While most 21-year-old males are too busy kickin' it with the guys or trying to get lucky on Friday night, Sean Townsend logged more than 25 hours in the gym per week training for what he hoped would be a spot on the 2000 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. The odds were in his favor, as Townsend, a Dallas native who has lived in Houston since 1994, is now among the American contingent in Sydney, Australia. With his all-American movie-star looks, Townsend could be the next American Olympic hero, if he's able to lug home some precious metal from the Games. The winner of numerous national and international competitions, including the 1997 USA Nationals, Townsend spends most of his days at the Houston Gymnastics Academy under the watchful eye of coach Kevin Mazeika. If there's such a thing as an office pool for Olympic gymnastics, put your money on Townsend.
After only two games in its inaugural season, the four-team Spring Football League suspended its operations, owing largely to microscopic attendance. But you have to admire Houston investment banker and restaurateur Mark Rice, who owns the league's Houston Marshals franchise (which went a heady 2-0) as well as the three other teams. Rice, chairman of the SFL Board of Governors, apparently plans to press forward next spring (according to the league Web site), expanding the league to eight teams and finding owners for all but the Marshals, which he'll retain. Just how they'll pitch the league remains to be seen, because this year's concept -- combining minor-league football with appearances by former NFL players and concerts by such high-profile bands as Kool & The Gang and the O'Jays -- attracted little interest. Given the legacy of spring football failures, Rice probably will have to toss a bunch more money down the chute to take the field in 2001. Power to him.
After only two games in its inaugural season, the four-team Spring Football League suspended its operations, owing largely to microscopic attendance. But you have to admire Houston investment banker and restaurateur Mark Rice, who owns the league's Houston Marshals franchise (which went a heady 2-0) as well as the three other teams. Rice, chairman of the SFL Board of Governors, apparently plans to press forward next spring (according to the league Web site), expanding the league to eight teams and finding owners for all but the Marshals, which he'll retain. Just how they'll pitch the league remains to be seen, because this year's concept -- combining minor-league football with appearances by former NFL players and concerts by such high-profile bands as Kool & The Gang and the O'Jays -- attracted little interest. Given the legacy of spring football failures, Rice probably will have to toss a bunch more money down the chute to take the field in 2001. Power to him.
It's easy to be an engaging analyst when the team you're covering is breezing to championships. It's a little tougher to hold viewers' interest when the bottom falls out, and when you have to walk the fine line between offering much-needed criticism and unduly offending the team that signs your paychecks. The Astros' Jim DeShaies has proved adept at the difficult job this year, offering his usual insightful analysis without backing off from giving a slam when and where it's due. He's always been a funny guy, and he has needed every bit of that sense of humor this year to keep fans listening or watching as the "Disastros" head to another defeat. DeShaies, a former pitcher who knows the game well, is perhaps not the smoothest guy on the air -- it's easy to tell that he came up through the ranks on the field as opposed to in the booth -- but he has made this debacle of a season a little bit easier to take.
It's easy to be an engaging analyst when the team you're covering is breezing to championships. It's a little tougher to hold viewers' interest when the bottom falls out, and when you have to walk the fine line between offering much-needed criticism and unduly offending the team that signs your paychecks. The Astros' Jim DeShaies has proved adept at the difficult job this year, offering his usual insightful analysis without backing off from giving a slam when and where it's due. He's always been a funny guy, and he has needed every bit of that sense of humor this year to keep fans listening or watching as the "Disastros" head to another defeat. DeShaies, a former pitcher who knows the game well, is perhaps not the smoothest guy on the air -- it's easy to tell that he came up through the ranks on the field as opposed to in the booth -- but he has made this debacle of a season a little bit easier to take.
Polo used to be called the sport of kings because you had to have six horses to play (one for each period in the game). These days you don't have to be a member of the royal family to play, and you sure don't have to be upper-class to watch. Polo is like hockey on horseback. The game is fast-moving, the horses are gorgeous, and the teams are coed. The level of play is skillful, as the Houston Polo Club is ranked one of the top five clubs in the country. The irony is that if you mention attending an amateur polo game at the nearest thing that we have to a country field, you're likely to draw a sneer, while spending a week's paycheck to attend a proletarian baseball game at Enron Field is considered cool. Why can't we simply learn to experience the pleasures of the game?
Houston Polo Club
Polo used to be called the sport of kings because you had to have six horses to play (one for each period in the game). These days you don't have to be a member of the royal family to play, and you sure don't have to be upper-class to watch. Polo is like hockey on horseback. The game is fast-moving, the horses are gorgeous, and the teams are coed. The level of play is skillful, as the Houston Polo Club is ranked one of the top five clubs in the country. The irony is that if you mention attending an amateur polo game at the nearest thing that we have to a country field, you're likely to draw a sneer, while spending a week's paycheck to attend a proletarian baseball game at Enron Field is considered cool. Why can't we simply learn to experience the pleasures of the game?
Summers in Houston -- especially this summer, when temperatures were pushing 110 degrees into September -- are a detriment to your golf game. It's hot and sticky, the fairways are parched and burned, and the greens are baked to the unforgiving consistency of a parking lot. Not exactly conducive to a relaxing round for even the best players. So where do both low-handicappers and weekend duffers go to keep their stroke until it's nice enough to venture onto the course again? The driving range -- preferably a driving range that has an abundance of shade trees. The range at Memorial has a few mature post oaks to cool down your practice session as well as a tidy tee area and low prices ($2 for 30 balls; $4 for 60; $6 for 90). If you can't smooth out the hitch in your swing by logging hours at the range, get some help from one of Memorial's instructors. On hand are three PGA members, two LPGA members and a teaching professional. Prices run $35 to $40 for a half-hour lesson and $160 for a series of five. The range is open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day except Tuesday.
Summers in Houston -- especially this summer, when temperatures were pushing 110 degrees into September -- are a detriment to your golf game. It's hot and sticky, the fairways are parched and burned, and the greens are baked to the unforgiving consistency of a parking lot. Not exactly conducive to a relaxing round for even the best players. So where do both low-handicappers and weekend duffers go to keep their stroke until it's nice enough to venture onto the course again? The driving range -- preferably a driving range that has an abundance of shade trees. The range at Memorial has a few mature post oaks to cool down your practice session as well as a tidy tee area and low prices ($2 for 30 balls; $4 for 60; $6 for 90). If you can't smooth out the hitch in your swing by logging hours at the range, get some help from one of Memorial's instructors. On hand are three PGA members, two LPGA members and a teaching professional. Prices run $35 to $40 for a half-hour lesson and $160 for a series of five. The range is open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day except Tuesday.
Most health clubs are intimidating for the beginner. For one thing, you have to get past all those awesome abs and perfect pecs when all you have is a bulging belly. Second, most of the other people are half-dressed in skimpy spandex, all the better to show off their perfect bodies. And they're all so young. Third, the salespeople constantly pressure you to sign a multiyear contract, since their commissions depend on it. The Wellness Center is about comprehensive wellness, not mere physical perfection. It has programs that address psychological, spiritual, emotional and physical fitness. The place is program, not numbers, driven. Nobody is shoving a contract in your face. That also means that machines are always available when you show up. Best of all, members come in different ages and shapes. There's something liberating about a place where college students and grandmas can work out side by side.

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