1. I’m Gonna Git You, Soccer
The intense rivalry between the two North American powerhouses of men’s soccer, the United States and Mexico, will be renewed September 10 in Columbus, Ohio, in a crucial qualifying match for next summer’s World Cup. After years of struggle against its more established opponent, the U.S. national team has finally reached parity, even winning at Estadio Azteca, the previously impenetrable Mexico City fortress, last summer. The reversal of fortune has Mexico scrambling to regain its form, raising the stakes of every contest against the Americans. And Texas is the place where the rivalry burns hottest, because we live in contested territory—a place where so many fans have roots in Mexico that both El Tri, as Mexico’s national team is known, and the Americans can claim to be the best-loved team. More than 80,000 fans have shown up each time El Tri has played in Arlington’s new Cowboys stadium.
Fans are not the only prize to be fought over; the two nations also compete for talent. Professional Mexican clubs regularly mine Texas high schools for promising young players, like Longview native Jose Francisco Torres, who was signed at sixteen by Pachuca, a top team from the state of Hidalgo. Decamping to Mexico, however, didn’t take him off the radar of the American national team, which—as is the case with some Olympic teams—is made up of athletes who play professionally. Like many Spanish-speaking players in Texas, Torres has a parent who was born in Mexico, making him eligible to play for the Mexican national team as well. When each nation came calling in 2008, he chose the United States, angering Mexican fans. It was just another skirmish in a never-ending frontier war, proof that when it comes to international soccer, Texas is a swing state. —Nate Blakeslee
2. Chopped and Scrawled
Bun B, a.k.a. Bernard Freeman, has worn many hats—or, more specifically, flat-brimmed baseball caps—over the years: one half of the pioneering Port Arthur rap duo UGK, guest lecturer of religion at Rice University, prolific tweeter, unofficial godfather of the Houston hip-hop scene. Now, with the publication of Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book (Abrams, $12.95), we can add children’s author to the list. That is, if there are parents out there willing to let their children crayon over the black and white portraits of NSFK (Not Safe for Kindergarten) rappers such as Slim Thug, Pimp C, and Gunplay that Texas Monthly contributor Shea Serrano has deftly drawn and conceived for this hands-on volume. “Mommy, what color should Action Bronson’s unlit joint be?”
3. Whatever Happened to George P. Bush?
Early this year, Jeb Bush’s older son was the Texas politician everybody was talking about. With his famous first and last name and his Hispanic background, George P. Bush seemed poised to become our next land commissioner and then move up the ladder. But six months later, Texas is all about a louder, brasher breed of politician. Thanks to Wendy Davis’s stem-winder and Rick Perry’s decision to step down (breaking the longtime logjam in statewide offices), the political scene is on fire. Unlike Davis, Perry, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and the Castro brothers, though, Bush hasn’t inspired any chatter or excitement. Is he missing an opportunity to establish his identity at a time when his future opponents are doing so? Or does he have his eye on a longer game?
“Keeping a low profile is a smart move for George P.,” says Vinny Minchillo, a Dallas Republican strategist who has worked for Mitt Romney and George W. Bush (and has no association with P.’s campaign). “After the election, everyone from Greg Abbott to Todd Staples will be either in office or unemployed, giving George P. the opportunity to be the standard-bearer for a younger generation of Republican politicians. This gives him time to raise money, build a new team, and hone his political chops for the eventual ‘Rally in the Valley’ against a Castro brother. It’s George P.’s state—we’re all just living in it.”
4. Diane Ravitch : Ron Paul :: Day : ______
Diane Ravitch and Ron Paul are both Texans—she was born and raised in Houston; he has lived in Brazoria County for more than four decades—and both of them have books about education reform coming out on September 17. But that’s pretty much all they have in common. Ravitch is a former official in the Department of Education; Paul would like to see the department shut down. Ravitch’s book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (Knopf), is a passionate defense of the nation’s public schools; Paul’s The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System (Grand Central) all but celebrates what he sees as the inevitable demise of government-run education. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the opinions expressed in their books.
5. Million Dollar Character Actress
You’ve seen her face for nearly three decades, though you may have a hard time remembering her name: as the less-than-top-quality prostitute “the Buffalo Heifer” in Lonesome Dove, as Hilary Swank’s money-grubbing mother in Million Dollar Baby, as a key lime pie–addicted cancer patient on Dexter. In these and countless other roles, the Jacksonville, Texas–born Margo Martindale always finds a way to imbue throwaway moments with flashes of mordant wit or unruly emotion—witness her grimly comic turn as the hillbilly crime matriarch Mags Bennett on FX’s Justified, for which she earned an Emmy in 2011. This month, you’ll be seeing Martindale more than ever. On September 22, she’ll compete for another Emmy, for her role as a steely KGB operative on FX’s The Americans. A week later, she’ll turn up in Showtime’s Masters of Sex, about sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson; a few days after that, she’ll appear opposite Will Arnett on CBS’s dysfunctional-family sitcom The Millers. Her biggest triumph, however, is likely to come in the big-screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer-winning play August: Osage County, co-starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (it premieres at this month’s Toronto International Film Festival and opens commercially in December). Martindale plays the needling secret-keeper Mattie Fae, a role that, sight unseen, has industry observers predicting an Oscar nod. It may have taken a while, but Margo Martindale is finally experiencing the ultimate victory of the underappreciated character actor: that moment when she becomes a household name. —Christopher Kelly
6. The Dark Side of The Mood
Ah, concept albums. Austin’s gloomy, verbose indie rockers Okkervil River have made a lot of them, dating back to 2005’s Black Sheep Boy. Yet the group’s most enduring numbers—“Pop Lie,” “Lost Coastlines,” “Plus Ones”—are largely unrelated to their thematic surroundings. Memorable songs are such rare and magical things; why hang even more constraints on them? Still, front man Will Sheff can’t help himself. The Silver Gymnasium (ATO) is all about the tiny town of Meriden, New Hampshire, where he grew up. Sheff is not a lighthearted soul; he seems to feel everything intensely. You get the sense—hell, hearing these songs, you know—that his upbringing was not an easy one. “It Was My Season” and “Where the Spirit Left Us” imaginatively capture the high-wire terrors of young relationships (“Only wary in our lives, open-eyed and half-ashamed”), while the album’s impressive opus, “Down Down the Deep River,” powerfully evokes childhood fears of the unknown. But the bolero-like builds and overwrought finishes of virtually every song grow tiring, and as with a small town, much here feels cloistered and secretive. Unlike, say, Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys, another album focused on a specific region, there aren’t enough universal truths offered to make Sheff’s world really come alive. —Jeff McCord