MONEY TALKS

Defying all logic, Houston Texans continue making out like bandits

The Texans are still raking the money in. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Let’s just say that 2021 wasn’t the best of years for the Houston Texans.

Their All-Pro star quarterback was sued by 24 female massage therapists who alleged sexual misconduct and sexual assault. The team was accused of helping the quarterback in his questionable behavior and settled with 30 different women involved in the case.

The Texans put the quarterback in timeout and didn’t allow him to play a single down all year.

The Texans finished 4-13 and fired their coach after only one season.

The Texans were named in a lawsuit charging the NFL with racial discrimination and wound up hiring a coach who wasn’t even a finalist in their initial search.

The team owner is perceived as a low-IQ hayseed and sports talk hosts have nicknames for him like Floyd the Barber, Hee Haw and Jethro.

The team’s executive vice-president of football operations and resident Svengali has a reputation one step below a snake oil salesman at Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show in an empty field just outside the city limits.

NRG Stadium was a mausoleum last season with sidewalk scalpers selling tickets for pennies on the hundreds of dollars.

The team was outscored by 172 points, their worst point differential in team history.

In recent years, the team released their biggest and most beloved star ever, J.J. Watt, and traded their star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a pack of stale Twizzlers.

This year, the Texans will be paying three head coaches: current coach Lovie Smith, their old coach David Culley and their old-old coach Bill O’Brien.

The future doesn’t require sunglasses. Las Vegas has published early odds for all 17 Texans games in 2022. They are underdogs in every game posted, including Week 17 when the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars visit NRG Stadium.

So far, the most positive news coming out of training camp is the Texans will wear a new red helmet for one whole game this season, Nov. 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Keep staring at the shiny watch, Texans fans, you’re getting sleepy, very sleepy.

The Texans couldn’t have had a worse couple of years if Jerry Jones had sent a mole down to Houston to muck up the Texans franchise.

Things have gone so lousy for the Texans lately that even the old Enron accountants couldn’t save the bottom line, right?

You would be wrong.

The Houston Texans are a printing press for money. The Texans are valued at $4.63 billion with a big fat “B.” That’s 21 percent more than the $3.84 they were valued at in 2021 and 38 percent more than the $3.34 billion in 2020.

Can you imagine what the Texans would be worth if they had respected ownership and weren’t paying off women accusing the team of aiding a player accused of sexual misconduct, or part of a lawsuit charging racial discrimination, or played in the Super Bowl (never), made the AFC championship game (never) and actually won more games than they lost (139-182 since their inception 21 years ago)?

Each year, Sportico publishes a list of NFL team values. The Texans are No. 11 at $4.63. It’s a pretty well-to-do fraternity, with the average NFL franchise worth $4.14 billion. While the Texans are underperforming on the field, they’re over performing on their balance sheet.

The No. 1 most valuable NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys, worth upwards of $7.64 billion. That’s $630 million ahead of the No. 2 richest team in the world, the New York Yankees.

The second most-valued NFL team is the current Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams at $5.91 billion. The bargain basement NFL team is the Cincinnati Bengals, worth “only” $2.84 billion.

Sixteen NFL teams are worth more than $4 billion. The NBA and MLB have only seven teams combined valued at more than $4 billion.

The richest NBA team, despite what you see in the league standings, is the New York Knicks, around the $6 billion mark, slightly ahead of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers. The richest soccer teams are Barcelona and Real Madrid, both in the $5 billion range.

Meanwhile, as Wendy Williams asks, how you doin’, Texans fan? You might not want to look at your 401k statement. Wall Street just reported its worst first half of a year since 1970.

The S&P 500 is down 20 percent this year. NASDAQ is down 30 percent. The Dow Jones is down 15 percent. The current inflation rate is 9.1 percent. If you’re not in the market and choose to sock away your money at the bank, you’re getting about 1.5 percent interest. Food and gas price are up, rents are up, home loan interest rates are up, tuition is up. You’re losing money by saving money.

You can’t win, and neither can the Houston Texans, on the field anyway. The only difference is, the Texans are raking in money like there’s no tomorrow, which starts Sept. 11 at home against Indianapolis. The Colts are 8-point favorites.

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Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

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