• The success of Bracket Town meant almost as much to the NCAA as the success atReliant Stadium.
    Photo by Bruce Bennett
  • NCAA official Greg Shaheen praised Houston's Final Four efforts.
  • Kemba Walker wasn't the only one who flew high at this Final Four.
    Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When even NCAA officials are making jokes about the lowest-scoring NCAA Championship Game since 1949, you know they had a good time in Houston.

That's what happens in the Final Four wrap-up press conference Tuesday. Greg Shaheen — the highest-ranking NCAA official in the room — opens his portion with a crack about the offensive woes Monday night.

Shaheen notes that if more people had the motor shown by Houston Final Four Local Organizing Committee interim executive director Doug Hall then "we might have had a game last night where both teams scored 60 points."

"You were on overdrive," Shaheen says to Hall.

Yes, there is a whole lot of love in the room when the Houston LOC and the NCAA meet for the last time before this 2011 Final Four becomes part of the record books — and thoughts begin to slowly turn to the 2016 Final Four that will be held in Houston and the 2015 regional at Reliant Stadium before that.

It does not figure to end in 2016 though. Shaheen — the NCAA's interim executive vice president of championships and alliances — tells CutureMap he expects there will be even more Final Fours in Houston in the future.

"I don't see any reason why Houston wouldn't become a regular part of our rotation," Shaheen says.

Shaheen would be the first to say that the NCAA's Basketball Committee will make the final call like usual on future sites, but he says the committee is thrilled with Houston's performance.

"This is what a showcase event should look like," Shaheen says of a Houston event that set the Final Four record for total attendance (145,747 at the two nights of games) and also drew an estimated 140,000 to the Big Dance Concert Series (the concert figure is based on an "approximation" of the number of people who came through Discovery Green during all three concerts that lasted several hours each) and another 49,000 to Bracket Town at the George R. Brown Convention Center. "This is what a national championship should feel like.

"It should be exhausting the next morning and be a seamless effort."

Later Shaheen quips, "UConn is not the only winner here."

Instead, Texas might be the biggest winner of all. For the Lone Star State has emerged as the NCAA's big event darling. Texas will host three Final Fours in a six-year stretch (Houston in 2011 and 2016, Dallas in 2014). And that type of dominance is not expected to end anytime soon either.

"In the modern era, for both the men's and women's championships, I don't know that any state has emerged like Texas," Shaheen says. "And I think you have to include San Antonio (host of the 1998, 2004 and 2008 Final Fours) in that equation as well. There are a lot of things Texas offers the championships that are unique."

Standing off to the side in the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency — which served as the headquarters for the coaches convention during Final Four week, housing all the big names who weren't coaching in the games — Robert Dale Morgan is sure of what makes Houston such a lure.

Morgan, the president and executive director of the 2011 Houston Final Four LOC, held a similar position for Houston's 2004 Super Bowl and many credit his vision with helping the city see its big sports event potential, with a Super Bowl, Major League Baseball All-Star Game, NBA All-Star Game, Major League Soccer All-Star Game and now a Final Four all having been held here since 2004. Not that Morgan wants that recognition.

He chooses to sit in the crowd rather than on the stage at the wrap-up press conference. He probably could have blended in to, wearing a Houston Final Four hat with his suit, if so many people on the stage didn't point him out. Bob Beauchamp, chairman of the Houston Final Four LOC, calls Morgan, "the best in the business."

"Having six million people who care," Morgan says in explaining how Houston's positioned itself as the host city with the most. "Having a dozen Fortune 500 companies. And oh by the way, we have really great weather 300 days out of the year."

Trash Talk Between Friends

Houston hands off the Final Four to New Orleans, next year's host. The transition is a bit of intentional symbolism by the NCAA which wants to recognize how closely the two cities are linked and the Bayou City's role in helping after Hurricane Katrina.

