ONE OF A KIND

Here are 5 reasons that Houston sports will never see an epic stretch like this again

Photos by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

You know, there's no need to curb your enthusiasm, this season of COVID-19 could turn out pretty, pretty, pretty good for sports fans, especially in Houston, where all three of our major pro teams could make deep playoff runs (don't let me down, Texans).

We won't be able to attend games in person, but between July 23 opening day of baseball and February 7 Super Bowl of football, there will be so many games on TV, in the words of Clark Griswold, we'll need plastic surgery to remove our smiles. With the perfect storm of baseball, basketball and football in full swing at once, there will be double, triple, quadruple and quintuple-headers on TV. Rocket Mortgage may have to open a division just for cable bills.

1. A 60-game baseball season

For years critics have said the baseball season is too long – 162 games is too many. Early games in April, May and June don't seem important. This year there'll be only 60 games, and they're not starting until late July, when baseball usually gets serious. If you crunch the numbers, each game will be 2-2/3 times more important than the "old normal." Note to MLB: I watched a couple of summer training games this week – the humdrum buzzing of pre-recorded, non-existent crowd noise in the background is annoying and very stupid. We can see there are no fans in the TV shot.

2. Rockets have already clinched a spot in the playoffs in July

Basketball should be long over, but now the NBA will play eight "seeding games" to complete the regular season and head straight to the playoffs. The Rockets already have a playoff spot clinched, no worries there. There will be tons of NBA on cable.

3. No meaningless Texans pre-season games

The NFL is planning to start and complete its season on time. It looks like teams may not play those boring, meaningless and worthless pre-season games. Well, worthless unless you're a season-ticket holder and the NFL makes you pay for those exhibition games. Especially in the case of Game 4 where you have as much chance of playing as J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson.

4. The viewing experience will remain strong despite no fans in the stands

We don't know how performing in front of empty seats will affect the players, but it won't be much different for ordinary fans. Pro sports are made-for-TV. Baseball tickets are still reasonably priced. Football tickets are still in the ballpark, but the games are sold out. Rockets tickets are crazy expensive, except for a couple of sections next to the drum-banging Red Rowdies. We're fine watching at home. Houston announcers are excellent.

In a related stock tip: since COVID-19 has closed many restaurants' dining rooms, we've grown accustomed to cooking at home. And by cooking at home, I mean drive-through lanes, take-out and delivery. Domino's stock is $391 a share – up 33 percent so far this year, and it's not even football season. I watched one of those "business week in review" shows last week. The host said "Cheetos and Lay's potato chip sales are booming."

"COVID 15?" I'll take the over. Good thing you were smart this time and didn't throw out your old "fat clothes."

5. You will be able to watch NBA, MLB, and NFL games on any given night

Let's take October: on any given day, we'll get to pick from several baseball playoff games, same with the NBA. Every NFL game is a big deal. We could get 10 games on Sunday. Not to mention college football and basketball and that game played on ice that Charlie Pallilo can't stop yapping about.

Realistically, every sport is skating on thin ice this year. A couple of coughs and a few 102-degree fevers could shut down a team faster than the fire marshal telling a strip club "no, you're not a restaurant, tell Destiny and Cinnamon to get dressed and go home."

It looks like the NBA is a go, the protective bubble in Orlando is working. The league tested 384 players and personnel for coronavirus this week with no positives. Baseball and football are not operating in a bubble, however. Players will come and go and live somewhat normal lives. They've been told to knock off risky behavior.

Fans will see things they've never seen, like batters hitting home runs while wearing Jesse James face masks. A 79-year-old, diminutive doctor will throw out the first pitch instead of the president in Washington and get a record-breaking standing ovation. Basketball players will arrive at arenas already dressed in their uniforms instead of those outfits Russell Westbrook wears and return to their hotels sweaty and un-showered. Note to James Harden: there are no 4 a.m. VIP rooms at Disney World.

We will survive this zany season of sports on TV without fans in the stands. The Blue Jays will wear "Toronto" on their jerseys, even though they're not allowed to step foot in Canada. The Astros will play only the American and National League West teams, so lots of late-night games on TV in Houston. One bonus: there'll be nobody to do the wave in Minute Maid Park.

According to an ESPN poll, 64 percent of fans appreciate sports now more than pre-COVID outbreak, and 78 percent of "avid sports fans" really, really miss sports. It's time to play ball. Is the pizza here yet?

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
It's all systems go for the Houston Texans! Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images.

It was 2002 and the city of Houston was rewarded with the NFL's 32nd franchise. I remember the newspaper special section with all the info points on the new team. There was even a full page graphic explaining how the grass plates were constructed. (Side Note: We should've known right then and there it was going to be disastrous!) There was a level of excitement unseen since the Rockets won a title, I'd assume. People were wearing “32, Houston” jerseys. There was more Battle Red, Deep Steel Blue, and Liberty White around town than a Fourth of July day parade.

The next time the city was excited about Texans football involved the Gary Kubiak days of making the playoffs. After that, Bill O'Brien hung a few division title banners as well. That's when the lull came. It all came crashing down, swiftly and mightily. The death of Bob McNair may have played a part in things deteriorating so quickly. Whether blame is placed here or there, changes needed to be made. Cal McNair was seen as incompetent. In comes Nick Caserio. He had a mess to clean up. The last two seasons were awful, but necessary. After back-to-back one-and-done coaches, Caserio has hired his guy.

Enter DeMeco Ryans. The former Texans great linebacker was the 49ers defensive coordinator the past two seasons. He took over a great defense and kept it going. From the moment he stepped on campus at Alabama, he commanded a different level of respect. Not only was he good, but he was a leader. Nicknamed “Cap” because he was a captain on and off the field. That followed him to Houston. His presence was felt everywhere he went. It was known before his career ended that he'd most likely be a coach one day.

This moment in time right now is giving 2002, Kubiak playoffs, and O'Brien playoff vibes but amplified. Why? Because one of this franchise's own has come home. Ryans was the most desired candidate this coaching cycle. Sean Payton may have had the bigger name, but Ryans was the one the Broncos tried to go back after, then settled on Payton. Teams he turned down had to move along and find other candidates to fill their vacancies. HE CHOSE HOUSTON! Nothing like feeling desired and being chosen!

I believe DeMeco will turn this franchise around and make them a contender. It's very rare that you have a star athlete turned sought after coach and NOBODY has a bad word to say about him! Social media has turned things into a 12-hour news cycle. Yet you've NEVER heard or seen DeMeco involved in any foolishness. He's been a model citizen, while also maintaining a high level of play and now coaching. When people respect you for your football acumen AND your character, that says a lot. Whoever said nice guys finish last obviously hasn't met DeMeco.

Armed with some cap space, draft capital, a capable GM, and ownership seeking a fresh start, DeMeco is set up to succeed. It's up to him, and Caserio, to finish what was started two years ago. Currently, the house on Kirby has a few more improvements to make. Some paint, redoing the floors, new landscaping, and new furniture. The kitchens and bathrooms are done. It needs the final touch. DeMeco is that final touch.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome