Have you ever been to Gumption? It’s a very special place, a place where common sense and uncommon sense intertwine with a trait we most often today call “street smarts” and a condition we’ve always known as genius. And what is a true “genius”? In Gumption terms, it’s the elite group or singular source in any social community that both holds a vision for what is needed – and also the attention of those that he, she, or they need behind them for the sake of getting things done.
If you are old enough to ever have passed through the gates of the Astrodome for an Astros, Oilers, Cougars, or Gamblers football game, the big 1968 UH-UCLA basketball game, an appearance by Elvis at the rodeo, an appearance by you as a Republican at that party’s 1992 National Convention, or just somebody who showed up at one of those Monster Truck Demolition Derbies they sometimes held there, then, realize it or not, you have been to Gumption.
Judge Roy Hofheinz was the genius behind the gumption-mix of the Astrodome. Common sense told him that Houston needed a venue that protected the people from our ferocious summer weather and that, without which, Houston would go wanting for major league baseball or football. The Judge also saw with uncommon sense that modern architecture and air conditioning technology could make such a functional domed stadium possible. He also had the political street smarts to know that he had to have the political and financial support of the Greater Houston power structure behind him to succeed.
He saw those things. And he did what he had to do to line up everyone that he needed for a successful operation of the larger-than-everyday-life plan for a facility that would only hatch as “The Harris County Domed Stadium” before it quickly found christening as “The Astrodome – Eighth Wonder of the World”.
Judge Roy Hofheinz was a true genius. He brought about the creation of an architectural landmark that is still, and always will be, the first of its kind – even if the abundant forces of people in our midst with no sniffing hint of gumption take over and mindlessly tear down his once proud work of art and science.
Genius is not to be confused with perfection. Grinders and extremely wealthy individuals may sometimes achieve a perfection of form by making sure they only do safe things on the way to success. Bob McNair, for example, is no genius. It took a genius to see the domed stadium importance in the late 1950s. It didn’t take a genius in the late 1990s to see that Houston wanted the NFL back. McNair saw it and he was rich and well organized enough to leverage his buying credit up to nearly one billion dollars for the sake of returning the NFL to Houston. More power to him.
As some are now proposing, however, McNair may be getting pretty good at grabbing expensive freebies from Harris County, like that dazzling new scoreboard, in exchange for the crack-cocaine-like lure of its importance to either attracting a Super Bowl – or helping the Texans reach a Super Bowl.
Could it be that McNair is now also wishing: “Gee, I sure wish you kind-hearted County People would tear down that ugly old barn standing out there to the east of my place. We could use the extra parking space.”
Bottom Line: I like what Bob McNair has done for Houston with the Texans, but I think the County needs to find the line on how many other freebie perks shall continue going back to McNair and the Texans from the public coffers without a transparent decision-making process for deciding what they shall and shall not be. I also do not trust Mr. McNair to give a twit about the importance of preserving the Astrodome as a world class icon and artifact in the history of architecture.