Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

Houston Texans superstar J. J. Watt suited up for a pre-Super-Bowl gig on Saturday Night Live, and not since Hall of Famer Peyton Manning has a pro football player scored as many laughs.

Credit the writers and producers for playing to Watt’s charm, charisma, and physical presence. The chortles started in the opening monologue, a daunting task for even the most seasoned entertainers.

“My name is J.J. Watt and I play defensive end for the Houston Texans,” he began, as if he needed that introduction. “See, the Texans are a football team, football is the sport with the helmets...I’m sorry guys, I didn’t think I’d need to explain that, but the writers backstage seemed super confused.” (Oh, writers.)

He playfully zinged some of his fellow Texans — and himself — with a riff on dumb jocks. “When I found out I was gonna be hosting SNL, I told some of my teammates. And not to fulfill a stereotype, but at least half of them asked me, ‘what day do they tape that?’” Cue audience chuckle.

“I mean, dude,” he continued, “it’s Saturday Night Live — how the hell am I supposed to know? I don’t work there.” Cue bigger audience laugh.

Watt gave some love to his brothers who also play in the NFL. “Our names or J.J., T.J., and for some reason, Derek.” Watt explained that his father was done having kids, but that his mother really wanted to try for a kicker. You know, someone she could dress up, and buy cute clothes for.” That line got an even bigger laugh and applause.

Speaking of dear Mrs. Watt, J.J. imparted a potentially useful parenting tactic for arguing boys. For example: “If we were ever fighting over Super Nintendo, my mom would take the controller, throw it down the basement, turn off the lights, blast Metallica, and say, “whoever brings that back to me gets to play that next.” The audience responded with a laugh, with Watt noting, “that’s not a joke, guys.”

While not every sketch landed (we actually loved when Watt would grin or break character — a charming SNL staple), a sports-themed skit truly stood out.

“Robbie,” the story of an undersized college football hopeful trying to crack the Notre Dame squad — a clear play on the popular football flick Rudy — opens with the team turning in their jerseys and refusing to play unless little Robbie takes the field. One by one, they sacrifice their spots, except for Riley, Watt’s No. 99 character. “You want Robbie to take your spot?” the coach asks Riley.

Slight pause, then Watt’s Riley character rips into a profanity-laced tirade on how pathetic Robbie is as a player. “You guys want Robbie to play in a playoff game? That is bat-sh*t crazy — we’re gonna looooooooose!” Watt nails the incredulous player who scoffs at the goodwill. “I’m sorry, but he’s dog sh*t.”
“You know what, maybe you don’t believe in me, Riley…” Robbie starts. “I definitely don’t,” Riley perfectly interrupts.

The skit even includes a motivational janitor — who gets real with Robbie. Finally, it’s a showdown between Robbie and Riley. You can probably guess how “five-foot-nuthin’” Robbie fares.

Overall, Watt performed admirably in one of the hardest acts in showbiz. We especially loved his recognition of Kobe Bryant — Watt donned a No. 24 Lakers jersey at the close to honor the Lakers star killed in a helicopter crash last week.

So, maybe we’re homers, but we choose to ignore the haters and applaud Watt on his SNL debut. (Some in the media, disagree with our assessment.) After all, the gridiron superstar made no secret where he’d rather have been on Saturday night.

“Would I really trade hosting SNL for the Super Bowl,” he asked in the open. Dramatic pause. “Yes, I definitely would ... if you guys want to call me, I’ll leave right now.”

Photo by Victoria Beauray Sagady

Sports Illustrated punts around possibility of San Antonio scoring an NFL team

On our turf?

Tony Parker's impending retirement is arguably the city's biggest sports news this week, but SI.com, the online platform of Sports Illustrated, is punting around the question of bringing the NFL to San Antonio or Austin.

In a new piece, “Which Cities Would Deserve the Newest NFL Expansion Team?”, writer Albert Breer floats the long-alluded-to idea of bringing an NFL team to Austin, one of the largest U.S. cities without a major-league football franchise. Others were Montreal; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; Oklahoma City; and a few out-of-the-arena-of-possibility candidates, like Anchorage, Alaska.

