This has not been a banner year for Houston's top pro sports teams. The Dynamo failed to win the MLS Championship for the first time in the team's history; neither the Texans nor the Astros made the playoffs (though at least the Texans appear headed in the right direction); and the Houston Comets topped them all in ignominy by vanishing from the face of the Earth. Which leaves us with the Rockets, who limped into the postseason minus one of their superstars and yet still managed to do something the Rockets haven't done since 1997: They won a playoff series, easily dispatching the Portland Trail Blazers four games to two, despite the loss of backup center Dikembe Mutombo. And while we aren't ones to hang our hats on moral victories, the Rockets did us all proud in the ensuing series against the L.A. Lakers. Yao Ming, the Rockets' last superstar, went down early in the series with another stress fracture in his foot, and yet the scrappy Rockets extended the eventual NBA champions out to a full seven games. Not bad for a bunch of no-names.

When we gave John Granato and Lance Zierlein this award last year, their show had only just started. Hell, their station had only just started. Fed up with the corporate stranglehold at KILT 610, Granato convinced investors to start up an independent sports-talk station in a market already crowded with sports-talk stations, and he convinced Zierlein to come along. Many predicted a quick demise, but these guys have only gotten better. Zierlein is a whiz when it comes to analyzing the NFL (his dad coaches in the league), and he and Granato are just plain hilarious at times. Perhaps the best bits: The "Pravda" commentator, who declares the magnificence of the Houston Texans — a salute to the hosts at 610 who pretend to criticize the team whose games they broadcast.

We sometimes get some grief for our sports-radio picks: Our Best Show is one that features a lot of raucous humor; our Best Host leans more toward stat-heavy analysis. But Charlie Pallilo offers real insight along with his seeming ability to come up with every ERA since 1935 at the drop of a hat. He utterly respects the callers, and never insults the intelligence of his audience. In the land of sports-talk radio, where some hosts seem to think their job is to out-macho everybody, that's a welcome relief. Pallilo is also known for his ability to eat prodigious amounts of food without adding to his wiry frame, but we won't hold that against him.

Eric Winston is the right tackle for your Houston Texans, which normally means you don't hear a lot about him. But the dude is funny, insightful and outspoken, so he has become a hit on sports-talk stations in town and on the Net. He tweets ("Do you think Best Buy puts something in the a/c vents that makes you buy something when you go there whether you need it or not?"), he blogs (a lucid analysis of whether the NFL should have a pay scale for rookies) and, best of all, he's dependable on the field. Even in the under-the-radar world of offensive linemen, right tackles are at the bottom of the pole (left tackle is the glamour spot), so you won't see his name in too many stories or highlight films. But if he's talking or writing, it's worth checking out.

Terry Hershey Park

Way out west amid the tract developments, strip malls and freeways of Houston's upper-middle-class suburbia is this hidden sliver of primordial bayou land, where you can wind back the geologic clock to the Cenozoic Era. On a typical hike or bike trip through the park's 12 miles of Buffalo Bayou-hugging trails, you'll see startled turtles sliding down sandy banks and water snakes lazing through slowly flowing, surprisingly pristine waters; you'll also hear the occasional splash as the bayou ripples when a hungry garfish surfaces to chomp an unlucky bug. The 500 acres of lush undergrowth are interspersed with occasional clearings; in one, you'll find a sundial where your own shadow will tell you the time. Even that primitive mode of timekeeping seems positively high-tech after an hour or two deep in the jungles of the park.

Messina Hof Winery & Resort

Messina Hof Winery, just two hours away, makes for the perfect all-in-one weekend getaway. The Villa Bed and Breakfast has ten luxurious, antique-filled rooms. There are plenty of extras to make your stay special — champagne breakfasts, in-room massages, beds strewn with rose petals and, of course, all the wine you can drink. The Villa is just a short walk away from the Vintage House restaurant, which serves up European classics with a Texas twang, while the Wine Bar offers more than 50 wines, including the award-winning Paulo Collector series, by vineyard owner Paul Bonarrigo. Messina Hof has a full schedule of special events, from vintner dinners (as many as six courses served with a dozen wines) to cooking parties with the chef, moonlit harvests to concerts in the vineyard. If you'd rather just relax, there are plenty of low-key options: stroll the vineyard or sit on your balcony and watch the sun set over the pond.

Fonde Recreation Center

"To play here," reads the plaque on the gym wall, "your game has got to be established, your desire must be proven, and your love for the game had better be pure." Anyone is welcome on the court during free play, but this is the place that serious ballers — including local NBA players during the off-season — flock for serious pickup. Next to the plaque on the wall, the gym even has its own, exclusive Hall of Fame, with tributes to some NBA journeymen who spent decades starring on the well-kept court. The place has a time-warp classic feel of the kind that might inspire a player to throw a bounce pass, or a mean, off-the-ball screen.

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