Remember when we all interviewed him last spring? He was loose, funny, brash, charismatic," writes associate editor Pam Colloff. "There was nothing ill-at-ease about him. He propped his alligator boots on the coffee table in his office and talked to us like we were old friends."

He likes us! Curtis also weighed in on the point: The governor, before he became a presidential candidate, "loved all the give and take, all the ribbing. If he knew you, he would roll down his car window and call out to you as he drove by."

What a guy. The discussion meanders from there, with the main theme being how can W. get the rest of the country to love him like we all do here in Texas. "Bush's smirk, for example, has impressed some of us as a well-tuned sense of irony. Even self-deprecation," writes contributing editor Patricia Kilday Hart as she complains about the national press. ("[T]he anti-Bush sentiment is palpable in almost every newsmagazine story I read," she says.)

That last claim was too much even for Colloff: "The press -- our magazine included -- has extended an awful lot of good will towards Bush," she wrote. "Imagine, for example, any other viable presidential candidate -- past or present -- not knowing foreign leaders' names."

Hey, who let her in here?

Any Ad Will Do

The Chronicle has been stuffed silly with house ads lately -- house ads being newspaper talk for advertisements wherein a paper promotes itself, mostly because it couldn't sell the space to a paying advertiser.

The Houston section of March 30 was absolutely filled with them. Others were scattered throughout the paper.

Apparently there was more space to fill than there were ready-made house ads to fill it. That could be the only reason for the large house ad that appeared that day in the Metro section. It was headlined "The Winning Touch," and it assured readers that "When it comes to sports, there's one team that never loses." That team, apparently, is the Chron's group of sports columnists, whose mugs were featured prominently in the ad.

There was Fran Blinebury. Dale Robertson, of course. And Mickey Herskowitz.

Oh, and Ed Fowler. The same Ed Fowler who hasn't been with the paper since 1997, when he tangled noisily but unsuccessfully with sports boss Dan Cunningham.

As Fowler found out, it's Cunningham who "never loses."

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