Texas’ largest city is staring at some bleak economic numbers according to Texas Monthly. With oil and gas prices falling and Houston not being known as an innovation hub, some economists are wondering what will prop up the Houston economy in the near-term. It certainly is not a tourist destination. As Red has remarked, one of the worst things about Houston is no one ever comes to visit you and one of the best things about Houston is no one ever comes to visit you.
One interesting point the TM article makes is how the University of Houston led by Tillman Fertita (billionaire owner of bad restaurants and crappy resorts) and State Sen. John Whitmire killed off the University of Texas’ planned expansion on a 300 acre site just south of Loop 610. That project would have been a major engine of economic growth for the city, but was shit-canned because UH was afraid of any real competition. Maybe rightfully so. For a city of almost 5 million to have only two major universities (UH and Rice) and a smattering of smaller second or third tiers (TSU, HBU, St. Thomas, UH-Downtown) is almost criminal and clearly has held Houston back compared to other areas who apparently value higher education. Good work in protecting your turf at the expense of your community guys!
Red gets to cheat a bit on this one as he ran out of time before the season started to make his selection in the former NFL Division of Excellence. Oh yes, there was a time when the AFC South routinely put up the best numbers of any division in football. That has long since passed. The AFC South did post two play-off teams last season – that is, if you considered the Texans to actually be a playoff team after getting rolled and smoked by the Colts in January. Jacksonville regressed to recent form and perhaps the Titans did not get the love they deserved for their close to the play-offs 9-7 record last season under new coach Mike Vrabel. So with the benefit of Week One under his belt, Red goes all in.
Tennessee Titans – Again, yet another pick that Red will likely regret. The Titans were at best erratic last season. They started 3-1, then lost three in a row (including 2 one-point losses to the Bills and Chargers before blowing out the Cowboys and Patriots in back to back weeks to seemingly right the ship at 5-4. Then they get smacked by the Colts and Texans before winning four in a row against the weakest of the weak sisters last season (Jets, Jags, Giants and OTNA’s) and then blew amy shot at the playoffs in the last game to the surging Colts. The Colts probably had all the tie-breakers anyway, but . . . The Titans bring basically the same team back – with a few additions. Derrick Henry leads the league in rushing and M&M proves that he is a serviceable NFL QB if not a star. Tennessee is 10-6 and back in the mix.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Losing Nick Foles in the first quarter of the first game might not be the end for the Jags. They still have a rough-house defense (ask Patrick Mahomes how he feels this week) and strong running game. Rookie QB Tyler Minshew made an impressive and record-setting debut (completing his first 13 NFL passes in a row) before the Jags simply could not keep up with the Andy Reid show feature Patrick Mahomes and the Powerhouse Chiefs Offense Band (words that will be written many times this season). Jags will win low scoring ugly games and just enough for an 8-8 finish.
Houston Texans – Disorder be an easy one. The problem starts riot at the top. What is up with Cal “the Idiot Son of Deceased former owner and once-hailed Houston football savior Bob” McNair? Is he stupid or just morass than previously thought? Here’s Red’s tangle on the situation. Janice McNair needs to cut discord with Idiot Son and find a real person to ruin the franchise. Otherwise, Red will be one pandemonium all season about the Texans. The trouble will travel from the owner’s box down to the sideline and into the muddle on the field before plays. Before the season is over, attendance drops, ticket resale lags, and tickets will be free for all practical purposes. Even turning tumult-iple formations on the field doesn’t revive fan interest. Disarray of different offensive schemes can’t cure the problems with management. The problems compound and even moving the bollix a problem for the offense. In the last game of the season, angry maelstrom the field and call for Cal’s sizeable head on a pole. Has Red made his chaos? Texans tough schedule and rudderless front office lead to anarchy on South Main 7-9 rat’s nest.
Indianapolis Colts – Red hates the Colts. The Colts would hate Red if they ever thought about him – which of course they don’t. Red tempers his hate by season end and gets some much needed help. Indianapolis is lucky to finish 7-9 as well.
As Individual 1 promotes his “Wall” as the solution to a “growing humanitarian crisis” on the southern border, a real crisis is completely ignored by the Trumpian Party (f/k/a the GOP). The Houston Chronicle reports that since the beginning of 2018, 23 children in the Houston area have been killed by guns. Of those 23, at least 7 were accidental shootings resulting primarily from unsecured guns in households. Others were the result of intentional shootings either directed at the kids or who were killed when someone else was targeted. Red personally knows of several children who have been accidentally killed by guns left unsecured by adults who should have known better. Is the price of freedom, the death of children? Must the tree of liberty be watered with the blood of innocents? The Second Amendment absolutists apparently find this to be so.
From the Annals of the Highways – In 1841, the Houston and Austin Turnpike Company was chartered. The plan was to lay out a road from Austin to Houston. The charter allowed the HATC to charge tolls provided that toll gates be located at least forty miles apart. The work was to start within twelve months and be completed in five years. The road was planned to start at Houston, cross the Brazos River within five miles of San Felipe de Austin, and to continue from there to Austin on a route to be selected. Nothing came of the HATC and it was followed by the chartering of another 50 failed attempts between 1841 and 1905.