This will be the fifth Final Four that New Orleans has hosted and the city's LOC executive director John Koerner can't help but point out to Houston, the new city in "the rotation," how great every one of the NCAA Championship Games held in the Big Easy has been.

"New Orleans has hosted some of the most memorable finals ever," Koerner says. "We had Michael Jordan's shot, Keith Smart's shot, Chris Webber's infamous timeout and Hakim Warrick's block at the buzzer."

And from its first Final Four, Houston has? Well, a whole lot of clangs — and Butler's record-low 18.8 percent shooting.

Not that anyone in the NCAA is holding it against the Bayou City. The organization credentialed 1,387 media members for this Final Four, loved the visibility brought about by having it in one of the America's biggest cities. Even if you have to wonder how much everyone was into it locally. The TV rating in Houston for the unsightly Butler-UConn national championship game only ranked 30th out of the 56 major media markets.

Shaheen's not dwelling on that. Instead, he's sticking around Houston to take in more of the city without the pressures of the mega event.

"I don't have a flight home," Shaheen says, knowing that Southwest Airlines' grounded jets have made it much harder than usual to land one last minute. "So I'll be staying here two, three, four, five more days. I may be looking to get an apartment and just become a resident."

Shaheen laughs. Who says NCAA suits don't have a sense of humor?

When they are happily in Houston, they sure do.

  • Kemba Walker and UConn got to cut down the nets at Reliant Stadium. But no onewho watched this game felt like dancing.
    Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • UConn 53, Butler 41 brought up visions of black and white basketball — whenscoring was almost considered illegal.
  • Houston still stood tall as a host city.
    Photo by United Services
  • And a freshman named Jeremy Lamb was the best player on the floor.

Houston gets the worst NCAA Championship in history: All clangs & a cheater'swin, but city shines

Beyond the Boxscore

A few streaks of blood are visible on Kemba Walker's white UConn shorts as he sits on a cushioned table in his team's locker room. Walker wears the UConn No. 1 hat that's part of a national championship team's swag, but he looks more like a battered man who's finally found relief rather than an elated, giddy sports hero.

And anyone who watched this game — either in Reliant Stadium or at home — looks and feels even worse.

America had to sit through it — and we didn't even get a hat.

UConn 53, Butler 41. Forty one? Can Houston get a recount?

If this is what a real Cinderella looks like in a national championship game, let's hope that another one never gets there. Let's face it. Houston put on a great Final Four and got a miserable turd of a title game.

It happens. It is nobody's fault. But that doesn't make it any easier to stomach. Or to stare at. This game should have carried a PG-68 rating. For anyone younger than UConn coach Jim Calhoun who watched it is in danger of never tuning into another basketball game again.

One of the greatest, most exhilarating NCAA Tournaments ever sped along delivering thrills at lightning speed ... until it arrived in Houston and crashed off a cliff. How did the Final Four morph into the Big Ten Tournament before Bayou City eyes?

"You can't control the ball when it goes out of your hand," UConn freshman Jeremy Lamb says. "Sometimes it just doesn't drop. Sometimes it doesn't bounce your way. You can't control the ball when it leaves your hand."

Actually, you are supposed to be able to control it. That's why shooting is considered a skill. But forgive Lamb for this touch of nonsense. He just watched his team shoot 34.5 percent in a national championship game and win — going away.

UConn makes only 10 of its 24 shots in the second half, yet it feels like the Huskies are rolling, on top of the world.

"I just knew," Walker says. "I just had the feeling. This game was ours."

It's hard not to feel that way when the other team shoots 22.2 percent in the first half — and then gets worse. Butler goes 6-for-37 in the final 20 minutes of this college basketball season, with a title on the line. George Mikan would be offended by that. UConn recorded the lowest point total for a winning NCAA Championship team since 1949.

No wonder why Bill Walton looks so confused for most of the night at Reliant, with the former UCLA great popping in and out of doors in the stadium's cavernous tunnels. Walton is probably trying to find some real basketball.

