Every-Thing Sports

A chat with Astros' fans

Jermaine Every

Spring has sprung, and you know what that means. Spring Training is in full bloom. The Grapefruit and Cactus leagues are underway. The Astros have gotten their statements, apologies, pressers, and rebuttals out of the way. So have many other major leaguers, as well as some outside the scope of MLB. I first wrote about them embracing the bad guy role the day they made their apology, then how I felt about their haters a few days later after listening to the fallout. Now, it's time to speak directly to the Astros' fans to clear the air, set a decorum, and a few other items:

They cheated. Time to move on.

I know this may be hard to come to grips with, but they cheated, got caught, and were punished. So what if other teams were doing it too! They were the ones who got made an example of by the commissioner because someone with intimate knowledge of their ways decided to go public (Mike "The Rat" Fiers). Commissioner Rob Manfred had no other option but to punish the organization. While he's undoubtedly trying to minimize any collateral damage this may have caused the sport, you have to understand that he's protecting what little integrity baseball has left. We all know the well-documented history of baseball as a sport overrun with cheating. From steroids, to sign stealing to greenies to scuffing to pine tar to corked bats; it's all been done. They did what they did. Face it. Acknowledge it. Move on.

Dealing with backlash

There have been tons of media members, other MLB players, as well as others outside of the sport with plenty to say. Most of it has not been favorable. Some of it has been downright distasteful if you ask me. But that's what comes with the territory. I have a good friend who's a Patriots' fan. We give him grief all the time. However, he could care less. His attitude is one Astros' fans should adopt: "So what that we cheated! And?!? We still have rings!" People will exercise their free speech and there isn't a damn thing anyone can do about it. Let them talk, but don't get baited into an unnecessary back and forth. Don't let the trolls pull out the worst in you. That's what they want and that's how they feel like they've won. Instead, give them what they're not expecting and lean into the roll of most hated.

Continue your support

This team will face an extraordinary amount of scrutiny, hate, and ugliness. It is now the time to support them even more than before. Don't abandon them now. If you don't like what they did and want to stand on some sort of moral high ground, you should quit watching baseball, maybe sports in general. No one can say they did everything on the up and up every single time in baseball. They may not have done things to the extent the Astros did, but they all used something to gain an advantage. Twitter user @Joshstros has some really cool tee shirts at his teespring store for sale. I opted for the aWo shirt as a nod to my love of pro wrestling will be ordering more. This is like that one relative or friend you have that's going through a tough time that was self-inflicted. Do you abandon them and cut them off? Or do you go all in with your love and support to help them get through that rough patch? If you're a real family member or friend, you show them more love during that time to help them come out a better person.

That pic at the top of this article was a selfie I took in New Orleans. I walked to a parade while visiting family wearing my Astros gear. I got nothing but love from those that approached me. Some were native New Orleanians that have dealt with Bountygate as Saints fans, others were fans of other teams that felt like things were overblown, some weren't fans of any MLB team and thought the Astros were doing what every other team had already been doing but are being made an example of. Either way, I found over 95% of the people I interacted with were very cool about the whole thing. I've got friends who are fans of other MLB teams. They too don't get why this is as big a deal as people are making it out to be. People living in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. MLB should live by that considering they're all guilty of something. Bottom line Astros' fans: stand by your team through thick and thin. You rode the wave in 2017. Continue to ride with them in 2020 and beyond.

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3 reasons Deshaun Watson looks poised to fill Harden's diva shoes

Houston fans haven't had a lot to cheer about lately. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

I'm a fan of sports athlete divas. I don't have to play with them, so it doesn't affect me, and it adds an extra layer of entertainment to the product. And at the end of the day, we're all just in this to be entertained, right?

Some fans, however, don't share that opinion, which is fine. They prefer no distractions. They want their team's stars to resemble something more like superheroes with flawless moral character. The quintessential locker room leader.

Those guys are great, but those guys are boring.

Luckily (for me at least) Houston was--until recently--home to one of the biggest divas in basketball for the past eight years. Rockets fans have had the pleasure of watching James Harden blossom from a humble sixth man of the year recipient just looking to lead a struggling franchise, to the Kardashian-dating, GQ cover modeling, "hunny bun" gifting ($100k cash for the less fluent, surrounded by actual honey buns), after hours club aficionado that we all know and…well…know.

