The past week has been busy; I had a lot of things that I needed to get done during my short time here, both at work and at home. The week was also made eventful by the fact that, after just over a year of self-imposed exile in Northern Virginia and New Jersey, my brother-in-law Danny decided to move back to Houston. He enjoyed his time away, but the job opportunities he originally sought never materialized and he didn't really like being so far away from the rest of his family. He returned to town a week ago yesterday, and is currently staying at our house. He's not ready to look for a place of his own just yet, and Lori's beginning to make noises about kicking me out of the upstairs storage and computer room and letting Danny live there on a more-or-less permanent basis. That's fine by me if they can find a place to put all the stuff that is up there (I never did manage to clean or completely organize that room, after all).
Anyway, a few quick thoughts before I depart:
• I know this is week-old news, but I just wanted to add my name to the long list of people who are grateful that Continental Airlines decided not to merge with another carrier. After Northwest and Delta announced plans to merge last month, I thought that the hometown airline's merger with United was a done deal. Fortunately, Continental executives wisely realized that airline mergers rarely work out well and decided to go it alone for the time being. As an opponent of a merger involving Continental, I'm relieved.
The fact that Continental realized that bigger doesn't mean better and decided to spurn United's marriage proposal doesn't mean that the airline will stand pat, however, especially considering the tremendous pressure facing the commercial airline industry today. One such option Continental seems to be exploring is ending its membership in the SkyTeam alliance and creating a new alliance with American and British Airways. By remaining a stand-alone carrier, Continental also puts itself in a better position to cherry-pick routes and services that will inevitably be shed by merged carriers as they attempt to streamline their operations. But even then, Continental faces obstacles as oil prices continue to rise and the economy remains weak. As the Chronicle's Loren Steffy observes:
Alliances aside, Continental emerges from the merger fray as the industry's leader, not in size but in operating prowess. It's leveraging its strengths rather than seeking refuge in its deficiencies, and it's done a service to its employees and passengers. As a result, it's positioned to capitalize on the failings of its rivals.
None of which ensures its success. After all, Continental is still an airline, and in Airlineland, winning can be worse than losing.
• Another year, another early exit for the Rockets. For the second year in a row, the Rockets were bounced out of the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Utah Jazz, who defeated the local team in six games.
Never mind the fact that the Rockets were playing without star center Yao Ming and with injuries to other key players like Rafer Alston. Never mind that the Rockets did not match up well with the Jazz and were not generally expected to win this series (the fact that the Rockets had home-court advantage aside). Never mind the fact that the Rockets managed to make the series, which had all the makings of a sweep, into a respectable six-game affair. All that people are going to remember is this: that the Rockets failed to translate their impressive 22-game regular season winning streak into success in the postseason, that the Rockets have not made it past the first round of the NBA playoffs since 1997, and that Tracy McGrady is still a failure as far as his post-season record is concerned.
Yeah, it's unfair to McGrady - he's not the only player on the team, after all, and he didn't get a lot of help in Game 6 even though he scored 40 points - but, as Richard Justice notes, the fact that he is now 0-for-7 in postseason series is how the national sports media will continue to define him.
After starting the season slowly while adjusting to new coach Rick Adelman's schemes, the Rockets caught lightning in a bottle and went on a 22-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history. In the process, they created a level of buzz and excitement that hasn't surrounded the team since their back-to-back championship run in the mid-1990s. But the good times didn't last. The things that the Rockets generally did well during that streak - rebounding, ball control, success at the free-throw line and stifling defense - were generally not the things that they did well in their series against Utah. That, along with injuries, spelled disaster for the Rockets, and left long-suffering Houston sports fans with yet another disappointing taste in their mouths.
• Surprise, surprise: the powers that control college football's Bowl Championship Series have decided against implementing a playoff. A "plus-one" proposal advanced by the Southeast Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference was rejected by BCS officals, thereby ensuring that the existing five-game, ten-team BCS setup design to determine major college football's national champion will remain in place until at least 2014.
Of course, I could have told you that this was going to happen when the idea was unveiled shortly after the BCS National Championship Game at the beginning of the year: in the college football world, there's simply too much power and influence opposed to the implementation of any sort of a playoff. And as such, college football will be stuck with the controversial BCS system for at least the next seven seasons, and probably longer.
That's all I've got for now. Back to the desert I go...