Fox Tech tangles with Lanier in the 2006 Chili Bowl.
If we rated San Antonio sporting events by their athletic brilliance, we’d start by looking at post-season Spurs action. In 2006, that meant a heart-stopping, heartbreaking seven-game duel with the Dallas Mavericks that ranks with the greatest Chamberlain vs. Russell and Bird vs. Magic epics. In particular, if you consider the high stakes, Game Seven might be the most exciting NBA game of this young century.
You’d also have a good case if you argued for the NCAA South Regional basketball tourney, which saw Ohio State make an astounding comeback and Memphis destroy the Final Four dreams of Aggie hoop loyalists.
But a sporting event is about more than athletics, and no sporting event captures the cultural specifics, the neighborhood loyalties, and the deep-seated passions of San Antonio like the Chili Bowl. The city’s oldest high-school football rivalry at 64 years and counting, the Chili Bowl pits the Lanier Voks (pride of the West Side) against the Fox Tech Buffs (team of choice for downtown SA) in a matchup that transcends concerns about district titles and playoff berths.
Attend a Chili Bowl and you’ll see a rocking, overflowing Alamo Bowl; hear a fair bit of trash talking; and possibly (no guarantees) learn what a Vok is. Fox Tech won bragging rights in 2006, which means that Lanier has only seven more months of quiet suffering to endure before the schools meet again on the gridiron.
— Gilbert Garcia
I’d imagine the job of a college mascot is a hard to one to procure, though it isn’t one I’d be clamoring for. Being a furry appeals to people for many, er, different reasons, but I never got off on the idea of entertaining some fresh-faced undergrads by turning cartwheels in a sweltering get-up. Nevertheless, our hats are off to mascots, once voted #10 on USA Today’s list of 10 Worst Jobs in Sports. Our local favorite: the St. Mary’s University Rattler. Perusing university publications, I learned that the origin of the school’s mascot is still somewhat of a mystery. The university began a monthly publication in the early 1900s called The Rattler, but legend holds that the football practice field had to be cleared of diamondback rattlesnakes on a regular basis. There’s no official confirmation, but either makes for a plausible story. Though the identity of Rattlerman is supposed to be top-secret, sightings leak out from time to time and we’ve gathered that the blue-and-gold streaked Rattlerman has been female in the past. Heft has also been a variable — Current design director and fellow STMU alum Chuck Kerr notes that Rattlerman looked like he was packin’ a herd of bunnies one season. But the most astonishing factor, by far, is the fact that Rattlerman’s a snake that stands upright on two legs. Our only question is, do you have to be a parseltongue to apply?
Best College Sports Team
UTSA Women’s Soccer
By any reckoning, San Antonio is a professional-sports town. With no Division I football program and only modest successes in other sports, college athletics in SA usually get bumped to the back of the local sports section, and earn much less attention from nightly newscasts than high-school gridiron contests.
One positive development in 2006, however, came from the UTSA women’s soccer team. In only their first season, with 10 freshmen in their starting lineup, the Roadrunners were widely expected to occupy the basement of the Southland Conference. To everyone’s amazement, however, the inexperienced squad jelled quickly and posted a 5-1-2 regular-season conference record. That mark was good enough for second place in the SLC and earned a first-round bye in the league tournament. In addition, Roadrunners midfielder Chelsea Zimmerman won SLC Freshmen of the Year honors.
Given this auspicious debut against a formidable schedule, it’ll be intriguing to see what coach Steve Ballard and his team are able to achieve in 2007.
— Gilbert Garcia
Best Sports/Music Connection
Unlike other aspects in his seemingly charmed life — quarterbacking the Spurs in the playoffs, being engaged to Eva Longoria — Tony Parker is in a pretty unenviable position when it comes to his fledgling music career. He’s an easy target for overzealous stateside critics because he’s an aspiring rapper who happens to play professional basketball and flow in French. Whether or not people actually understand his rhymes, they are usually more apt to unfairly criticize him and his music.
Luckily for Parker, he’s doing this for the people back home, at least for now. He’s already reached the music charts in France, and is slated to go supernova there this summer in a tour supporting his debut album. It’s too bad the Spurs haven’t fully embraced the hip-hop influence in their locker room and hired an official DJ, in the same way that the Miami Heat signed on DJ Irie. Stan Kelly would be a lot more bearable if say, Donnie D were backing him up.
— M. Solis