Houston Sports: From national afterthought to most hated
Sports fans everywhere have their hang-ups. Some are insufferable, some are idiots, some get violent. Others are dumb, humble...you get the point. Remember when Houston sports fans would be upset over lack of national media attention? They would whine and cry that they weren't get any respect or enough love or too little coverage. It wasn't that the national media had a biased against Houston sports, they simply weren't as interesting.
That all changed when the Astros won the 2017 World Series. They were a homegrown, fun-loving bunch of guys that played with swag. Deshaun Watson was in the midst of his rookie season with the Texans and was taking the league by storm. The Rockets had the NBA's best record at 65-17 behind league MVP James Harden and were a "hamstring away" from defeating the Warriors and going to the Finals. From those highs to now, what and where did it go wrong?
The Astros Cheated
This was low hanging fruit. The Astros had a reputation around MLB for being off-putting, specifically Jeff Luhnow and the environment in his front office. Sure, people may not like Alex Bregman's act, but you can't deny his talent. Jose Altuve and George Springer have awesome stories of overcoming obstacles. But when Mike "el soplón" Fiers decided to break an unwritten rule, it all went to hell in a hand basket. The commissioner asked teams to stop stealing signs and the Astros refused. It was stated in his report that their failure to comply was the impetus for their punishment. Now, the floodgates have opened and the hate is flowing freely. It's all deserved given what they did, but some is over the top and emotionally driven.
Harden And Morey Aren't Likeable Guys
Daryl Morey is very good at what he does. He's one of the top general managers in the NBA. James Harden is very good at what he does. He's one of the best players in the NBA. They've been a pair since Morey traded for Harden in 2012 and haven't won anything but some individual awards. This despite having paired Harden with Dwight Howard first, then Chris Paul. When those experiments failed, Morey made a move for one of Harden's childhood friends and fellow former MVP Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is another guy who's not very likeable. Whether it's his antics on the court or his handling of the media, he seems to fit right in. Now that "small ball" is in full effect, the national media is trying to find a way to poop on it, but are getting turned away because of the Rockets' play as of late.
Bill O'Brien Is A Powerful Dumbass
Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Bill O'Brien is a prime example. The Texans were in a good spot. They drafted Watson and he brought them some credibility, as well as fulfilled their franchise quarterback role. However, O'Brien has managed to turn this team into a laughingstock. He's assumed so much power and control as GM and head coach, that the only people capable of firing him is one of the McNairs and they're the ones who've given him this much power! It's utterly ridiculous! After the playoff loss to the Chiefs, the national media finally picked up on the stench the local media has been smelling for years. Now, O'Brien and the Texans are facing the scrutiny nationally they've faced locally and it's well earned. He's turned this organization into a punchline.
Where does Houston go from here?
The only thing Houston can do from here is to lean into the bad guy role. I wrote about this concerning the Astros a few weeks ago. Looking at how the Rockets and Texans have been talked about nationally, it's time for them to embrace it as well. Harden shot back at Giannis Antetokounmpo when he threw shade his way. It was refreshing to see some fight out of him instead of the usual safe answers. Too bad the Texans don't have that in them. They need to start winning and winning big before they can talk big. As far as the fans are concerned: support your teams, wear their gear, but beware. The Texans won't give you any ammo in which to defend them with because they have an affinity for being mediocre. The Astros were caught cheating so there's not a whole lot you can do to defend them. The Rockets haven't been to or won a title since OJ was found not guilty. Look at the bright side Houston. You still have the Roughnecks.