Breer calls the “San Antonio/Austin metroplex” (metroplex?!) the “best unoccupied market” in the U.S. for NFL expansion. Though he acknowledges San Antonio and Austin aren’t viewed as a combined market, he emphasizes they "are just a few Buc-ee’s stops away from each other" while highlighting the growth happening in joint suburbs like New Braunfels and San Marcos.

In making his case for an NFL team, Breer notes that Austin in particular fits the mold of a football-fanatical place (hello, Longhorns) with the “population, interest, and wealth to support a team.” In addition, he writes, Austin offers the “boomtown business potential” of two U.S. cities that secured expansion teams in 1995 — Charlotte, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida.

Of course, a key consideration for any NFL team is the money scored through TV rights. On its own, Breer wrote, San Antonio ranks as a bigger TV market than four places with NFL franchises — Kansas City, Milwaukee (Green Bay), Cincinnati, and Las Vegas. Combine San Antonio’s TV market with Austin’s, and you eclipse the size of TV markets in the NFL cities of Miami and Denver, he noted. Considering Austin’s meteoric population growth, Breer surmises that the blended markets will only grow larger.

“With that [population growth] has come a tech boom and economic explosion in the region, smack in the middle of the most football-crazy state in America,” Breer writes. “And while Austin brings the cash and growth, San Antonio and its prominent Spanish-speaking community can serve as a gateway for the league into Mexico.”

Breer’s suggested name for the team: the Austin Coyotes. That’s a nod to the 1999 football movie Varsity Blues, which was shot mostly in the Central Texas towns of Coupland, Elgin, and Georgetown. The film centers on a high school football team named the Coyotes in the fictional Texas town of West Canaan.

Breer recognizes the resistance that an Austin-San Antonio team likely would meet from the owners of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, both of which have big fan bases across the state. And let’s not forget that a new stadium would need to be built; the price tag for a project like that easily could top $1 billion.

Now, we’ve heard talk before of NFL teams potentially landing in both San Antonio and Austin — namely the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints. The Raiders are moving to Vegas, the Saints are staying put, and Central/South Texas still lacks an NFL team.

Over the years, a number of prognosticators have fielded Austin, San Antonio, or the "metroplex" as possible players in an NFL expansion, but no formal, sustained efforts have been organized to make that happen. At this point, the NFL has not green-lighted expansion beyond the current lineup of 32 teams.

Back in 2015, a study from American City Business Journals studied San Antonio in terms of the capacity to support an NFL team, as well as an NBA, NHL, and Major League Soccer team. The Alamo City garnered a Major League Soccer score of 100, an NFL score of 96, an NHL score of 92, and a Major League Baseball score of 44. San Antonio, of course, already has an NBA team, the Spurs.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Fine dining chef unpacks nostalgic pop-up concept at Grayson Street bar, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From pop-up concepts to Hill Country getaways and cool local pools, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Fine dining chef unpacks nostalgic pop-up concept at popular Grayson Street bar. The Memorial Day popup was hopefully just the start of a new series the chef hopes to hold monthly.

2. Breathtaking Hill Country hideaway is lone Texas star on Vrbo's top 10 vacation homes in the U.S. The Hill Country Riverfront Hideaway was the only Texas home chosen on Vrbo's list.

3. 7 San Antonio icons star in new Texas Monthly book documenting most influential Texans of last 50 years. To commemorate the publication's 50th anniversary, they've collected stories and photographs of 50 iconic Texans.

4. These 6 San Antonio museums are offering free admission for military families all summer long. The Blue Star Museums program begins yearly on Armed Forces Day in May and ends on Labor Day.

5. Summertime is here in San Antonio — beat the heat at these cool local pools. Mourn the loss of cool weather and beat the heat (in style) at these local pools.

