Houston's Bearded, Bald, Vegan, Hipster Athletes Getting National Attention

It ain't easy being a Houston athlete. Despite being the fourth-largest city in America, we haven't exactly had a tradition of winning sports teams. The Rockets made big runs in the early and mid '80s before breaking through and winning back-to-back titles in the early '90s. Still, they haven't been close since 1997 and the two titles are still defined by many outside Houston as "those two years Michael Jordan was playing baseball."

The Astros have only one National League Pennant and one World Series appearance in their near half decade of existence. They don't even have a Hall of Fame player, though they could add two of them this year.

Then there's pro football. The Oilers went to back-to-back conference championships, losing both times, one on one of the worst calls in NFL history. They left town for Tennesse in the '90s and became the Titans. The Texans, prior to last year, had only one winning season in nine tries. Last year was their first playoff appearance.

The end result is not much respect for the athletes or the teams that represent our city.

But that is beginning to change.

With the additions of Jeremy Lin, who blew up in New York last year, and James Harden, the Rockets have begun to see some attention, but mostly for the novelty of Harden's beard and the whole Lin-sanity thing in NYC. It did manage to land them an ESPN the Magazine cover this week (Lin has already been on the cover of GQ), where they answered questions Newlywed Game-style.

More dubiously noteworthy are stories about Texans linebacker Connor Barwin and quarterback Matt Schaub on the list-mania Web site Buzzfeed. This comes what seems like a very long time after the wide-ranging discussion of Arian Foster's turn at veganism and his namaste bows in the end zone.

In the Schaub article, the author suggested the Texans are underappreciated because Schaub is balding.

Schaub is actually made for the stage in a kind of character-actor way. His eyes are sunken into his skull, and his forehead is huge. He looks sort of marsupial. Balding, marsupial -- not words that Americans have typically used to describe their star quarterbacks.

Ouch. But it did get better.

If the Texans keep winning, maybe Schaub's lack of hair will start becoming a signifier of his reliability and rugged Everyman spirit. You could see him in a commercial, tossing a sack of concrete into the back of a pickup truck. For Matt Schaub, it's not quittin' time til' the job is done. That kind of thing.

Then there's Barwin. The man whose face adorned our Best Of cover this year was lampooned on Buzzfeed for being the NFL's biggest hipster along with a mountain of photo evidence. Of course, I could have told them about how I saw him at a Ton Ton's show wearing a dashiki and white cropped pants, or they could have just perused the stories he wrote for our own Rocks Off blog covering the most hipster of all music events in Houston, Summerfest.

But it is tough getting noticed in this town, so we'll take whatever publicity is being offered...and continue to win.

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