Since the COVID-19 pandemic essentially shut down the world in the middle of March, the return of live sports has been a slow trickle back. Golf started up again in June, we've had a few NASCAR races, and soccer (both men's and women's) has been back for several weeks now.
However, this past weekend most certainly felt different. When the Astros took the field against the Seattle Mariners on Friday night, even in front of an empty stadium, there was, for the first time in four months, a feeling of at least SOME solace and alignment in our "sports fandom" world. Watching Justin Verlander (days before the bad news about his arm) dominate, watching Michael Brantley hit a home run, watching Chris Devenski (new hairdo and all) strut — this felt pretty normal, by and large.
Soon, this Friday to be exact, the Rockets will resume their 2019-2020 regular season, and the Texans have all returned to NRG Stadium for COVID testing and conditioning. Football will be here soon. With that in mind, let's cautiously circle several dates on the calendar that should be marquee days to be a Houston sports fan in the next couple months.
I've identified seven of those dates below. Keep in mind, the list below includes zero college football (since they haven't finalized a schedule format, or for some conferences, even if they're going to play at all), soccer, golf (Masters in November!), horse racing (Kentucky Derby, September 5!), UFC, or WWE pay per views. Just MLB, NBA, and NFL.
So without further ado, please open your Outlook calendars, and make sure to get your remaining vacation days allocated accordingly:
FRIDAY, JULY 31
Rockets v Mavericks 8 p.m.
Astros @ Angels 8:10 p.m. (McCullers!)
Get the split screen ready, purchase a second TV, or find a sports bar that is disguised as a restaurant (and thus, allowed to remain open). The Rockets open the final eight game run against the hated Mavericks and their phenom Luka Doncic, and down the dial we get a Lance McCullers start against Mike Trout and the Angels. All in all, it's a GREAT way to spend a Friday night.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 2
Astros @ Angels 3:10 p.m.
Rockets v Bucks 7:30 p.m.
Just two days later, we get an afternoon game between the Astros and Angels. Go ahead and barbecue in the back yard with that game on in the background as you prepare a feast for a possible NBA Finals preview on Sunday night between last season's two MVP front runners, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 8
Astros @ D-backs 6:15 p.m. (FOX!)
Rockets v Lakers 8:00 p.m. (TNT game!) … double natty TV!
Get your weekend started early with two nationally televised games involving your favorite Houston sports teams! The Astros play a Thursday night game on FOX against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and right around the sixth inning or so, split the screen and watch the Rockets take on LeBron James and the Lakers. Take Friday off.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 11
Rockets v Spurs 1 p.m.
Astros @ Giants 8:10 p.m.
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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12
Rockets v Pacers 3 p.m.
Astros @ Giants 6:10 p.m.
OK, I am grouping these two days together, and for good reason. When the schedule came out for the resumption of the NBA, I'd heard rumors of possible weekday afternoon basketball, something we really only get during college basketball's annual March Madness tournament. Sure enough, the NBA gave us this gift in the resume season of the coronavirus. Thank you, Adam Silver! (I have tears in my eyes, for the record.) So for these two days we get Rockets during the day, and Astros at night. I'm sorry, but if you're not treating these days like March Madness, we cannot be friends.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
Astros @ A’s 2:40 p.m.
Texans @ Chiefs 7:20 p.m.
(Possible Rockets playoff game)
The next date to be circled FOR NOW isn't until early September, but keep in mind, that's only because we don't know exactly what the dates and times will be for the Rockets' playoff games, so August is saucier than it looks in this post. That said, we get a juiced up divisional game for the Astros as an afternoon appetizer to the SEASON OPENER in the NFL, in which the Texans hopefully build a 24-0 lead that they actually hold onto this time.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
Texans @ Steelers Noon
Astros @ Rangers 2:05 p.m. (FINAL regular season game)
(Possible Game 7 for conference finals)
Packers @ Saints, 7:20 p.m.
BONUS: Chiefs @ Ravens, Monday Night Football
Just as the leaves are beginning to change color (in places where the temperature isn't still in the mid-90's, like Houston), we get a glorious Sunday of NFL, MLB, and (maybe) NBA. The Texans, hopefully not 0-2 at this point, as they open against the Chiefs and Ravens, travel to Pittsburgh for the Watt Family Reunion. (J.J.'s brothers, T.J. and Derek, are Steelers.), the Astros' season finale against the Rangers starts shortly after halftime of the Texans' game, and if there is a Game 7 in a conference finals in the NBA, it could be that Sunday night (perhaps involving the Rockets). Mix in a juicy Sunday Night Football matchup of Aaron Rodgers versus Drew Brees, and a Monday Night Football game with Patrick Mahomes versus Ben Roethlisberger, and you'll be on tilt by the time you go to bed on Monday.