They shouldn't have dropped all that red, white and blue confetti from the rafters when it was all over. They should have sent down caffeine pills — to wake everyone up.

No Repeat

Remember how haunted Butler was supposed to be by the tape of last year's so-close 61-59 loss to Duke in the national title game? How the Bulldogs either couldn't bring themselves to watch the tape or couldn't stop watching it, hoping that Gordon Hayward's heave at the buzzer would somehow fall instead?

Well, there will be no such dilemma with this game tape.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has requested it — so it can burn it and insure no one who isn't already scarred ever sees it.

Butler forward Matt Howard would be more than down with that plan. Howard came into this night on one of those magical March runs. He's been making the winning plays, getting a handshake from George Bush, seeing his NBA stock rise and rise.

Then, he shows up on Monday night and shoots 1-for-13. One for 13? Those are John Starks numbers, worthy of that famous horrific Game 7 against the Houston Rockets in the 1994 NBA Finals.

And Howard is a post player, not a guard.

"Hopefully (the NBA scouts) didn't watch too much of tonight's game," Howard deadpans.

Give the kid some credit. At least, he has a sense of humor about it. Matt Howard could qualify as an honorary Houstonian.

For that's what Houston does. It turns clangs into sweetness, unwatchable into "How may I help you?"

The worst NCAA Championship Game in history — yes ever, go on and look right down the list of 73 and just try and top this horror — is hoisted on Houston, but everyone here just tries to make sure all those visitors are having a good time. Houston's nothing if not ever welcoming.

The Saturday night semifinals, while close, weren't great games either. Of course, after Monday night, they look like masterpieces. It's hard to imagine another Final Four this bad on the court. Or this good off it.

For when it's all over — when the NCAA bigwigs have to hand the trophy to a coach they've already suspended for three games next year for a recruiting violations story that's only growing uglier — NCAA president Mark Emmert is still all smiles.

"The entire NCAA is so proud of what Houston's done here," Emmert beams.

Lamb Over Lions

Best case? The Houstonians who attended this game — and Texans are largely responsible for the overall Final Four attendance record set at Reliant (145,797 in the two nights, including another 70,000 Monday) — will get to tell their friends that they saw the game where Jeremy Lamb introduced himself to the basketball world.

It's sacrilegious to compare anything to Michael Jordan hitting that jumper for North Carolina in 1982. But remember no one knew who Jordan was back then either. No one's saying Lamb is going to be Jordan, but his game Monday just feels like the start of something.

The all-long-arms and legs, 18-year-old is the best player in the floor on the biggest stage. Lamb hasn't come close to filling out his 6-foot-5 frame yet, but he already has a 7-foot-4 wingspan. One that left many of the Bulldogs wondering if they hadn't been attacked by a pterodactyl.

"I think Lamb's length surprised us a little," Butler coach Brad Stevens says. "You can see it on tape, but it's not the same as seeing it live. He makes up so much ground."

Just when Butler thinks it has an open look or an open lane, Lamb bursts in, flicking away a shot, bothering a good handful more, stepping in from nowhere to make the biggest steal of the game.

Calhoun screams at Lamb for playing "timid" in a scoreless first half (for Lamb, not both teams — it only seemed like that). So the freshmen runs off 12 points in the second half, adds seven rebounds and one spooked team for good measure. Particularly shaken is Butler star guard Shelvin Mack. The Bulldogs' best player ends up missing 11 of his 15 shots.

"It's my length man." Lamb laughs. "It just gets to people. Guys think I'm too far away to contest their shot ... Well, I can contest it. I can get there."

Houston got there for this Final Four too. In every way that counts.

But when it comes back around in 2016? Hey, we're owed some good games.

  • Butler and UConn battled for the national championship at Reliant Stadium.
    Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
  • Kemba Walker missed his first five shots in the national championship game.
  • Butler coach Brad Stevens had his team believing — and fighting.

