Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Every city has its "central park" -- the one in the middle of everything where you can hike, bike or just sit in the grass next to a babbling brook and forget that you live in an urban jungle. Well, our babbling brook is Buffalo Bayou, and while it's not the prettiest body of water in the world, it provides an excellent centerpiece for the endless loop that is one of the finest low-stress hike/bike trails in any urban area. Luckily for the fitness-minded, Houston is not really an outdoorsy kind of town: Most people drive their SUVs to the gym, so the trails are generally empty even at peak times. For those who dare to step outside the comfort of climate control, that makes the winding, multi-terrain journey from downtown to Shepherd and back quite a joy. Stop off at any one of the exercise stations for a little extra workout, then hop back on your bike and lose yourself in the trees.
The sign at the entrance of Bush Intercontinental is already touting it. A number of nightclubs are already booked up for it. One Midtown comedy spot has already been bought out for the entire week of Super Bowl XXXVIII by an out-of-town corporation that wants a private place to drink and have a laugh every night. Tours of Enchantment, a local exclusive vacation planner that sends people across the globe on fantasy trips, has been making all sorts of arrangements for visitors who want to see the game up close and have a good time before and after. And, of course, construction teams are "racing" to complete the light rail system in time for the big event.
After seven seasons of frigid Decembers in the windswept New Jersey Meadowlands with the New York Jets, cornerback Aaron Glenn was happy to return to his home town of Houston in 2002 as a newly minted Texan. And Houston was equally glad to welcome him back. Glenn, who went to Nimitz High School and Texas A&M, joined Texan teammate Gary Walker as the only players from an expansion team to be named All-Pro since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970. (It marked Glenn's third All-Pro nod.) Covering the league's top receivers, Glenn is incredibly quick and durable, and -- luckily for the Texans' anemic offense -- he can even put points on the board, returning two interceptions for touchdowns against Pittsburgh last year. He's also scoring karma points: Upon coming back to Houston, he founded the Aaron Glenn Foundation, which raises cash and funnels it to existing charitable groups that help young people.
Parking at Reliant Stadium is a joke. A nightmare. Impossible almost, especially considering the high price you're paying. And once the game's over, you have to sit idling in your car for more than an hour because of traffic. So why even try it? Go to your local Metro Park & Ride lot and take one of the game day shuttles. Let the Metro drivers handle the traffic, and save your dough for the food and souvenirs. After the game, what's standing in line for a few minutes? While you're there, you can watch the drunken buffoons get into parking lot fights. Then soar right on down the road to your car while the police throw them in the slammer. Metro, it's the only way to go.
The best place to watch a football game is this secret little 70,000-seat place near the Medical Center. Built in nine months in 1950, Rice Stadium was designed solely for the purpose of football. No rodeo. No track and field. No baseball, basketball, no nothing else. It's got the best sight lines of any stadium in the city. True, you sit on benches, not cushioned chairs, and there's no fancy roof. But because of its structure, every seat feels close to the field. No matter where you sit, you feel like you're in the game. There's only one problem with Rice Stadium: Few people ever go there. But anybody who's ever seen a game at Rice will testify that Reliant Stadium is a poor second when it comes to watching football. And don't forget, you're not going to see the notorious Marching Owl Band at Reliant.
No offense to the Rockets, the Astros, the Texans or the Aeros, but we think Houston is a soccer town. Our vast suburbs are filled with soccer fields packed to the gills with people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds kicking the fútbol around. Every other minivan has one of those cheesy soccer ball stickers proclaiming that, yes, the driver is indeed a soccer mom (and chances are, her kids could lead us to an MLS Cup victory if given half a chance). And instead of building yet another new stadium, an MLS franchise team could put the Astrodome to good use and save it from the wrecking ball. But most important, Houston is an international city, with numerous Latin American, African and Asian residents who would love to show the gringos of our city a thing or two about how a ball is properly bent.
Strake Jesuit College Preparatory and Dallas Jesuit, its brother school in the Metroplex, had a big problem: For years, they had competed in the Texas Catholic Interscholastic League, but when that league merged with the rest of the private schools, they left the Jesuits in the cold, saying Strake and DJ were just too big. Ever since, these two schools have been looking in from the outside of high school sports. But thanks to the efforts of Texas state rep Joe Nixon, that's set to change next year when the Jesuit schools will join the University Interscholastic League, the public school league. At last, the winner of the Strake-DJ game won't be a state champion in a league of two.