February 04, 2004
Probably the last damn Super Bowl thing I'll write

Two final indications that things must have gone reasonably well this week. One is Rich Connelly's Super Bowl diary, in which he actually seems impressed with the downtown party scene in spite of himself.

As bizarre as it may seem, downtown's Main Street -- in the city perpetually straining all too uncomfortably to not be seen as a poseur -- actually feels like the French Quarter. And sure, the French Quarter doesn't involve a whole lot more than walking around and drinking, so it's not all that difficult to duplicate the setting.

But getting the feel right is a lot harder. And Houston's pulled it off. There's enough of a chill in the air to let you know there's weather; there's beer on the streets, crazy hats, shouting drunks and laissez-faire cops; there's loud cheers from in front of clubs when a celebrity walks in.

And yeah, the light rail system quickly becomes overloaded, the streets outside The Main Event are choked with traffic, and some people are walking 16 or 20 blocks from their parking spaces.

It doesn't matter. On at least this night, downtown Houston is the best place in the country to be.

I've been to New Orleans several times, and it's my opinion that the whole French Quarter thing doesn't have all that much actual appeal once you're past the party-till-you-puke stage of life. Don't get me wrong - everyone should experience it once, even if you're old enough to know better - but nowadays with every city from Galveston to Biloxi celebrating Mardi Gras with beads, boobs, and beer, it's hard to say why that aspect of New Orleans is unique any more. There's an awful lot of overpriced tourist-trap schlock there, too. And for the record, parking 16 to 20 blocks away from the action is par for the course in the Big Easy when it's crowded.

(Yes, I know, there's plenty of historical and cultural interest in New Orleans. I've seen a lot of that, too, and the next time I visit I'll want to see more of it. But let's face it - Super Bowl attendees, especially including all those snooty sportswriters, aren't there to ogle Creole architecture.)

Anyway, speaking of those snooty sportswriters, Yahoo's Dan Wetzel gets it right.

The good thing about hosting a Super Bowl is it brings about $300 million in revenue to a metropolitan region. The bad part Ė at least if you are not New Orleans, Miami, Tampa or San Diego Ė is the unmerciful ripping you get from the national media.

Houston currently is under such a barrage from columnists around the country who hate the sprawl, the lack of culture, the bizarre zoning laws (you can apparently throw an 80-story high rise up in the middle of a neighborhood and open a strip club between a couple of churches), the traffic and the sleepy nightlife. Some even ripped the town for the early week weather. Fifty degrees apparently is arctic to some of these guys.

The Baltimore Sun concluded Houston was "ugly, hot, humid and (has) unpredictable weather for about six months ... (it) is a Dallas wannabe without the landscape. Yes, Houston, you have a problem."

Who knew the media lived such lavish, high-rolling, lace-curtain lives that spending a week in Houston was so beneath them? Somehow we've turned into Paris Hilton.

Houston is fine with me. It might try gentrifying a neighborhood rather than just abandoning and extending further into the farmland, but the people are great, the restaurants good and there is plenty to do. It's a good solid place. Which is why almost two million people call it home.

I don't see how you could not have a great time downtown on Thursday night whether your interests are in free concerts, bars and parties or family events such as the NFL Experience.

The city will just have to deal with the bad pub and take everyone's money. Besides, this will be nothing compared to what happens to next year's site, Jacksonville, Fla., which is a small, conservative, Southern city that should be ripped to shreds out of media boredom.

Then there is the 2006 site, Detroit, which promises to get worse press than Scott Peterson.

Thanks, Dan. I feel much better now.

Getting back to Connelly, he's your go-to man for the real scoop on the streaker that CBS didn't show.

Almost no one at the stadium caught the Janet Jackson tit show that the nation saw on TV; everyone at the stadium, however, caught the streak show that didn't make it to TV.

As Carolina lined up for the second-half kickoff, the referee approached the ball as if it had fallen off the tee. Then he stripped to a jockstrap and started dancing.

And no one did anything. The guy's out there dancing for five, ten seconds, and no one's making a move to stop him. He dances some more, and still nothing. He's running out of ideas, it's taking so long for security to react. He choreographed under the assumption he'd get stopped right away; now he's being forced to do a marathon.

This is the Super Bowl, security's supposed to be tight, right? Those of us in the stadium have been subjected to a film, animated with flowing arrows, showing us how to leave "in case of an emergency evacuation."

Finally a Houston cop gingerly steps out, but he doesn't look too sure about it. Then a security team sprints out from one of the tunnels -- where they've no doubt been herding the dancers onto buses. The streaker looks relieved, frankly, to be done dancing.

He starts running toward the Patriots, none of whom looks too interested in tackling a near-naked guy. At last, linebacker Matt Chatham shoves him to the ground, ignoring the tackling fundamentals of going low and wrapping the runner up.

His whole story is pretty entertaining. I sure hope he doesn't pull a Fleck on us before the Super Bowl's return engagement.

UPDATE: What Ginger says here should be stapled to every snooty sportswriter's forehead.

Iíve been thinking about this whole thing for the last week or so, and Iíve concluded that Houstonís real problem is that it doesnít have a tourist district, which is the apparent source of Ďcharmí in many cities.

What you get when you come to Houston is an authentic experience of how Houstonians live. Houston doesnít have anything like the Riverwalk or the Strand that serves as a magnet for visitors to the city. Who thinks real San Antonians live like they do on the Riverwalk? I know most people in Galveston donít live like they would on the Strand. Financially and imagewise, the lack of a tourist district may be a deficit, but it is honest. Thatís something I like.

Damn straight.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 04, 2004 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

Fortunately, the Pro Bowl doesn't get the national sports press quite so worked up. They're having practices inside today while the usual Wednesday swap meet goes on in the stadium parking lot. I can just hear the wails about tackiness (10 t-shirts--$20). The NFL Experience is under a bunch of tents on the opposite side of the road from Aloha Stadium.

Posted by: Linkmeister on February 4, 2004 7:39 PM

(it) is a Dallas wannabe without the landscape.

Giggling my MF ass off...

Posted by: Retrogrouch on February 4, 2004 10:53 PM

I feel sorry for Jacksonville for the grilling they will get next year. They are so short of hotel rooms they intend to use cruise ships parked at the port as hotels for visiting guests. I can hear the sports hacks now. They'll be crucified.

Posted by: Patrick on February 5, 2004 12:29 PM