UConn shows NBA-level talent, not dreams, wins national titles

Power Play

In the end, it's about talent. It's not about power conference or mid-major, giant or Cinderella, Goliath or David.

It's how many upper level NBA prospects are on your roster. UConn coach Jim Calhoun counted on this all along, knew he didn't just have a Kemba, but a young Lamb as well. Not to mention the type of big-man depth that Butler simply cannot counter.

So Houston's Final Four ends with UConn overpowering Butler 53-41 in an anti-climatic national championship game. An NCAA Tournament that featured 20 games that were decided by three points or less — or in overtime — turned into a second-half UConn talent overpowering.

With the Huskies' sure NBA star Kemba Walker (16 points, nine rebounds) getting plenty of help from UConn's next one, freshman Jeremy Lamb, and a big man who could earn his own pro time, the Final Four turned into a talent lesson rather than a feel-good tale.

On a night when Walker struggled with his shot (5 for 19), the 6-foot-5, long, lean Lamb scored all 12 of his points in the second half and Alex Oriakhi (11 points) helped control the inside.

Butler (28-10) had enough heart. It simply didn't have enough high-level talent. It's one certain NBA player — guard Shelvin Mack — shot 4-for-15. Its other star — forward Matt Howard, the guy who got the handshake with George Bush at the NCAA Salute on Thursday night — missed 12 of his 13 shots.

Butler shot 18 percent as a team. Eighteen percent. The lowest in NCAA title game history.

It played out in front of 70,376 at Reliant Stadium (about 5,000 less than Saturday night's Final Four record crowd), with George and Barbara Bush back in attendance cheering for Butler, with LeAnn Rimes singing the national anthem, with Bill Walton, one of the greatest college basketball players ever, wandering around the tunnels of the stadium.

A big-time night. On a big-time stage. For a big-time champion.

"It's so special," said Calhoun, who became the oldest coach (68) to ever win the NCAA championship. "These group of kids have given me the type of year that every coach should have at least once."

UConn's fabulous freshman Lamb — who emerged late in the season as Walker's most reliable sidekick — scored nine points in the first eight minutes of the second half after putting up a zero in the first 20 minutes. UConn coach Jim Calhoun likes to call Lamb "The Next". As in when Walker leaves for the NBA after this season, Lamb will be UConn's next great player.

On this night, Lamb would go about making Butler wait until next year. Again.

Butler resisted labels like underdog, Cinderella, little team and even mid-major all year. Instead, Brad Stevens' bunch wanted to be thought of as a team on a mission, one determined to take the next step after losing in the national championship game to Duke in 2010.

No matter how few people believed the Bulldogs could do it.

"It's all about unfinished business," Butler guard Shawn Vanzant said before the game.

UConn's been taking care of business all March. The Huskies (32-9) won five straight Big East tournament games to capture the title for what was supposed to be the toughest conference in the land. Then, they won five straight games in the NCAA Tournament to get to this night.

Their 11th straight win overall meant Calhoun has three national championships and everyone was wearing UConn No. 1 hats.

Butler threatened to streak right to a national championship. The Bulldogs had not lost since Feb. 3 — 14 straight wins heading into Monday night — but this was a streak filled with more close, clutch pull-outs than dominance.

And Brad Stevens' team couldn't match UConn's power on the night it mattered most.

The mammoth Reliant crowd clearly wanted to see another Butler win — and a little mid-major history. When Butler guard Chase Stigall hit Butler's first shot — a 3-pointer from the wing — the football stadium seemed louder than it had ever been in Saturday night's semifinals.

Walker missed his first five shots of the night. Both teams looked tight and tense on the national championship stage. Four minutes into the game, the score stood at 6-4.

With so much on the line, an artistic game wasn't in the picture. This would be a scrape and crawl for the trophy — above all, a fight.

