Solomon: Stallions bring football, wins back to Houston – Houston Chronicle
With NFL owners and players spending tens of millions on a court case basically to help settle a dispute over how to split $9 billion, the status of the Texans' 2011 season remains uncertain.
The Houston Stallions, a professional indoor football team, had a simpler pecuniary concern entering their inaugural season.
A couple of days before their first scheduled game in the Southern Indoor Football League, the Stallions were faced with possibly having to play the game naked.
OK, that's an exaggeration — and I am sure illegal in Texas — but due to unstable ownership, the team's uniforms were ordered but not paid for. Worse yet, a few days before the expansion franchise's season opener at TSU's H&PE Arena, the contract between the team and the university couldn't be finalized, and the Stallions had nowhere to host the game.
This was not exactly the best way to jump-start a professional football franchise.
But in stepped Joe Kramer, a co-owner of league franchises in Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley, to foot the bill for the uniforms and cover the costs of moving the first game to Corpus.
A couple weeks later, Kramer, still waiting for reimbursement for that initial outlay, assumed ownership of the team. The Stallions, who host the Abilene Ruff Riders on Sunday night at the Merrill Center in Katy, haven't looked back.
Actually, they have looked good. Very good.
Coach Gerald Dockery's squad was hardly fazed by the ownership situation and won that first game 52-20.
"You could tell coach Dockery had done a remarkable job keeping everything together through all the chaos of bad ownership," Kramer said.
Dockery has taken a team that wasn't sure it would play to the top of the league standings.
At 7-0, the Stallions have already clinched the Southwest Division title in the 16-team league, which has squads spread from Abilene to Trenton, N.J.
The Stallions and the Albany (Pa.) Panthers are the only teams without a loss.
"We're almost a team that didn't happen," said Dockery, a Houston native and former star receiver at Eastern New Mexico who spent time on the roster with Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia on the 1995 Grey Cup finalist in Calgary. "When you're almost a team that never was, you can come together or fall apart."
The Stallions lead the league in total offense and average 66 points a game while allowing just 35.5 with a league-best turnover margin of plus-14.
Robert Kent, a former quarterback at Jackson State, leads the Stallions' high-powered offense. He is tops in the SIFL in passing efficiency, thanks in part to a ridiculous 35-4 touchdown-interception ratio.
The 6-5 Kent, who left the SWAC as the conference's No. 3 all-time leading passer behind legends Steve McNair and Willie Totten, was the football double for The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) in The Game Plan. Kent spent time with the Tennessee Titans before being released at the end of the 2004 preseason.
Kent's top targets are former Arena Football League star Timon Marshall and former Yates wideout Kenyada Tatum, who are in the top five in the league in all-purpose yards.
Where else in Houston can you see an exciting, first-place professional team? Did I mention most of the arena is general admission, with tickets priced at only $10?
"The worst seat at Merrill Center would be one of the most expensive seats at a Texans game," Kramer said. "It is up close and personal. You have a good number of seats that are right on the boards, almost on the field.
"You can literally reach out and touch somebody. You feel the emotions, you hear the game, the smashing of the pads, the grunting … it's all right there in front of you."
Fans are also welcome to mingle with players and coaches on the field after games.
Crazy George, the unofficial Oilers mascot and perhaps the most famous football fan in the city's history, is on hand for all games, and he will pump up the home crowd at Sunday's game against Abilene.
No contract disputes, no salary-cap issues, no billionaire owner and millionaire players, just a family atmosphere of fun football at an affordable price.
"I think Houston will be our best market," said Kramer, who works in the environmental business and spent much of the past year doing cleanup from the BP oil spill.
And the Stallions win, too. How can you beat that?
"I'm trying to put a championship here. That's why I coach," Dockery said. "People want to see good football, and that's what we deliver."


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