“My dream is to become local everywhere…The places I am part of, I try to be like a local. It’s just the most beautiful feeling.”-Jose Andres
The first father son sports trip of 2023 both started and ended in New Orleans, Louisiana, but the main event was in Houston, Texas. Per usual, my eight year old son was immune to the details, excited to just get in the car and go.
For simplicity’s sake, the general outline of the trip was as follows: Trailblazers and Dame Dolla Lillard at Pelicans last Sunday night, Celtics and my son’s hero Jayson Tatum at Rockets Monday night, and the Lebron-less Lakers at Pelicans Tuesday night.
Seemed simple enough.
As it neared game time last Sunday night in New Orleans, it became apparent that Dame Dolla, aka the electric Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers, was going to take the night off. Slightly annoyed, I pointed that out to my son and then tried to find a silver lining. The Pelicans rushed out to a huge lead thanks to shooting guard Trey Murphy III, and then all of a sudden it looked like he might have a career night. We hung on every three that he hit, over and over and over, until he closed in on forty points. Early in the fourth quarter, he made a back door cut and finished with a monster reverse jam as the crowd went bananas. 41 points, a new career high, and an electric performance to overshadow Dame’s absence was how we started our trip.
Then it was off to Baton Rouge.
At the hotel, I told my eight year old son Banks that there was a live tiger in front of LSU’s football stadium, and I couldn’t tell if he was excited or thought that I was an idiot. Regardless, our hotel was five minutes away from Mike the Tiger’s habitat, so off we went.
Mike was asleep when we arrived, but woke about ten minutes into our mulling about. What a beautiful creature and an unexpected detour to begin our jaunt over to Houston.
Banks knew that we were going to the Blazers game the night before, but he had no idea where we were headed Monday. He randomly guessed Cleveland, and I just giggled.
When we arrived in Houston, I had the hotel staff tell him where we were. Because he and I are serious NBA fans, he quickly realized that the Rockets had a game that night, they were hosting his beloved Celtics, and that’s why mom had sneakily packed all the green gear into his new suitcase. We hurried up to the room and he put on his gear from head to toe, excited about what might be in store for the next four hours before game time.
The next four hours before game time might possibly be some of the most memorable moments of any of our ever increasing father son sports trips. Guessing that the Celtics were staying about four blocks away at the Four Seasons, we walked over and voila! Banks got to see every single Celtic up close and personal, dapped up a few, and held a hilarious conversation with longtime Celtics ex-player and personality, Brian Scalabrine.
After about two hours of this, we walked back to the hotel and chilled for a few minutes before starting the brief walk over to The Toyota Center. As we made our way over, we had to walk through a beautiful park, and we both noticed a pickup soccer game going on. Banks looked at me like, Yo, we have to play. And so we did. After about twenty five minutes, I told him we needed to jet. When we arrived moments later out front of the arena, they had arcade basketball goals setup, and Banks looked at me like, Yo, we have to play. And so we did.
I was beginning to think that I had wasted a decent amount of money for damn good seats to the Rockets-Celtics game, but we eventually got in there. The Rockets wore their old school San Diego Rockets uniforms, which were spectacular. Jaylen Brown dropped 43 for the Celtics. The game went down to the final play, and the Celtics lost by two.
My son was pissed.
I awoke Tuesday morning to a sick son. My heart sank for him as he was in obvious discomfort. I wondered what was wrong, and in racking my brain, I quickly realized that we had eaten nothing but junk over the last 36 hours. I usually try to find great local joints everywhere we go, but due to our tiger, meet the team, soccer, and arcade basketball detours, we had only eaten nachos, popcorn, and ice cream, and it had torn my son’s stomach up.
I told him to just relax and that in a few hours, instead of tackling that day’s adventures, we would leisurely meander home. Prior to the sickness, we were going to tour Minute Maid Park, home of the World Champion Houston Astros, and then meet granddaddy in New Orleans for dinner and Lakers-Pelicans on the way home. Around 11am, we packed up and checked out, and as we rolled by the baseball stadium on the way out, a sports miracle occurred. He was healed!
On the bilingual tour at the stadium, he was like Dennis the Menace, clowning around with the tour guide like he hadn’t been vomiting just three hours before. We got to go down to the field and sit in the dugout, and I of course got an on field fitted cap to add to my collection.
We ate and drank blandly on the drive home, touch and go about whether dinner and Lakers would actually happen. As the day wore on, everyone decided we were a go. Everyone except rush hour Baton Rouge traffic. What a cluster.
We made it to Blue Oak BBQ in New Orleans in time for me to scarf down their incredible spicy chicken sandwich, and we got into our seats with one minute to spare. The Lakers whipped the Pelicans. Anthony Davis dropped 35. And my son inexplicably asked for more arena food.
So we had our first ever smoothie from Smoothie King at The Smoothie King Center. Strawberries and bananas instead of a hot dog.
As I mentioned, when we arrived in Houston, the valet out front of our hotel opened my door as is customary. I asked him to tell my son where we were. He looked confused, like why doesn’t your son know where he is. I told him that today was a surprise, and that he needed to know what city he was in and what kind of game might be going on down the street in a few hours.
I kid you not, the valet started tearing up. He mentioned to me that he and has dad had taken some memorable father son sports trips. He asked if we did this often, and I said as often as humanly possible. He asked if we would do more of these, and I told him absolutely.
So he told Banks that he was in Houston, home of the Houston Rockets. Without missing a beat, my son then told him that the Rockets were statistically the worst team in the NBA.
And the valet’s tears turned to laughter.
Have a great week.-Benj
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2 thoughts on “Houston, We Have Loads of Surprises”
WoW!! You continue to amaze me. Banks is a lucky little man & if he doesn’t already, will come to realize what a great family he was Blessed with. I just love it. Set your Dad on “Go” and the two of you are off..I love watching him grow and those smiles…too much. Would like to see the Little Princess too (both the Bostic Royalty) along with the Beautiful Queen. Safe travels.jan