Our owner/editor Jose Romero recently spent 12 days in San Antonio, Texas, where he began his new job (another one!) as a reporter for the new Alliance of American Football and the Arizona Hotshots franchise.
I just spent 12 days in San Antonio and learned a lot about the town.
Some things I sort of already knew, some things I thought I knew but discovered otherwise. I spent some time with a couple of locals, one being my cousin and the other a guy who could be the King of South Texas with everyone and everything he knows.
So here goes.
San Antonio is the seventh-largest metropolitan area in America, with a population of more than 1.5 million. No way would I ever have guessed that. Much bigger than I imagined.
San Antonio is the heart of Tejano music. You can hear it on the radio daily, there are venues that regularly feature live Tejano and if you ever come to town for the annual Fiesta San Antonio city celebration, you can see Tejano bands and singers for free in many places.
San Antonians love, LOVE their Spurs. When Tony Parker, who won four NBA championships with the Spurs, returned to the AT&T Center on a new team for the first time on Jan. 14, I was there. And Parker, now a Charlotte Hornet, was welcomed with open arms. The team played a tribute video on the overhead scoreboard and he basked in the chants of “Tony! Tony!” before tipoff and in the final seconds, when he was put back into the game. The Spurs lost that night to a sub-.500 Charlotte team, but everyone was glad to see Parker.
There’s more. Coach Gregg Popovich is adored. New arrival Demar DeRozan, who came in the trade for former star Kawhi Leonard, has become a fan favorite. And Leonard, who wanted out of town after last season, was roundly booed when his new team, the Toronto Raptors, played in San Antonio earlier this month. The other guy in the trade, Danny Green, was cheered.
In a large display area near an entrance to the arena, the Spurs’ five NBA championship trophies sit. They’ve won it all five times since the 1998-99 season. What fan in a title-starved market wouldn’t take that? Spurs fans are incredibly fortunate.
San Antonio has a hockey team, the Rampage. They’re the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. The team colors are silver, black and white, just like the Spurs, and the mascot is a steer named T-Bone.
San Antonio is home to a minor-league baseball team, the Missions, and a second-division soccer club, San Antonio FC. Both have nice stadiums to call home.
The Missions were known as the “Flying Chanclas” for some games last season.
San Antonio is a big football town. Shocker, right? It is Texas. But the Cowboys rule, and the new Commanders of the Alliance of American Football hope to capitalize on the sport’s popularity in town when they open their inaugural season in February at the Alamodome.
Speaking of the dome, it was built to lure an NFL team to the city. None ever came, although the New Orleans Saints did play some home games there in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Superdome.
San Antonio is labeled Military City, USA. There is a giant Air Force base on the outskirts of town, Lackland, and an Army base, Fort Sam Houston, on the other side of town. Military personnel are everywhere throughout town and are honored at sporting events.
Lastly, San Antonio isn’t too far from Austin, Houston and College Station, where higher-profile college football is played. But the city does have the Division I Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners, and also at the University of the Incarnate Word.
The Alamo Bowl is played there annually.
I found the city to be a solid sports town, with my only criticism being that there is no downtown arena as in Phoenix or Portland or many other NBA towns. The Spurs play a couple of miles out of the downtown core in a lower-economic area on the east side, with not much around in terms of restaurants and bars and such.