Cal McNair, Rick Smith, Bob McNair, Roger Goodell, Mayor Sylvester Turner. (Photo by Shelby Hodge.)
Cal & Hannah McNair with the Houston Texans cheerleaders from an earlier game.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Mayor Sylvester Turner
John & Terrie Havens, Jamey Rootes
Toro, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and friends
Texans owner Janice McNair
The buffet brunch is a popular offering in the owner's suite.
Dr. Charles Neblett, Jan Duncan
Heidi & Sen. Ted Cruz, Mauricio Gutierrez with Challenger
Barbara O'Connell, Clay Walker, Bill O'Connell
Harris County Judge Ed & Gwen Emmett
Identical twins Hannah McNair, Joanna Marks
Margaret Alkek Williams, Joanne King Herring
Vivian McNair, Raelyn McNair, Cal McNair
Brad Marks, Gary Petersen
Clay Walker and a fan
The suite decor combines a sporting sensibility with subtle richness. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Jim Flores, John Havens
Cherie Flores, Jan Duncan, Terri Havens
Sheri & Ralph Martinez
Mayor Sylvester Turner, Mauricio Gutierrez with Challenger
Bountiful floral arrangements fill the owner's suite at NRG. Photo by Shelby Hodge
The McNairs' suite accoutrements include a baby grand piano. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Cookies, ice cream sundaes and cupcakes are part of the dessert menu. Photo by Shelby Hodge
What the Houston Texans could not do on the field Sunday afternoon, the city’s A-listers and political powerhouses, schmoozing in Janice and Bob McNair‘s posh owner’s suite, did. They delivered a winning combination of boundless optimism (not only for the Texans but also for Houston), enthusiasm and energy.
Even as hopes of a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars quickly dissolved, the hosts along with Texans COO Cal McNair and Texans general manager Rick Smith managed to put on a happy face (at least before mid-third quarter) for the VIPS that included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Senator Ted Cruz, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.
The assembly of heavyweights that populate the McNair’s suite for the “white out” season opener is a 15-year tradition fueled by the McNairs’ generous hospitality. Just take a look at Sunday’s retinue welcomed with name tags, Texans pins and on this day “Houston Strong” buttons, a nod to the city’s resilience following Tropical Storm Harvey’s devastating flooding. In addition to the politicos, there were members of the old guard Isla and Tommy Reckling and Bette Linbeck; self-made millionaires Cherie and Jim Flores, Terri and John Havens, and Gary Petersen; medical leadership that included Dr. Jim Willerson, (Texas Heart Institute), Dr. Paul Klotman (Baylor College of Medicine), and neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Neblett; and religious leaders Second Baptist‘s Ed Young and Memorial Drive Presbyterian’s Dave Peterson (retired).
With such an important gathering of influencers, the pressure is on to insure perfection at every level. The McNair team consistently succeeds in this arena. From the lavish brunch buffet including beef tenderloin, to-order omelettes and jalapeno cheese grits to the made-to-order ice cream sundaes and assorted cookies, Aramark excels. Just as does the service team, many of whom have been with the McNairs since the founding of the Texans. This staff surpasses the service in many of the city’s fine restaurants.
Should anyone be interested in the other NFL games playing out on Sunday afternoon, there are ample flat screens spread throughout the clubby suite, which even includes a baby grand piano and lavish floral arrangements. Suite entertainment includes photo opportunities with the darling Texans cheerleaders and on this day with the bald eagle, Challenger, which had just flown across the stadium as suite regular Clay Walker sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
It’s a grand scene that is not lost on guests that on this Sunday included Cal McNair’s wife Hannah, Susan and Fayez Sarofim, Barbara and Bill O’Connell, Heidi Cruz, Mo and Ric Campo, Joanne King Herring and son Robin King, Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel, Darien Ward, Joanna and Brad Marks, Jan Duncan, Gwen and Don Mullins, Bill Miller, and Sheri and Ralph Martinez.
Departing gift on this dismal afternoon (Jaguars 29, Texans 7) were white T-shirts emblazoned with “Houston Strong.” Perhaps we needed T-shirts touting “Houston Texans Strong,” in hopes of a much-needed resilience on the team’s part.