Butler started 3 for 17 from the field (a pitiful 17.3 percent clip). UConn wasn't all that much better, but all that talk about Butler being the more experienced team on this national championship stage, about the Bulldogs carrying the power of last March's so-close title loss to Duke making a difference, seemed to be going up in clangs.

Then, Stigall pulled up and hit a 26-foot triple. Then, Shelvin Mack buried another 3-pointer in transition. But the biggest shot of the first half came when Mack hit another long three at the buzzer, putting the underdogs on a mission up by three points at the break.

Who needs pretty when you're winning?

But Butler soon found out that everyone needs talent.

  • It's the Final Four of Jim Nantz's life. Because he's back in Houston callingit.
  • Nantz is certain that if Shelvin Mack and Butler topple UConn, it qualifies asthe greatest upset of all time.
  • People keep telling Nantz how nice everyone in Houston is.
    Photo by United Services

It's the Final Four of Jim Nantz's life: Puts Butler's story above 1985Villanova; feels Houston's done itself proud

Beyond the Boxscore

CBS puts its employees up at a plush hotel during Final Four week where everything is taken care of for them. Free meals are offered in a ballroom, around the clock. Courtesy cars stand at the ready to take them wherever they want to go in Houston — whenever.

It's a sweet setup. And it's even better if you're part of "the talent."

Still, Jim Nantz turned down the CBS hotel for the first time in his career this week. The voice of the network traded in the killer suite waiting for him for a somewhat cramped, old bedroom in the Royal Oaks subdivision.

"Not River Oaks," Nantz quickly points out. "Royal Oaks."

It's in this quiet community, amongst all the trappings of his childhood, with his mother down the hall, that Jim Nantz prepared for Monday night's national championship game.

"All my old pennants are there on the walls," Nantz says. "My posters from when I was a kid. I'm lying there amongst all these artifacts of my childhood while getting ready to call a Final Four. It's a great reminder of the dream. That's where it all started with a dream."

Others may see faults with the Final Four Houston ended up with — lament the absence of more traditional powers or a crossover Jimmer Fredette star — but not Nantz. This is his dream Final Four. Because it's in Houston. Because it's showing off the city he loves most, the one that caused his beloved late dad to take a questionable career gamble just to get his family there.

"The most frequent comment I've received is, 'I didn't know people in Houston were this nice,' " Nantz says. "Everyone's truly made the visitors feel welcome."

In a Final Four without a single basketball player from Texas, Nantz has emerged, in many ways, as the Houston conscience of the event. He is the one who can bring the feel of the city home to the millions of people across the country watching Monday night's Butler-UConn showdown.

In many ways, he's the most prominent Houstonian on the mega stage.

But Nantz, who lives in Connecticut now, an easy drive from CBS' New York headquarters, re-immersed himself in his Houston first. He blew off the network hotel, and all the boys will be boys hanging out of a sports broadcast crew.

"I just thought to myself, 'When am I ever going to have a chance to do this again?' " Nantz tells CultureMap from his center court broadcast position, hours before any game. "When I ever going to have a chance to sleep in my old childhood room and go broadcast an event like this? When am I going to be able to wake up and go have breakfast cooked by my mom before calling one of the biggest sporting events in the world?

"It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I'm on the road all the time. When I have a chance to be home, I really want to be home. It's hard for me to describe just how special this Final Four is for me."

Nantz comes across as hokey (OK, more than hokey) at times. Until you spend some time around him. Then, you realize, it's truly not an act. This 51-year-old multi-millionaire really does still somehow possess an almost kid's wonder about the games.

There's no one in the world more excited to see if Butler can knock off UConn than Jim Nantz. I've interviewed dozens of broadcasters, have come across dozens more at parties (some of my best friends work at sports networks) and I've never ran into anyone else like Nantz.

The guy isn't selling anything. He just believes — in the power of a story, in the good of the audience. It's probably his greatest gift — even more than the booming voice his dad gave him. It's why so many slightly cynical sportswriters cannot get into his broadcasts and why so many regular folks adore them.

