Watch him on CultureMap tonight
Astronaut Scott Kelly is looking forward to talking some football Monday night when he goes on Not Your Ordinary Sports Show, the debut show of the new online sports TV network that Houston Texans right tackle Eric Winston's starting. After all, this is a Northern New Jersey native who largely gave up his allegiance to the New York Giants once the Texans came along.
Just imagine how that went over with his Jersey friends. Kelly has some strong, unconventional opinions on football.
But Kelly figures the show will probably also veer into space at some point. Winston has a major interest in the subject (the NFL player once had Kelly phone in from space to his radio show). And Kelly believes there's a lot that needs to be said too, starting with debunking the notion that Houston is no longer in the space business.
"There are a lot of misconceptions out there about where we are as a space program," Kelly tells CultureMap. "There's the misconception that because the space shuttle program ended, everything's done. We still have a flight program. We're still going into space."
It clearly pains Kelly to hear people say that Houston should no longer be dubbed Space City, that the city's title should change with the times now that the space shuttles are retired and Houston was snubbed from even getting one of those. When asked if he's surprised to see an NFL player showing an interest in space exploration, he nearly bristles at the notion that anyone in Houston wouldn't be interested in space.
"Well, he does play for the Houston Texans," Kelly says. "In the birthplace of space flight in America. The first word spoken from the moon was Houston."
(When Apollo 11's Lunar Module touched down on the moon, Neil Armstrong radioed in, "Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.")
Kelly — the 47-year-old twin brother of fellow astronaut Mark Kelly, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' husband — believes the idea that the American public's interest in space has waned is another misconception, one he must fight. "A lot of people are interested in it," he says. "They're just misinformed on what the retirement of the space shuttle fleet really means. They've been led to believe we're done."
NASA is still sending astronauts into space on Russian Soyuzes. Kelly's been on a Soyuz and to him, any ride into space is a good one.
"It's different than the shuttle," he says. "It's a lot smaller than the shuttle. Soyuz is more the classical rocket. It's liquid fueled." Kelly explains the Soyuz ride is much more bumpy than a space shuttle ride, but that he doesn't necessarily prefer one over the other. "It's just a different trip," he says.
There aren't many people in the world who've been on both a space shuttle and a Soyuz. This one just happens to be a football fan. With the emphasis on fan.
"It's different than the shuttle," Kelly says. "It's a lot smaller than the shuttle. Soyuz is more the classical rocket. It's liquid fueled."
"I played Pop Warner," Kelly says. "But I gave up football in middle school, once I realized, I stink at it."
When the Texans first started as a franchise, this converted Houstonian found himself becoming a fan. Which surprised him more than a little.
"I never really got into the Oilers at all," he says. "But something about the Texans, maybe it's being there from the beginning, I was a fan from their first game."
On tonight's Not Your Ordinary Show (which will be shown live in the video module on the front page of CultureMap), Kelly will find himself sitting around a table with an offensive tackle he considers a friend, a former Olympic speed skater (Chad Hedrick) and a PGA Tour veteran whose something of a cult figure for his off-the-cuff appearances on the national Jim Rome Show (Steve Elkington). Not Your Ordinary Sports Show is designed for people to watch as a companion piece to Monday Night Football. The idea is to turn on the game, turn off the sound and pull up the broadcast of Not Your Ordinary Sports Show on a computer or smartphone, and listen to Winston and his high-profile Houston guests as they watch the game and riff on whatever comes to mind.
Kelly is only non-sports guest on the debut show, but that's part of what excites Winston about the show. Hedrick isn't sure the show could work anywhere but Houston.
"If you think about it, Houston is a big city that acts like a small city," Hedrick says. "There's a real sense of community you don't get in a lot of major cities. I don't know that you could get all these different type of guests to come together and watch a football game on TV in another city."
Kelly doesn't plan to go on and defer to the pro athletes. "I've been known to speak my mind," he laughs. Watch out for the astronaut.
For more on Not Your Ordinary Sports Show, you can go to website of Winston's new network dubbed THEBUS (it's pronounced Thee-bis). And remember, you can watch the first show live on CultureMap Monday night at 6. Read CultureMap's exclusive story on what drove Winston to start the network here.