Considering how long it took the state to make Hwy 71 a four-lane divided highway running from Columbus to Austin, Red is not surprised at the repeated failures. Red reckons that it took almost 30 years for that project to be completed and he is still amazed that there is not a controlled access freeway accessing Austin from the east.
From the Annals of the Taxpayer Funded Stadiums – In 1962, the ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Harris County Domed Stadium (later dubbed the Astrodome) in Houston. It was designed to be the first fully air-conditioned and completely enclosed sports stadium in the world. The Houston team at the time was named the Colt 45’s so the ceremony was not held with the standard gold-plated shovels. Harris County Judge Roy Hofheinz and other local dignitaries shot Colt .45 pistols into the dirt. Red is disappointed to learn they shot blanks and that the pistols have been lost to history; but it was a foreboding sign for a team that would take 55 seasons to finally win the World Series. The Astrodome itself is rusting hulk that has now sat empty for more than 15 years.
From the Annals of Space – In 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke the first words ever known to be uttered from a celestial body other than Earth. At 3:18 CDT, Armstrong confirmed, “Houston, Tranquility Base here – the Eagle has landed.” He also became the first man to walk on the moon on later that same day.
Old General Sam would be mighty amused to know that his name was the first word ever spoken from the Moon.
From the Annals of Shipping News – In 1956, the SS Ideal X left Port Newark, New Jersey bound for the Port of Houston. The Ideal X was the world’s first modern container cargo ship. The IX was a converted World War II T-2 oil tanker Potrero Hills. She was later purchased by the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company, modified to carry shipping containers and rechristened Ideal X. She carried 58 containers on her first voyage to Houston where she was met by 58 trucks who hauled away the containers launching a new paradigm for shipping.
The powers that be at University of Houston, Our Poor Idiot Governor and whining Sen. John Whitmire got their way. Instead of another academic flagship coming to the drastically underserved higher education market in Houston, The University of Texas system has put the 300 acres it bought near the South Loop on the market. Red can’t decide who he is more disappointed in – the Houston powers that were so interested in protecting their little fiefdom of higher ed that they could not see the incredible benefits (jobs, opportunity, research, further real estate development and educational symbiosis) that another major university would bring to Houston – or The UT System for caving in and abandoning the State’s largest city because of some poorly-based opposition. Whatever. It is done for a generation and it is doubtful that an opportunity to build a campus so close in to the city center will ever arise again. This is an incredible loss to Houston and to the state.
And Whining John – not satisfied with having screwed up the opportunity of a lifetime has to then kick UT in the nuts on the way out the door. Whitmire now gloats as he claims that UT overpaid for the parcel and will have trouble getting its money back.
Red is officially endorsing both Damian Lacroix and Hank Segelke in the Democratic Primary to unseat Whitmire from his Senate seat that he has obviously held for way too long at this point. Whitmire needs to go!
Texas Central Partners – the outfit that is attempting to bring high-speed rail to Texas – has identified the site Northwest Mall in Houston as the likely location for its Houston station. Northwest Mall is about eight miles from downtown Houston and sits near the intersection of the 610 West Loop and US 290. That location is one of three sites that TCP was considering for its Houston terminus. One major problem is that Houston Metro Rail has no plans for lines in that area and it would seem that a hook up to the local rail system would be an essential ingredient for success.
TCP plans to run high-speed trains (up to 205 mph) between Dallas and Houston with an average travel time of about 90 minutes. The project is expected to cost about $15 billion and is to be completed without state or federal funding.
Red can’t really imagine how the economics of this work but he sure would love to take the train instead of heading to the airport to spend 3 plus hours for a 40 minute flight.
From the Annals of the Bluesmen – In 1982, Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins passed. Hopkins was born in Centerville and began his music career at age 8 playing with a homemade cigar-box guitar with chicken-wire strings. He was soon playing with his cousin, Alger (Texas) Alexander and Blind Lemon Jefferson who were both mentors to the young musician. By the time he was 20 Hopkins was playing the blues on the road. Like all good bluesmen, Hopkins served time in jail in the 1930s for an unknown offense. He continued with music after his release with mixed success living for a while in Houston. At one point he returned to Centerville to work as a farm hand. By 1946 he was back in Houston where he met Lola Anne Cullum of Aladdin Records from Los Angeles. She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied the pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins “Lightnin'” and Wilson “Thunder”. He returned to Houston and continued recording with Gold Star records playing mostly in Texas blues clubs. In 1959, Hopkins was contacted by music researcher Mack McCormick who managed to get Hopkins’ music in front of white audiences in Houston and California just in time to catch the folk-blues revival of the 1960s. He switched to an acoustic guitar to capitalize on the trend and later began getting gigs as an opening act for such rock bands. The documentary, The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins captures much of his on-stage brilliance and behind the scenes life. Over his career, Hopkins recorded a total of more than eighty-five albums.