The Houston Chronicle released it’s list of the 10 most influential Houstonians in sports yesterday. And of course, being the Chronicle, the list was primarily a joke. J.J. Watt’s listed, but not Arian Foster. UH football coach Tom Herman’s listed, and he’s yet to even coach a football game. Then there was the listing of Bill O’Brien and A.J. Hinch who have yet to actually accomplish anything but find a way to provide great copy to the press.
It makes some sense. The only thing J.J. Watt has yet to do for publicity is to announce himself as a candidate for president. Herman has been everywhere trying to improve not only the profile of the Cougars, but to bring the type of recruits for the program that haven’t played here in decades. But the addition of Hinch and Carlos Correa to the influential list instead of the likes of Jeff Luhnow, who has built the team Hinch is managing, or fan favorite Jose Altuve, is rather puzzling.
But there’s nothing more puzzling than the inclusion of Texans owner Bob McNair on the list. McNair’s done nothing but bleed the taxpayers since being awarded ownership of the franchise. The team’s historically mediocre with only two playoff seasons in its existence and an owner who insists on hiring so-called unproven geniuses like O’Brien and Gary Kubiak while letting Rick Smith stick around for who knows what reason. It’s probably nice to have football back in Houston, but the the godlike status with which he’s sometime treated by the media seems to far outweigh anything he’s actually done as an owner.
Amazingly left off the list is an owner who has not only accomplished something as a team owner, but actually has influence. Les Alexander’s not exactly the most popular owner in Houston — he seems to rank slightly above Bud Adams and John McMullen in the pantheon of least beloved. But the only titles won by the Rockets have been during his ownership. The team makes the playoffs most years, and when it doesn’t, he’s not afraid to make changes. He’s never been afraid to hire coaches with strong personalities, and for as much credit as the Astros’ Jeff Luhnow gets for being a statistical genius, it’s Alexander who put Daryl Morey in charge of the Rockets and has left him alone.
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One would think an owner who has actually shown that he wants to win games, who has spent money and allowed his staff to make whatever moves deemed necessary would be celebrated in Houston. Yet it’ s Bob McNair who is somehow the most influential owner in Houston, which makes sense if, by influential, you mean working with the Rodeo to have doomed the Astrodome. Or if by influential, you mean making annual demands for Harris County to make improvements to his football stadium.
If that’s what matters, then Les Alexander is actually more influential than McNair. It’s Alexander who helped to drive professional hockey out of Houston, and it’s his control of the Toyota Center lease that will more than likely be the primary cause of the Aeros not getting a NHL team. Unless, of course, Alexander decides to pay the $500 million expansion fee requested by the NHL for expansion, and the Toyota Center offices have been very quiet on the possibility of Alexander stepping up and purchasing a franchise.
And perhaps the most influential thing Alexander did was join in the creation of that regional sports network known as Comcast SportsNet Houston that was a tremendous failure and that essentially kept the Rockets and Astros off of most Houston-area TVs for two seasons. Yet somehow the Rockets have escaped the level of blame that has been dumped on the Astros, Comcast, Jim Crane, and Drayton McLane.
It’s a stupid list, and maybe ranting about is nothing more than a waste of time. But is it really asking too much for some thought to go into the thing. It seems that to be influential one must have actually accomplished something, like providing the city of Houston with a franchise that actually wins games and goes to the playoffs on a regular basis and not just twice a century.