Unrequited Love in Houston, or, “Hello”
I’m excited to join the SpreeGoogs team and wade through the murky waters of nostalgia, commentary and fantasy. But first, my introduction: as a native Houstonian, I’m forced to relive the ’90s whenever I want to think of sports as an uplifting experience. And it’s through that lens that I’ll tell my story.
The biggest reason I allow myself to become emotionally involved in sports is that I’m a homer. I would cheer for the Houston Police Officers’ Charity Bowling Team and heckle anybody who came into our lanes with a different city’s name stitched across their chests. When I watch my teams, I allow myself to slip into idealism and believe, however foolishly, that they’re playing for Houston and not just their next paycheck. And, of course, that homerism can cloud my judgment.
Houston isn’t among the most miserable sports cities, but is one of the more inconsequential. And that hurts. Our best run of success came in the 1990s: discredit the Rockets’ two championships all you want, but no other team stepped into The Void and Michael Jordan really did play in the 1995 Eastern Conference playoffs; the Astros closed the Astrodome with division crowns and even had Randy Johnson suit up for a few games; Vernon Maxwell waved a .38 in a Luby’s parking lot during an argument and we loved him for it. However, basking in that brief period of warmth means ignoring the painful subplots within.
The Rockets never got the chance to play Jordan’s Bulls in Finals. They made two distinct, last-ditch moves to raise another championship banner, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Astros made it a habit to play the omnipresent Atlanta Braves every year in the playoffs and respectfully bow out. Oh, and we didn’t even have a football team.
There have been some blips on the radar since then: I allowed myself to believe that Tracy McGrady had a heart, Yao Ming had a leg and Roger Clemens had a brain. Most Houstonians even took David Carr seriously for a while. But, as it stands, the Rockets haven’t made a Western Conference Final in 14 years, the Tampa Bay Rays have won more World Series games than the Astros and the Texans are currently hoping that T.J. Yates doesn’t get injured because his new back-up was throwing rocks at cattle two weeks ago to stay limber.
I’m here because I love sports. It’s easy to complain about your hometown team, but hard to stick with them through all of the bad times. Really, it’s fun to complain about Luis Scola’s game – as if I could pivot that much without getting nauseous – and Kevin Martin’s defensive liabilities. Yet, so long as Mario Elie’s Kiss of Death makes Suns’ fans cringe and the Astrodome barely stands, I’ll be living in the 1990s and writing in the 2010s.