The Top 10 Houston Sports Stories of 2013
Close but no cigar.
Photos by Groovehouse
Let's call 2013 a transition year for sports in Houston. That's the polite way of saying it, for the most part, really, really sucked. There were very few "up" moments in 2013 even if you go all the way back to the playoffs for the Texans and Rockets -- remember when the Texans made the playoffs?
In fact, there were a lot of sports stories this year, far more than 10 could ever cover. Football honorable mentions include the deaths of two Houston football legends (Bum Phillips and Bud Adams), the scary on-field "mini stroke" from then current Texans coach Gary Kubiak, the awarding of yet another Super Bowl to Houston (this one in 2017) and the rollicking NFL Network documentary on the 1993 Oilers season. If you thought the Texans had a rough go this year, watch that and realize how bad it can really be.
Other sports stories that didn't quite make the cut but were certainly notable include the success of the NBA All-Star Game (we'll ignore the near riot in the Galleria), both the Rockets and the Texans made the playoffs (one will continue to do so, the other not so much), the retirement of Dynamo star Brian Ching and the return of the Houston Grand Prix, which ended in a scary crash that forced the retirement of Scottish track champion Dario Franchitti (you probably know him as the former Mr. Ashley Judd).
2013 was nothing if not eventful, but these 10 top the list of most memorable.
10. Aeros leave for Iowa.
If you have never met an Aeros fan or gone to a game, it might be hard for you to comprehend why this would make a top 10 list. After all, they were just a minor league franchise. But, the fact is you won't find more die hard fans than those who supported the Aeros since they began playing in Houston in 1994. Their move to Iowa is a bitter pill for fans to swallow, particularly because it was primarily due to the Rockets -- who own the lease at Toyota Center -- raising their rent to the point they couldn't afford it. Maybe it was because former Aeros owner Chuck Watson tried to do the same to the Rockets in the Summit back in the '90s or maybe the Rockets were just tired of sharing their joint. Whatever the case, no more hockey for Houston since the NHL shows no signs of moving a team here anytime soon.
9. Guy V. Lewis finally is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In what was perhaps one of the great travesties in all of sport, one of college basketball's greatest coaches, a man who literally put the game on a bigger stage, was snubbed by the basketball Hall of Fame until 2013. The fact that Lewis was forced to wait until he was 90 to get in only because he failed to win a title -- most spectacularly losing to lowly NC State, a game that propelled its coach Jim Valvano to fame and the Hall -- should still piss off Houston sports fans. Fortunately, the wrong was finally righted as he was joined at the ceremony by his former players -- all Hall of Famers themselves -- Elvin Hayes, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.
8. Rice wins its first conference title since 1957.
Rice ranks highly in many scholastic categories. It routinely places in the top 10 in best colleges in America. For many of the same reasons it is nearly impossible to field great sports teams at Harvard or Yale, Rice struggles in athletics. And while winning Conference USA isn't exactly winning the SEC (or even the Mountain West), it is a massive accomplishment for coach David Baliff and his team.
7. Matt Schaub pick-sixes himself out of a job and Case Keenum emerges as an almost starter.
In what has got to be one of the more bizarre streaks ever, Matt Schaub threw interceptions for touchdowns in four straight games this season -- an NFL record -- before finally, mercifully being replaced by T.J. Yates, who promptly threw an interception for a touchdown (only five plays into his new gig). Out of what appeared to be desperation -- nevermind an injury to Schaub -- Gary Kubiak finally decided to start second-year player and University of Houston grad Case Keenum. His performance, at first, was startling, but the results remained the same as the Texans continued to lose. As defenses began to figure Keenum out, it quickly became apparent that he was not the answer at QB and, despite returning to start the final two games, neither is Schaub.
6. CSN Houston in fighting, lawsuits and bankruptcy keep 60 percent of Houstonians in the dark.
For months, negotiations seemed to go nowhere. Eventually, it was revealed Astros owner Jim Crane was the lone voice of descent that prevented the Rockets and Astros from getting their games on providers not named Comcast. By the end of the year, CSN Houston was filing for bankruptcy, Crane was suing them and former Astro owner Drayton McLane and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander put in a bid to buy the flailing network. It was not a good 2013 for fans who wanted to watch the Astros and Rockets on TV. We'll see what 2014 holds.
Dwight Howard has been as good as the Rockets could have hoped.
Photo by Jeff Balke
5. Neither Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell make the Hall of Fame.
The Astros still have no representatives in the Hall of Fame, despite both its signature stars, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, on the short list -- Biggio last year and Bagwell the last two years. Biggio missed by a small amount and it is a good possibility he'll make it this year. Bagwell remains guilty by association, a power hitter in an era that produced steroid-addled superstars. Though Bagwell has never been mentioned on any list or had anyone suggest he used PEDs, he remains on the outs thanks at least in part to former teammates like Ken Caminiti, Luis Gonzales and Steve Finley.
4. Astros have worst season ever, complete their straight 100-loss season.
Sure, you can't see them on most cable networks, but, in reality, why would you want to? The Astros completed one of the worst runs by a franchise in baseball history when they won 111 games, this coming on the heels of 107 and 106 losses each of the previous two years. GM Jeff Lunhow made good on his promise to start over, trading off every ounce of major league talent and juicing the minor league system boosting their rankings from the worst to one of the best in that area. Hopefully, those moves will begin to pay dividends and the 'Stros will gradually start to get better before they lose every fan they still have.
3. Gary Kubiak fired as coach of the Texans and Penn State's Bill O'Brien is hired.
A strong argument could be made that Kubiak should have lost his job in 2010 after the Texans went 6-10, but owner Bob McNair was rewarded with two winning seasons and two division titles. Still, with the mess that was the 2013 season, it became painfully obvious a change had to be made and Kubiak was sent packing after a miserable, penalty-laden loss in Jacksonville. On the cusp of the new year, the Texans agreed on contract terms with former New England Patriots offensive coordinator and current Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien. McNair and the Texans were said to be impressed with O'Brien and his plan for success. We'll see. It starts with the first pick in the draft in April.
2. Dwight Howard signs with the Houston Rockets.
Thanks to the CSN mess and a disastrous Texans season, the Houston Rockets have flown well under the sports radar in Houston. Rarely do you hear them discussed on sports radio despite the fact that they are one of the better teams in the Western Conference and have won despite a spate of injures to their rotation players. One of the stalwarts has been Howard, who chose to sign in Houston in the offseason. He is in the top 5 in shooting percentage and rebounds and ranks 8th in blocked shots. He is the only Rocket starter to play in every game this season and has been remarkably consistent. Despite all the whining from LA fans and sports writers about Howard running scared from the "bright lights of Hollywood," Howard has been the model player and teammate.
1. The Texans lose 14 straight to close out a 2-14 season and one of the worst debacles in Houston football history.
Who could have envisioned at the start of the season that the Texans would win two games and lose ALL THE REST. From problems with quarterbacks, defenses figuring out their predictable offensive schemes and piss poor defensive performances all year long (you lose the turnover battle both by having them AND by not creating them), the Texans were nothing short of an all-out tragedy. Perhaps the two things that best summed up the season were the flying of a broken Ed Reed to Houston in the team jet to sign and eventually be cut for his poor play (he would sign with the Jets and badmouth the Texans from a distance) and the final offensive play of the year: a Matt Schaub interception. But those were just two instances in a terrible, forgettable year that cost the coaching staff their jobs and landed the Texans the No. 1 pick in the draft. Here's to next year!
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