Fonde Community Center We give this place props for being a decent recreation center and an amazingly good spot to watch or play a little afternoon ball. Here's the draw: With the cost of NBA tickets going from obscene to laughable, there may be no better spot in the state to watch NBA ballers converge than at Fonde Recreation Center. Former Rocket (and current Orlando Magic) guard Steve "Franchise" Francis hoops it up here with friend and fellow guard Cuttino Mobley. Hall of Famer and Rocket big man Moses Malone also plays here, and there have been sightings of Nick Van Exel, Sam Cassell and Damon Stoudamire. You can get your B-ball fix anywhere, but this is one of the few spots where you can actually tell your friends, "Dude, (insert NBA star here) just dunked on me!"

PJ's Too many sports bars make us feel like we're in some kind of sports kaleidoscope. You can't look to either side of the screen immediately in front of you, because there's yet another TV with yet another distracting game. It's almost enough to make you puke. Not so at cozy PJ's, which has only a handful of TVs but a whole lot of soul. Tucked in a converted old two-story house in Montrose, PJ's intimate atmosphere affords great conversational opportunities, and whether your team wins or loses, it's a great place to kick back and celebrate -- or drown your sorrows -- after the game.

PJ's Too many sports bars make us feel like we're in some kind of sports kaleidoscope. You can't look to either side of the screen immediately in front of you, because there's yet another TV with yet another distracting game. It's almost enough to make you puke. Not so at cozy PJ's, which has only a handful of TVs but a whole lot of soul. Tucked in a converted old two-story house in Montrose, PJ's intimate atmosphere affords great conversational opportunities, and whether your team wins or loses, it's a great place to kick back and celebrate -- or drown your sorrows -- after the game.

Adam Everett Back in the days before A-Rod and Carlos Guillen, shortstops were scrawny whippets who vacuumed up grounders but couldn't break a lamp taking batting practice in a hotel lobby. Think Mark Belanger or Buddy Harrelson. The Astros' Adam Everett is a throwback to those classic days, from the six-foot, 170-pound physique to the bland offensive performance. He consistently makes dazzling plays in the field, but the Astros kept him in the farm system because Major League pitching simply overpowered him. The team decided 2004 was Everett's now-or-never year, and he's come through just fine. The fielding has remained as sharp as ever, and the batting is more than adequate. Things have been up and down in the Astros' expected cruise to a division title, but Everett has set himself up to anchor the team's defense for a long while to come.

Adam Everett Back in the days before A-Rod and Carlos Guillen, shortstops were scrawny whippets who vacuumed up grounders but couldn't break a lamp taking batting practice in a hotel lobby. Think Mark Belanger or Buddy Harrelson. The Astros' Adam Everett is a throwback to those classic days, from the six-foot, 170-pound physique to the bland offensive performance. He consistently makes dazzling plays in the field, but the Astros kept him in the farm system because Major League pitching simply overpowered him. The team decided 2004 was Everett's now-or-never year, and he's come through just fine. The fielding has remained as sharp as ever, and the batting is more than adequate. Things have been up and down in the Astros' expected cruise to a division title, but Everett has set himself up to anchor the team's defense for a long while to come.

David Carr How's this for guts? Week four of the season. Texans down by three at home against Jacksonville. Two seconds on the clock, and our guys are just inches from the goal line. If David Carr hadn't made you a believer before -- what with his glitterati good looks and Roman demigod athleticism -- No. 8 won you over on this day, with a quarterback sneak for the ages. Houston is a town that loves big risks, and Carr earned himself a place in our hearts with that victory over the Jaguars. Plus, he's one of that rare breed of sports idol actually worth idolizing: no DUI rap sheets, no illegitimate children, no vials of coke or dead hookers found in the trunk. Just a No. 1 draft pick with a great arm and an even better head on his shoulders. Oh, yeah -- and gut, lots of guts.

David Carr How's this for guts? Week four of the season. Texans down by three at home against Jacksonville. Two seconds on the clock, and our guys are just inches from the goal line. If David Carr hadn't made you a believer before -- what with his glitterati good looks and Roman demigod athleticism -- No. 8 won you over on this day, with a quarterback sneak for the ages. Houston is a town that loves big risks, and Carr earned himself a place in our hearts with that victory over the Jaguars. Plus, he's one of that rare breed of sports idol actually worth idolizing: no DUI rap sheets, no illegitimate children, no vials of coke or dead hookers found in the trunk. Just a No. 1 draft pick with a great arm and an even better head on his shoulders. Oh, yeah -- and gut, lots of guts.

The Japanese Garden at Hermann Park Houston has its share of parks, but it's hard to find a picnic spot free of weeds, wailing kids and nasty views of parking lots. If you're the kind of alfresco diner who leans toward quaint gravel paths, tall shady trees and patches of soft grass, look no further than Hermann Park's Japanese Garden. Follow the reflecting pool south, and the entrance to the fenced garden is on your right. A winding trail splits in multiple directions and takes you past goldfish ponds and over wooden footbridges. Stop at one of the many soft islands of saint augustine grass and unfurl your blanket, and you'll be surrounded by old pine trees without a sliver of pavement in sight. You'll see giant tadpoles in the summer and bright Japanese maples in fall, and you'll have a view of the pagoda (also a good eating spot). But keep your eye on your watch. The gates close at 6 p.m., so for the time being, this is purely a lunch spot.

The Japanese Garden at Hermann Park Houston has its share of parks, but it's hard to find a picnic spot free of weeds, wailing kids and nasty views of parking lots. If you're the kind of alfresco diner who leans toward quaint gravel paths, tall shady trees and patches of soft grass, look no further than Hermann Park's Japanese Garden. Follow the reflecting pool south, and the entrance to the fenced garden is on your right. A winding trail splits in multiple directions and takes you past goldfish ponds and over wooden footbridges. Stop at one of the many soft islands of saint augustine grass and unfurl your blanket, and you'll be surrounded by old pine trees without a sliver of pavement in sight. You'll see giant tadpoles in the summer and bright Japanese maples in fall, and you'll have a view of the pagoda (also a good eating spot). But keep your eye on your watch. The gates close at 6 p.m., so for the time being, this is purely a lunch spot.

Marc Vandermeer When the search began for a voice to call Texans games, folks round these parts figured we'd go local. Veteran sports TV/radio names like Russ Small and even Craig Roberts were brought up on talk radio and around water coolers. So it was near-blasphemy when Marc Vandermeer, a (gasp!) Massachusetts native who most recently announced games for University of Miami football, got the gig. A Yankee calling Texans games? Hell, yeah. His historic "Rock 'n' roll! Touchdown Houston!" call, as the team scored its first ever TD, won over fans and critics immediately. Now, Vandermeer, who shares the mike with former UH and NFL star Andre Ware, is heralded as one of the best voices in the NFL.

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