Nantz could convince a group of Botswana bushmen that UConn-Bulter is the most important thing in the world based on the power of his own belief.

The Storylines

Seasoned college basketball observers might not regard Butler as a true underdog, but Nantz thinks that's too shortsighted of a view. He will play up Butler's Cinderella cred to a national audience, knowing that many of those viewers will be watching one of their first college basketball games of the season.

Small school (enrollment of less than 4,500) from a small conference (Horizon League) — a school from Indiana, the home of Hoosiers no less — gets its chance at One Shining Moment.

"Now you're thinking like me," Nantz says. "It's all about the storylines. I can make a case on Monday night, that if Butler should win it, it's the greatest upset story in the history of the NCAA Tournament. Think about it. With all due respect to Rollie Massimino and Villanova (which shocked a powerhouse, Patrick-Ewing-led Georgetown team in the 1985 championship game as an eighth seed), Villanova is from the Big East. I loved Rollie and that Villanova story, but it's not the same as this Butler team.

"And North Carolina State in 1983 (which shocked Phi Jama Slama on Lorenzo Charles' dunk of an air ball a the buzzer), that team had a number of pros on it. It played in the ACC. This Butler team is a whole different deal. It's not the same Butler team that made the Final Four last year. I picked them to make the Final Four last year. No one picked Butler this year. I can turn to that camera and state the case to America that this is the greatest upset story we've ever seen in college basketball."

First Nantz gathered all his relatives in Houston for a Friday night family dinner — 21 people strong, relatives only. Another big event first for the man who will go straight from Monday night to the Masters. (CBS golf analyst Nick Faldo is here too and the two men will board a jet for Augusta together).

"It's such a thrill to have everyone together like that," Nantz says. "It's just grabbing a moment that, again, I may never get a chance at again."

Nantz smiles. Whoever gets the One Shining Moment Monday night, one thing is certain. When he is back sleeping amongst all those pennants on the wall from now on, he'll be reliving the call from the Final Four of his life.

  • Ali Fedotowsky hit St. Arnold's Brewery and the Kings of Leon concert atDiscovery Green on her Houston trip.
  • The Houston skyline is reflected in Ludacris' shades.
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
  • Christian Laettner, Ludacris and Bill Walton (not pictured) were also on hand atThe Big Dance
    Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
  • Surprising no one, Kentucky fan Ashley Judd cheered at Reliant from the frontrow of the student section.

From Bachelorette Ali to Ashley Judd to Arli$$, celebrity sightings are a FinalFour weekend fixture

Celeb Spotting

Basketball, golf, music — this weekend brought a national spotlight to Houston. So it's no surprise that a smattering of celebrities found their way here as well — and we don't just mean Rob Kardashian.

As expected, Kentucky alum Ashley Judd found her way to the front row of the student section for the Kentucky-UConn game Saturday night, but she managed to keep the rest of her movements off the radar.

Houston alum and star of Arli$$ Robert Wuhl recorded his radio show from Houston on Friday and dined at Reef before catching the basketball games on Saturday.

Among the plethora of basketball stars, Christian Laettner and Bill Walton showed up onstage at Discovery Green on Saturday, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and "a shirtless Dennis Rodman" were spotted at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

Former NBA star and current tournament commentator Charles Barkley had a leisurely dinner at Ibiza with a group of his former neighbors in Sugar Land in between his basketball duties, and Rockets and Phi Slama Jama great Clyde Drexler was spotted dining at RDG + Bar Annie on Thursday.

Hip-hop star Drake was spotted at the game Saturday supporting Kentucky, and he apparently crashed at Hotel ZaZa, as did Bill Walton and the band Plain White Tees (who tweeted that wherever they went in Houston they ran into Big Dance performers Panic! At The Disco).

Rapper and actor Ludacris made an unannounced cameo onstage at Discovery Green on Saturday before Kings of Leon performed while former BacheloretteAli Fedotowski and her winning bachelor Roberto Martinez watched the band from the park with the rest of the plebes.

