Thursday, April 14, 2011

#174 Houston, we have a problem...

Krista, Kenny, Julie and I traveled to Houston for the men’s Final Four. Here is a recap of our fun-filled stay:

Julie and I arrived Friday and met my boss and some work people for dinner at Mia Bella Trattoria on Main Street. It was awesome! This place has the best oil dip for bread I’ve ever had. Krista and Kenny arrived in town later that night and we met them back at the hotel. Our hotel was nice; however, our room had one king bed and a pullout sofa (first problem). With a 6’6” (me), a 6’3” (Kenny) and a 5’11” (Julie), that left not much bed space. We let the married couple take the king, Julie took the sofa bed and I slept on the sofa cushions on the floor. Not bad, but a little short.

Around 3 a.m. Saturday morning I heard a knock on our door. I think the first knock woke me up. A minute later another knock. I was waiting for them to give up, but another knock. After yet another knock I finally got up. I looked out the peep hole and saw a bare chested guy in his 20s standing there with a Kentucky glass in his hand. I opened the door (that had the safety bar on it) and said, “Dude, this is not your room. Please go away.” He then invited me (mind you, he hasn’t even seen any part of me) to come out to the pool. No thanks.

Saturday brought a partly sunny, warm day. We hit McDonald’s for breakfast (a McSkillet burrito and a yogurt parfait became my breakfast for the next three days). We walked over to the Hilton Americas to check out some coaches. I didn’t write all the names down. but here are a few we saw: Gene Keady, Steve Alford (they were not together), Wimp Sanderson, Mike Brey, Matt Doherty (he ran into Julie in the lobby), Bruce Webber, golly, there are so many I can’t remember all of them. We also saw Jimmer Fredette on the street. Jimmer!! My girl Maddie loves you!

Julie and I had a nice adventure picking up our tickets from Reliant Stadium Saturday afternoon (second problem). We weren’t too happy with the ordeal, and her ankle wasn’t too happy either, but we got them.

We had lunch at Yao’s. I didn’t make the connection (Ms. Obvious!) until I walked in and saw Yao Ming’s picture on the wall. Very good. I especially appreciated the high doorways and ceilings. I heard he has his own dining room with a big table and chairs.

Saturday evening I was on the edge of my seat for the entire Butler game. Julie said she’d never seen me like that before. I’m usually very laid back at sporting events, but this was different. I prayed so hard during the entire first game. I was much more relaxed during the second game. I was leaning toward Kentucky but not upset about the end result. I felt bad for my friend Ty, a Kentucky grad.

We got on the wrong bus going back to our hotel and ended up at the Galleria late Saturday night (third problem). We caught a cab there to downtown. The cabbie was interesting. Kenny sat in front and said he had a whole leg cast and also had a hot pot up there. He hummed and whistled the whole trip. Loves R.E.M., he does! Turn it up!

We took the correct bus to the Galleria Mall Sunday. Walked around a while – that place is huge! We had lunch at a Mexican place and sat right next to Buzz Williams and his wife. Other sightings at the mall: Nick Faldo and Eddie Sutton. Went back to the hotel and lay down for a bit to watch TV. Mistake! I fell asleep a couple times. We woke ourselves up to go find dinner. Went to Frank’s Pizza on Travis Street downtown and watched the first women’s semi between Texas A&M and Stanford. We watched the Notre Dame/Connecticut game at an Irish pub. Exciting games! Go Irish!!

We hit Bracket Town early Monday to avoid long lines. We did all the sports – football, hockey, baseball, lacrosse. Fun! We finished up around 1:30. Then I saw a sign that Chris Mullin was signing autographs at 3:45. I was not about to wait two hours for him, so we left, had lunch at the House of Blues, and I paid $10 to get back in to see Chris by myself. I’ve had a crush on him since I was in high school and saw him play for St. John’s. While he was playing for the Pacers I saw him in the free weight room at my gym in Indianapolis. I was in such shock I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him. I regret not saying something. Anything! So I stood in line at Bracket Town and when it was my turn (I’d like to think he perked up a bit when I walked up) I told him I was from Indy and was a big fan. I had on a Butler shirt and he asked if I went there. He was really nice. His eyes are such a clear, light blue. Sigh. The woman behind me took a picture of us for me.

I met up with Krista and Julie afterward, and we went to the Hyatt to people watch. Met up with a friend in the lobby. We did see Kareem and his teeny, tiny wife. Well, I guess most people are teeny, tiny next to him. Krista and I attempted to get a picture with him but were stopped by some guys in suits, “Ladies! Ladies! No!” Sorry, dude. Kareem fished a basketball playing card out of his pocket and wordlessly handed it to Krista. He had pre-signed it.

We caught the bus over to the final game Monday night. A dog fight! Not much can be said about the game. Poor Butler had big problems that night in Houston. Sometimes things just don’t go your way and you have no explanation. I lived that three times with my Auburn teammates. Each Final Four I get a little verklempt and feel bad for the losing team, even if the team I’m rooting for wins. This time was the worst. A hometown team, losing two years-in-a-row. It sucks. But the city is proud of them and they are a classy group.

My Jay Bilas streak was broken. I did NOT see Jay anywhere in Houston. Since Atlanta in 2007, I have run into Jay randomly at away Final Fours. I didn’t see him in Indy last year, and don’t see many people at home since I’m working and not out walking around, so I don’t count my home city. Atlanta was the hotel elevator, Hoop City (now Bracket Town) and the Mexican restaurant in the CNN Center. 2008 San Antonio was the River Walk (several times), the mall escalator and the ESPN desk at the mall. 2009 Detroit was on some street downtown near the Greek restaurant. “Hi Jay!” I think in Houston he reported from somewhere near the Galleria, which was about 20 minutes from downtown.

Overall, it was a great trip, despite some minor problems and the Butler loss. Houston is a nice city, the weather was good, the games were good (for the most part) and the people were friendly. Once again, I’m thankful that my friends like to go! It was a nice mini Spring Break.

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