Shaquille O’Neal rocked Houstonians recently when he described Houston as a small-market town. Does the legendary Shaq have a misguided but somewhat interesting point?
Houston is huge. In population terms, the Energy Capitol of the Southeast is in the fourth in the United States. Why is it then that Minute Maid can only attract 14,000 visitors per game? On television, a 360-degree scope of the stadium paints an awful, embarrassing picture. On a weekday game, a fan might secure a seat where he won’t be bothered by anyone for 50 yards in either direction. You wouldn’t see that in St. Louis.
Reliant Stadium is a mass charade of excitement, noise and, significantly, beer. They pack the stands every week. Tickets to a Houston Texans game are far more expensive than an Astros ticket, yet they sell out to the same demographic – Houston sports fans. The Texans haven’t been around much more than a decade, yet if you were to hover around Reliant on a Football Sunday, you might think it was a dynasty.
So where have the Houston Astros gone wrong? Some might say that baseball games are boring, take too long and lack the flair of the NFL. I argue that a day out at a football game is more draining than anything. Recent research found that during a four-hour football game, the ball is in play for around twelve minutes.
The fanfare is hard to explain or define, but with the rise of the Houston Texans, the Astros are going to have to dig deep to prevent being the city’s permanent second-fiddle.