CHARLIE PALLILO

Don't look now, but the Texans and O'Brien are in the mix for big things

Deshaun Watson has helped Bill O'Brien and the Texans. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Aside from the passing of founder and owner Bob McNair, the good times have just kept on rolling for the Texans. They should make it nine wins in a row Sunday, though Cleveland is no longer the gimme it has been for years.

Provided the Texans handle their business, Sunday’s next most significant outcome is Minnesota at New England. In a couple of weeks the Patriots play at Pittsburgh. It’s unlikely the Pats lose both, but not impossible. If they lose both the Texans have a tremendous shot at securing a playoff bye as a top two finisher in the AFC. The Steelers already have three losses and a tie (and a chance to lose to the Chargers Sunday). The Steelers have a probable loss at New Orleans yet to come. If the Texans finish 12-4 they are a near certainty to finish as at least the number three AFC seed.

So how does Bill O’Brien, NFL Coach of the Year candidate strike you? Back in preseason, certainly in mid-September, it would have struck you as ridiculous and/or hilarious. If the vote were today O’Brien would probably finish behind Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy. The Bears were 5-11 last season, Nagy has them 8-3 in his first season on the job. O’Brien last season captained the titanic Texans to 4-12. Add this season’s 0-3 start to that, and the fat contact extension he was gifted in the offseason looked even more absurd. This should have been a “prove it” season for O’Brien, his fifth in the gig. He is proving it.

O’Brien has always been a commanding personality, sometimes to the point of Billy Bluster mode. Results are results so he must be given his due. The most critical component of O’Brien becoming a better coach was the drafting of Deshaun Watson, but so what? Even with the Texans’ powder puff schedule and some big breaks going their way, eight straight wins shouldn’t be scoffed away.

Have the Texans evolved into a powerhouse team? There is no strong evidence saying yes. But they are positioning themselves to get a real shot at proving themselves bonafide contenders and perhaps legit upper echelon They could also wind up exposed as the beneficiaries of their easy schedule. If that turns out to be the case, at least they’ll be better positioned going forward than at any prior point in franchise history.

The not so good

Then, there are the Rockets.

Heading into the weekend here’s the full list of teams the Rockets are ahead of in the Western Conference: Phoenix.  

If the Rockets Friday night lose to the (10-11) Spurs for the second time this season, that would be loss number 12 already. The Rockets’ 12th loss last season didn’t happen until January 15th. All they need to match last season’s 65 win brilliance is a 56-6 finish! Snowballs have much better chances in hell.

As the Mavericks beat the tar out of the Rockets Wednesday night, about all Rockets’ backers had to fall back on was, well, Chris Paul was out. Last season when Paul, James Harden, Clint Capela all played the Rockets went an amazing 44-3. This season’s Rockets have already lost three games when their version of a Big 3 all played. Paul missing a chunk of the schedule is par for the course. No reason to think he’ll get more durable in his mid-30s. That Mike D’Antoni had Paul averaging his most minutes per game in four years was not smart, but you can grasp D’Antoni’s dilemma given the punchline of a bench Daryl Morey has him coaching. The Rocket bench is abominably bad. Over his decade-plus on the job Daryl Morey has been a very good General Manager, but this past offseason he was Dismal Daryl. From Carmelo Anthony on down the line.

Saturday night the Rockets are home Saturday for the bumbling Bulls. That is an extremely unenticing matchup. Owner Tilman Fertitta sure won’t be there. Much more excitement at the University of Houston as the Cougars host Oregon in the grand opening game of the Fertitta Center. The Cougars will never be a big deal citywide, but to grow their niche a sparkling 7100 seat arena with Kelvin Sampson coaching a good team gives UH as good a shot as it can ask.

Oregon’s leading scorer is 7’2” freshman Bol Bol. Yes, Bol Bol. Son of the late 7’7” Manute.  

Still waiting

It’s been mostly quiet on the baseball free agency front. The winter meetings should accelerate things when they open in Las Vegas a week from Sunday.

Buzzer Beaters

1. How ‘bout them Cowboys? The Rams say thanks.  2. Don’t know that Texas can score enough points to beat Oklahoma a second time, but UT plus the points is the sensible pick. 3. One addition, one addition only for the Astros among the rumored available: Bronze-Goldschmidt  Silver-Realmuto Gold-Kluber

 

Cheerleaders are supposed to be hot. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In this age of safe spaces and emotional support animals I understand the plight of the modern day cheerleader and power dancer. They shouldn't have to hear hurtful words.

Longtime Texans cheerleader director Alto Gary was accused of calling her cheerleaders crack whores and porn stars when they wore too much makeup. This week a MIlwaukee Bucks cheerleader said she was locked in a dark closet and had to endure jiggle tests and fat grabbing.

These methods are probably unnecessary. Are they lawsuit worthy? That's for smarter people to decide. The Bucks did settle a suit for $250,000 because they underpaid their cheerleaders. That's something I can get behind. But that's arguable as well.

Exactly what are we looking for in our cheerleaders as 2018 comes to a close?

There are two main priorities in the cheer game: looks and dance-ability. We've gotten away from the gymnastics aspect. In high school competition it's still important but in the pro game we've gone to more synchronized dancing.

What we haven't gotten away from is how important it is to look good. As politically incorrect as that might be, it isn't going away anytime soon, maybe ever. We want our cheerleaders to look good. Sorry. Call me a neanderthal. Political correctness will never overcome a guy's pentiant to look at pretty girls. It just won't.

What we have here is the issue of how the cheerleaders are being treated and paid. Are the hurtful words necessary? No. But guess what. Stuff happens when livelihoods are on the line. You know what coaches call their players when they gain weight and get out of shape? You don't want to know. It's ugly. Body shaming? You bet. Happens every day in locker rooms all across the country at every level.

Some coaches are just mean and will pick at any inadequacy. Others use it as a motivational tactic. Who wants to be shamed publicly? No one but if I stay in shape I won't catch the coach's wrath so I stay in shape.

Let me make this perfectly clear though. I am anti-eating disorder. I like a little meat on the bones. That cheerleaders have to be Victoria Secret models is a thing of the past. Nothing wrong with some muffin tops in my book. I would be a great cheerleader director. After practice we'd order a few pizzas.

I'd be the only one who would do that but OK. Maybe I would change the game. Probably not but maybe.

As far as the inferior pay goes, I'm not sure that will change anytime soon. I don't want to be mean but let's be real. Cheerleaders are part of the game. They are not the game. Unless you are extremely perverted (and there are much better ways to get your perv on) the only people that are there just for the cheerleaders are their family and boyfriends/husbands.

The players are the product and they're expensive. Periphery attractions have to be affordable or the business plan doesn't work. Cheerleaders can and should make more than the miserly owners have been paying them but they're never going to get rich cheering. They're just not.

My cousin was a Honey Bear back in the day. She didn't make squat but she loved what she did and no one can ever take that away from her. There's a certain pride that goes along with it, not only for her but for the whole family. My cousin was hot enough to be a Bear's cheerleader. None of my friends had family that hot. I lauded that over them.

Let's not relent to political correctness on this. We just can't. Should directors lock cheerleaders in closets? Grab their fat? Wrap them in cellophane? Probably not. Should they at least make minimum wage and maybe more? Sure.

But we can't lower our hotness standards. They have to be smokin' hot and dance well.

I want my mechanic to know engines and fix my problem. I want my doctor to diagnose and cure my ills. I want my pilot to take off and land without incident and I want my cheerleaders and/or power dancers to be hot and dance well. That's the job. Period.

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