Ali also tweeted about a dinner at a Houston brewery — we're assuming she means Saint Arnold's — and on Sunday Fedotowski added, "Roberto and I are having so much fun with friends in Houston, I don't want to fly home today."

  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
  • Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com

Giant crowd and original moments make Kenny Chesney's Big Dance concert finalespecial

Downtown showcase

Three days ago I wrote that, in addition to the fans of the Final Four teams, the big winners of this weekend's The Big Dance concert series were live music fans. After watching downtown transformed by the estimated 35,000 who took in country all-star Kenny Chesney's performance at Discovery Green Sunday night, I'd like to expand that winner's bracket.

The entire city of Houston has come out looking like champs.

Following two amazing days of concerts highlighted by ska-rockers Sublime with Rome and alt-rock royalty Kings of Leon, Chesney finished off the series with a 90-minute performance that was loose, lively, and imbued with a spring break party spirit. Fans of Kentucky and Virginia Commonwealth who remained in town after Final Four losses on Saturday regained their high spirits while fans of Connecticut and Butler were starting to up the energy for Monday's championship game.

And all around them were Houstonians basking in the glow of a new downtown Houston in which top-notch entertainment in a family-friendly metropolitan common green space can exist on a spring Sunday night.

Chesney took to a stage built on property that, a decade ago, was a string of parking lots near a wasteland for the homeless and a meeting place for drug dealers. On Sunday he played to a concert crowd of families that freely walked with baby strollers and kids playing Pop-A-Shot. Couples ate fried chicken lollipops from Max's Wine Dive booth and drinks flowed for blocks.

Underneath the watchful eye of the downtown Hilton and gleaming new office and residential towers, Chesney hosted a party that stretched for the length of a football in front of him and he didn't waste the opportunity. Opening with his most recent single, "Live A Little," from his most recent album, Hemingway's Whiskey, the beach-combing cowboy ran through a set of 16 songs going back 15 years into his career, along with a few surprises.

After a year off from touring Chesney looks well rested and a ready to entertain. Traditional two-steps like "Living In Fast Forward" were mixed with south of the border party anthems like "Summertime" and "Beer In Mexico."

Like many new country artists Chesney likes to flirt with the line between country and something resembling rock. "Big Star" has an electric guitar intro worthy of Kid Rock while "I Go Back" borrows the rhyming of "Chevy" and "Levee" that Don McLean made iconic 40 years ago in "American Pie."

And when he turns on the pooka shell beach bum charm on party favorites like, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems," visions of Jimmy Buffet are hard not to conjure.

But Chesney's performance featured just as many orignal moments, including an off-the-cuff duet of David Allan Coe's, "You Never Even Call Me By My Name," with guest Uncle Kracker that clearly wasn't rehearsed and more endearing as a result.

He left the crowd with nostalgic football anthem "Boys of Fall," but on this night it was spring and March Madness that fueled a downtown Houston celebration that, not so long ago, would have been hard to imagine.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston Hot Girl Megan Thee Stallion seizes the awkward with mental health campaign

hot take

We all know Megan Thee Stallion is the baddest you-know-what of them all. She can share the stage with a fellow Houston queen (and still get choked up about it), make an ex-porn star quote her lyrics on social media, and even play a cartoon version of herself on a Netflix show.

But America’s favorite Hot Girl Coach also wants you and your friends to take care of each other mentally.

She recently joined the Seize the Awkward campaign to encourage young adults to reach out to their “strong” friends in a new PSA. In the video, Megan gets real about the pressures to be strong and the importance of peer-to-peer support. “No matter who you are,” she says in the video, “being vulnerable is what makes us whole.”

Seize the Awkward is a national campaign (first launched in 2018) that encourages young adults to start the conversation with friends about mental health. The campaign was developed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and The Jed Foundation in collaboration with the Ad Council.

