We shuddered with horror when we saw the January 30 item in the Houston Chronicle: "Houston's official one-year countdown celebration to Super Bowl XXXVIII begins Saturday night" with a street party.

We didn't shudder just because, in November, we had read in the Chron that "The build-up to the biggest party in Houston history has officially begun." The giddiness of boosterism obviously allows as many "official" beginnings as possible.

We shuddered because we are only now beginning to realize what the next 12 months are going to be like.

Sure, we should have had an inkling when we saw headlines like "Houston Super Bowl Logo to Be Unveiled Today," or when we read sentences like this from sports columnist Dale Robertson, worrying about the coming event: "Houston is going to be vista-challenged, never mind how the view looking east from the bridges over Buffalo Bayou is as sublime an urban scene as exists this side of San Francisco."

But only now is it beginning to dawn on us just how awful this Super Bowl build-up is going to be. The over/under on how often the phrase "world-class city" will be uttered on air or seen in print is, according to Vegas, set at 834.

Hunker down, is all we can say.

We'll just leave you with a snippet from another one of Robertson's columns. This one came from last February, analyzing the greatness of Super Bowl committee chair Chuck Watson, who sees the event as a way to burnish the city's corporate-con-man image. "As the Dynegy chairman," Robertson wrote, "Watson's hands are full as he tries to steer his company clear of the treacherous tidal wave unleashed by rival Enron's astonishing collapse. But that's the driving force behind his taking on the daunting additional responsibilities of organizing a citywide Super Bowl party."

Protecting the virtue of innocent Dynegy while taking on the most important task outside of toppling Saddam…it chokes you up.

That Shot Goes Where?

That smallpox vaccine project is going to be more interesting than we thought, if coverage of it on KHOU is any indication.

We didn't see it ourselves -- the show in question being the early-Saturday-morning January 25 broadcast -- but a sharp-eyed viewer we trust did. The anchor was giving an update on the proposed vaccine program, saying shots would be available in February and that training of nurses was proceeding. As he talked, clips were shown of…a gynecological exam.

It wasn't rated NC-17 or anything -- the camera angle was basically from the patient's point of view -- but footage of a doctor rumbling around downstairs while the voice-over goes on about training medical personnel on how to give the shots leaves us thinking that a) someone at KHOU has a strange idea of where smallpox vaccine shots go, or b) someone at KHOU was having a little fun.

If you're keeping score at home, this latest bit of wacky news editing does not surpass KTRK's insertion last year of some footage of the slapstick Bubble Boy movie into a report on bubble boy disease. But it's a solid second-place.

Niceness, Part II

The outburst of niceness at the Chronicle of which we recently took note continues unabated. Once again an interesting but unseemly backstory was ignored in favor of a feel-good piece on a past local politico.

In this case the politico was former mayor Kathy Whitmire, back in town after a long absence. The rare appearance in town of Whitmire, who dominated city headlines before her ten-year term ended in 1991, was cause for a lengthy update by the Chron.

"Now, in the 21st century, Whitmire is living with her second husband along a Hawaii beach, selling real estate and making speaking engagements," the story read. "Her hair is long, sandy blonde and over her shoulders, like a carefree, 56-year-old surfer girl."

The little surfer girl's second husband wasn't named, even in the accompanying bio box that did mention her late first husband. Not that you would recognize the name of her second husband, Alan Robert Wehmer. Unless, of course, you were familiar with Texas's list of registered sex offenders. Or with the Houston Press's reporting on him (see "Strange Association," by Tim Fleck, December 23, 1999).

Wehmer was charged eight years ago with sexual assault against a 14-year-old girl in north Texas, a girl he met when he was 34 and the husband of someone other than Whitmire. He eventually pleaded guilty to indecency with a child, according to the prosecutor who handled the case. In January 1996 he pleaded guilty to burglary and theft of a firearm.

The story of a former nationally prominent mayor -- one who emphasizes her expertise in law enforcement issues -- being married to a registered sex offender is, apparently, not worth mentioning in the Chron.

To which we say, that's nice.


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