'Little West Side gem" sparkles with summer grand opening


Some bar owners talk about community, but the all-woman trio behind new Prospect Hill spot Chiflada’s mean it. The team says the concept, celebrating its grand opening on June 2, wouldn’t have happened without it.

Family and friends turned out to support the bar months before it was ready for the build-out. They turned out again to help transform a vacant bungalow at 1804 West Martin St. into a comfortable and stylish lounge. When the ice machine went on the fritz during the June 27 soft opening, the bar’s supporters flexed their muscles to ensure the drinks remained cold.

Even the West Side neighborhood gave it a seal of approval. Natasha Riffle, who co-owns Chifladla’s with her mother, policewoman Veronica Riffle, and El Buho owner Melanie Martinez, says the team walked door to door to change the zoning, ensuring residential buy-in.

The result is a bar that is by and for the neighborhood. At the soft opening party, Marigolds swayed in the breeze under a pergola as congratulatory bouquets filled the bar’s shelves. Guests busily chattered as popular deejay Sunnyboy played oldies and conjunto hits.

“It feels like you’re at your abuelita’s backyard and hanging with your family,” Natasha Riffle says of the bar’s vibe.

The drinks honor that spirit, too, toeing the line between the neighborhood’s blue-collar roots and the team’s cocktail-making skills. Featured sippers include a punchy Mexican Martini, a melon Paloma, the Chif Peach, and the mezcal-based Smoke on the Water.
“It’s a place to get a nice cocktail, but also a place to get a beer and shot combo,” Natasha Riffle tells CultureMap about the high-low mix.

Ultimately, Chiflada’s feels like home — the type of place folks let loose after a long day at work, where multiple generations can get in on the party and where bartenders become close friends.

“We all lived [on the West Side] off and on,” says Riffle of the team, “and we’ve all worked with each other over the years. We are more of a family than we are co-workers — 100 percent.”

Chiflada's San Antonio

Photo by Joe Rodriquez

Natasha Riffle beams in front of her newly opened bar.

Contemporary Irish pub sprouts up in new St. Paul's Square home


One of San Antonio’s most storied bars is gearing up for its next chapter. After a brief hiatus, Southtown hot spot Francis Bogside has reopened in St. Paul Square, along with a sister concept — Anne’s.

The bar first opened in 2015 in conjunction with the fine dining eatery Brigid. The pair had barely been in business for a year before an early morning fire ravaged their shared space in 2016. In 2017, the bar reopened on South St. Mary’s Street sans Brigid, becoming one of Alamo City’s favorite haunts.

In July 2022, owner Steve Mahoney announced another change. Francis Bogside was moving out of its longtime home and into a new location. Eventually, internet sleuths figured out that spot would be 1170 E Commerce St #100 in St. Paul’s Square, the former home of Smoke BBQ.

Though in a new location, the basic DNA of the bar is still intact, with a similar layout featuring a large central bar and a jumble of artwork on the walls. The space, however, is a more contemporary interpretation of an Irish pub with a bold mix of upholstery, up-to-date wallcoverings, and mosaic tiles, all enlivening the mostly brick space.

Though Bogside’s signature cocktails have often strayed from theme, a release promised a return to form with sippers like Paddy’s Irish whiskey-based Irish Maid and low ABV Jammy Lass. As usual, the specialty drinks will be supplemented by various classics, including daiquiris and negronis.

Currently, the bar has a limited food menu of pub grub, like focaccia pizza, wings, and loaded potato skins. A more fully developed menu will be rolled out as it prepares for a grand opening later in June.

The media alert did not offer many details about Anne’s, a wine bar now open in the adjoining space, but did tease at an international bottle list. The concept will also have a dedicated food menu, although no details were shared.

Currently in its soft opening phase, Francis Bogside welcomes guests 4 pm-2 am Tuesday through Sunday. Anne’s operates Wednesday through Sunday with the same opening hours.

Francis Bogside San Antonio

Photo by TXTroublemaker

A large central bar is the focal point.