Harden—as is common knowledge at this point—has finally moved on from the Rockets. This would seem to most that Houston is now either diva-devoid or diva-free, depending on your perspective. To that I say, "not so fast."

Filling Harden's shoes won't be easy, but it looks like there's a budding contender already in town looking to take the crown. Head out of the Toyota Center and make a quick drive down 288. There, you'll find a 25-year-old football player throwing touchdowns and raising eyebrows.

For all intents and purposes, Deshaun Watson is a good guy. He's charitable, he's taken a beating behind an abysmal offensive line and never complained. He is, for the most part, the superhero some clamor for.

Yet, there are several key similarities between Harden and Watson that suggest a changing of the guard may be in store. Let's take a look:

1) Undue influence on personnel decisions

In a recent article from ESPN, Tim MacMahon noted just how much pull Harden had over personnel decisions. From Dwight Howard, to Chris Paul, to Russell Westbrook, Harden has pointed his finger, declared "I want that," and watched as the Rockets' front office followed his marching orders. Now it wasn't quite as straightforward as that, but when Watson was asked about players potentially being traded this past deadline, he provided a curiously concrete response:

"Them boys ain't getting traded…[t]hat was something that we squashed."

"Nobody is going anywhere. We're going to stick with this team and keep pushing forward."

Following the deadline, Watson was asked about the fact that wide receiver Will Fuller had been shopped.

"It would've been hell if they did that for sure."

You have to be pretty comfortable with your staying power to throw candid general manager decrees and criticisms like Watson has.

2) Commitment

I don't doubt that Watson leaves it all out on the field, and the stats can back that up. And up until the last few games in a Rockets jersey I would say that Harden, too, gave everything he had. But playing hard and caring aren't always the same thing.

Any pick up game I take part in, I'm going to give 100% of my effort into helping my team win. The difference is that I honestly don't care if my team wins or loses, because we're just playing for fun. When you're a franchise player, though, fans typically prefer that you care, and both superstars have shown through body language or actions that they might not.

Take Harden for example. It was never a good look after losing a playoff series to the San Antonio Spurs in 2017 to be caught at a strip club just a few hours later. Nothing about that suggests that he cared.

Now take Watson, laughing and giggling and smiling game after game during a 4-12 season. Stepping into press conferences with an almost oblivious level of optimism permeating through his responses. It's ok to not take a JJ Watt style approach and look absolutely defeated week in and week out, but it's hardly too much to ask to put on a face for the fans for three hours every Sunday and look a little frustrated over being continuously embarrassed.

3) Immaturity

Whenever I'm in a bad mood or mad about something, I do one of two things. I don't talk to you at all, or I tell you exactly what is wrong. Not so much the case with these two.

Over the past few months, following Harden and Watson's social media has been the equivalent of knowing that you're significant other is mad, but them denying it. When asked, you get the "I'm FINE," response, but then you check their Instagram and there's some picture of a bird flying off with cursive lettering muttering some cryptic message about being held back from seeing how high they can soar. Usually in that situation it just ends up being a fight about eating the other person's leftovers without asking though.

With Harden it was an Instagram post of him holding a bottle cap, leading the sports world to spend DAYS trying to figure out if a grown man unscrewing a bottle was a hint that he wanted to be traded, or that he was just thirsty.

Now it's Watson, tweeting last Friday that "I was on 2 then I took it to 10." Again, no context. He's been caught "liking" tweets and posts suggesting trades to the Jets or the 49ers, but when confronted he denies that it's because he wants to be traded there. It's all childish, and it's pretty lame to be honest. Either be quiet in public, or be as loud as you can. When Harden finally spoke out, he was gone within 24 hours.

Now the difference is that Harden is about six years older and has been in the spotlight much longer than that. Harden is a tried and true, textbook, dyed in the wool diva. Watson's not there yet, but his jet-setting, fashion model-esque Instagram account paired with his recent antics suggest that there may be something brewing.

The question at this stage is whether he'll be in Houston long enough for any of us to find out.

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