Houston has never been known as a hotbed for big-time auto racing. Sure, A.J. Foyt grew up in the Heights, but as far as top-notch racing facilities are concerned, forget it. That was, until 1988, when Houston Raceway Park in Baytown came onto the scene. The sprawling facility has played host to national events sanctioned by the traveling horsepower circus known as the National Hot Rod Association for the past 12 years, and has been the site of numerous speed records. The track is open to amateur racers as well. The NHRA races twice a year on the quarter-mile drag strip, while the facility this year added a three-eighths-mile oval dirt track for your high-speed enjoyment. In addition to holding weekly Saturday-night events for area racers, the dirt track also hosts the World of Outlaws sprint car series twice a year.
Houston has never been known as a hotbed for big-time auto racing. Sure, A.J. Foyt grew up in the Heights, but as far as top-notch racing facilities are concerned, forget it. That was, until 1988, when Houston Raceway Park in Baytown came onto the scene. The sprawling facility has played host to national events sanctioned by the traveling horsepower circus known as the National Hot Rod Association for the past 12 years, and has been the site of numerous speed records. The track is open to amateur racers as well. The NHRA races twice a year on the quarter-mile drag strip, while the facility this year added a three-eighths-mile oval dirt track for your high-speed enjoyment. In addition to holding weekly Saturday-night events for area racers, the dirt track also hosts the World of Outlaws sprint car series twice a year.
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.
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?

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