With 76 percent of young adults turning to a peer for support in a time of crisis, how can more young adults join Megan and Seize the Awkward to get the conversation started?.

As Megan says in the PSA, you can visit SeizeTheAwkward.org and Megan’s website BadBitchesHaveBadDaysToo.com for more resources to check in on a friend. You can also follow @SeizeTheAwkward on Instagram.

Score free Shake Shack for one day only at juicy collab with charming Rice Village jeweler


Popular ear piercing barStuds made a name for itself by offering a customized piercing experience for those who aged out of places like Claire's but wanted an alternative to a tattoo parlor for piercings. With 19 locations nationwide, Studs offers a wide assortment of earrings that range from classic shapes, to huggies, flatbacks, and dangling charms.

Studs has once again added to their earring selection with their latest collaboration with Shake Shack. They created an adorably beefy earring to add to any burger lover's Earscape.

Studs and Shake Shack created a limited-edition Burger huggie earring and Earscape set. Photo by Studs

Retailing for $32, the limited edition Shake Shack burger huggie comes as a 14K gold-plated hoop with a loaded hamburger charm. Shoppers can opt for the $64 pair, but Studs is also currently offering a discount on the Shake Shack x Studs set. For $78, earring enthusiasts can get the two Shake Shack burger huggies, the 14K-gold Smiley Stud and the 14K-gold Micro CZ Stud.

What's even better than cute earrings? Free Shake Shack! On Thursday, September 28th customers can enjoy free bites from Shake Shack while they shop the new Shake Shack Charm Huggie collection at Stud's Rice Village location.

For $78, earring enthusiasts can get the two Shake Shack burger huggies, the 14K-gold Smiley Stud and the 14K-gold Micro CZ Stud.Photo by Studs

Shake Shack is known for their always made-to-order fare including ShackBurger, crinkle-cut fries, hand-spun shakes and their new Veggie Burger and non-dairy offerings.

Interested shoppers can RSVP here.

Studs Rice Village, 2567 Amherst St.; (832) 981-2869. RSVP here.

Pink-powered Barbie merch truck cruises into Houston on 'Dreamhouse Living Tour'

This Barbie Sells Merch

Hot on the heels — or wheels — of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck comes another timely pink rolling shop for two Saturdays in October.

The Barbie Truck will stop in Friendswood and The Woodlands on its 2023 "Dreamhouse Living Tour," which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Barbie's ever more popular property, and will give visitors a chance to spice up their own homes.

Although this is all about the house, there are only a few homewares: things like coasters, glass tumblers, a glass mug, a throw blanket, and an "accessories cup." Visiting Barbies have more opportunities to take home wearable and on-the-go items like graphic tees, hoodies, and denim; a baseball cap; embroidered patches; and keychains.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living TourIt's a Barbie world in Houston.Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Most people who have been awake and on social media in the past year have learned that Barbie's Dreamhouse has a more empowering history than many girls realized while orchestrating drama between the dolls.

A release announcing the arrival of the truck reminds fans (and detractors) that when the Dreamhouse came out, only a tenth of a percent of young women were independent homeowners, and states that someone buys a Dreamhouse every minute.

This year's Barbie truck tour should be in very high demand following the success of the 2023 movie.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Dreamhouse aside, this is a dream ride.

The Barbie Truck will be in Friendswood on Saturday, October 21st, from 10 am to 7 pm at Baybrook Mall at the lawn near Gloria's. Arrive early in case of long lines.

The truck will then cruise to The Woodlands on Saturday, October 28th at The Woodlands Mall near Shake Shack from 10 am to 7 pm.

These Barbies will hit five other Texas cities on the tour:

  • September 30 – San Antonio
  • October 7 — Austin
  • October 14 — Laredo
  • November 4 — Plano (Dallas)
  • November 11 — Fort Worth

Follow along to see more stops on Instagram or Facebook.