Brianne Hodenfield speaks haltingly, offering only the hint of a smile. “When I was in middle school, I was a Spurs fan,” she says sheepishly.
That’s not such a terrible thing, we think. It’s just one of the stupid things kids do, like light firecrackers in their hands, jump over impossibly large stretches of Greens Bayou … or cheer for the Spurs. Then again, such a past seems to ill become Hodenfield, a 22-year-old marketing major at the University of St. Thomas, who, after all, is better known by her alter ego, Rocketgirl.
For the last five years, she has been one of the most visible members of the Red Rowdies, a Rockets fan group comprised of 50 of the team’s most rabid followers. In fact, they are awarded season tickets based on a tryout in which they prove their rabidity. Not surprisingly, the Rowdies’ voices are among the loudest in the Toyota Center, and so are their outfits.
Hodenfield thinks back to her own tryout, when she was in high school. Lured by the prospect of season tickets, Hodenfield convinced her mother to allow her to skip the SAT for an audition. “I knew I’d be at a disadvantage being so young and a female,” she tells us. “I had to make a statement with my outfit, and that’s how my spacesuit came about.” That is, the signature red head-to-toe painter’s suit she spray-painted red.
“I used to apologize to people because my red chips [of paint] would end up in their beer,” she laughs, explaining that the costume’s next generation utilized a sewn-on shower curtain.
In addition to the suit, Hodenfield possesses a dazzling array of Rockets-themed clothing. She once wore team gear for 61 straight days without repeating herself, a personal apparel challenge. Her closet is filled and her walls adorned with T-shirts, tank tops, jerseys, and ball caps, and the rest of her apartment (walking distance to the Toyota Center, naturally), is literally covered in Rockets memorabilia—everything from blankets to kitchen aprons—although she did admit to a bit of staging for our benefit.
Her most prized possession? A T-shirt from the 1994 championship season signed by every one of the Rockets, which she got for 50 cents at Salvation Army. “Who was the person who got rid of it?” she wonders aloud, incredulous. “Who was the person who washed it?”
As for her future with the Rowdies, “I feel like I watch the game with 50 close friends every single time. Some of them feel like my cousins and my uncles and aunts. I’m gonna be Rowdy Granny by the time I’m through.”
And even as her focus continues to be on the Rockets, Hodenfield insists that she has a circle of friends outside of basketball who know little of her obsession, and that she has aspirations beyond just screaming, chanting, and making signs. Like most other 22-year-olds, she will soon graduate and enter the work force (in the Rockets marketing department, she hopes). In short, she is a normal and well-adjusted young woman. To everyone except her mother, it seems.
“She was convinced I’ll never get married or a guy will get totally turned off when he comes and sees my apartment like this,” says Rocketgirl. “But if he would get turned off by this, he’d probably be turned off by me long before.”
Furthermore, “I’ve been proposed to like 30 times online, Mom!”