Falcon Points

Houston's national sports identity: Liars, cheats and hypocrites

My friends are degenerates
But I'd never change them
Liars, cheats, and hypocrites
Not the type for saving

- A Day To Remember

If you listen to the Blitz, that is the second hour intro. And if you have been paying attention to Houston sports this week, you know it has been filled with liars, cheats and hypocrites. Many have said it was the worst 24 hours in Houston sports history. From a national attention standpoint, it might be the best, because finally the rest of the nation has noticed the sports scene here.

For years, Houston sports fan has chafed that their teams don't get enough attention from the national media.

They are getting plenty of attention now. Congrats, Houston, this is what your sports teams are known for after one of the most bizarre weeks in Houston sports history.

The liars

University of Houston quarterback D'Eriq King made the odd decision to red shirt after four games, with the presumption he would return in 2020. He constantly repeated that he would be back. On Tuesday night, clearly hoping to avoid the spotlight, he announced during the national championship game his intent to transfer.

He insisted he was staying several times, despite rumors that turned out to be true that he never had any intention of returning. It was a bad look for coach Dana Holgorsen, who banked his 2020 season on King, and a worse look for King, who could have just said "as of now, I am planning on staying." Instead he was intentionally misleading.

And the national media noticed. Even though it happened during the championship game, the story made the front page of ESPN.com, and it mentioned all the times King said he was staying. It was a subtle way of highlighting the lies.

It was a bad look for everyone, and closed out a rough day for Houston sports fan.

The earlier news, of course, was The Big Lie.

The cheats

Well, that's easy. The Astros were hit with a loss of draft picks, a fine, and year-long suspensions for their manager and GM.

Shortly thereafter, owner Jim Crane fired GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. Major league baseball's discoveries were damning.

There is no doubt the Astros cheated. It's hard to believe that everyone in the organization did not know. But the statement exonerated Crane. We can debate if the punishment was enough, but lost in all of it was that it was a "player-driven" scheme. MLB chose not to punish the players, presumably since there is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement to allow it. Regardless, it leaves a lot of questions. Which players? All of them? Just the stars?

Make no mistake, this has been a major national story from the beginning. It dominated talk and headlines on Monday, even in the wake of NFL playoffs and the college championship. The national opinion? The Astros are cheaters and should have been punished more. If you are a fan, you likely don't care. Or you blame the whistleblower. But the nation has a different opinion. If the team struggles in 2020, you can bet the narrative will be that they can't win without cheating. This one isn't going away. But the controversy let someone else off the hook...

The hypocrites

Rest assured, no one was happier to see the Astros announcements than Bill O'Brien, whose epic, historic collapse in Kansas City was swept to the back pages. His inane comments that "we are headed in the right direction" went without being called out. His poor decisions went unnoticed. His inability to look at his organization and recognize change is needed was lost.

We have been saying that in Houston for years. But after his flaws were exposed to a national audience, finally the rest of the world realizes he is in over his head. Several national outlets said he should be fired.

O'Brien said again he won't hire a GM. He said that defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is expected to return next year despite two years of terrible defense. His complete power over the organization makes it clear meaningful change is not coming. We get that O'Brien is not going anywhere, but his stubborn reliance on yes men and cronies and refusal to bring in a legitimate offensive coordinator or replace Crennel means there is no hope for the franchise to take the next step. Sometimes you need new voices. O'Brien's just gets louder and louder and drowns out everyone else's.

Since he became coach, the other three teams in the AFC South have made the AFC Championship Game. The Texans are the only team to fail to do that. Yet they are going in the right direction, according to O'Brien.

What does it all mean? 

The city's teams are finally getting national run. Whether or not it is for good reasons in immaterial. Houston is in the national spotlight. If you are a fan, all you can do is embrace the liars, cheats and hypocrites, and roll with it. And wait for the Rockets to find a way to make news.

The reality is this has been going on for decades. Baseball in particular is a sport that welcomes cheating. Athletes and teams have been lying to you for years. Speaking of hypocrites, if you ripped the Patriots but defend the Astros? The bottom line is fans love to turn a blind eye. And that's just fine. But pretending this isn't a reality is naive.

As fans, you want to believe you are rooting for good people. You wear their jerseys. But the reality is when that much money is on the line, people are going to do whatever they can outside the rules. Maybe it is overly cynical, but the truth is most of them grew up in a culture of cheating and taking short cuts and trying not to get caught. Should we act surprised when they do? Bad people exist in all walks of life. Money attracts more of them.

There is a LOT of money in sports.

And to think it is just Houston is silly. Players like Cody Bellinger saying the Dodgers did things the "right way" might want to hold off. More will come out, and you look even worse when you say stuff like that and your team is the next one.

That leaves Houston fans to just embrace and accept reality. And before you say, "this is harsh and unfair..." is there anything in here that is not true?

Oh, and enjoy the 2017 World Series, because at this rate, that is all you will be able to hang your hat on.

But at least the national media notices you now.

Getty Images

The Houston sports fan has long lamented that their teams do not get enough love from the national media. In the past year, however, local teams and athletes have been in the news. The good news? The national media has taken notice. It might be for all the wrong reasons, but the city is now on the national map, giving the hot take artists and talking heads no shortage of ammo. Not everyone has become hated; the Roughnecks aren't old enough, and the Dynamo have not won enough recently. Kelvin Sampson has been a good story with UH basketball and has built a nice program, so that one is a positive. But let's look at the ones who have made headlines in the wrong ways:

5) Bill O'Brien

Texans Bill O'Brien Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

O'Brien has had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with the Houston media for some time. The national media always questioned why he was so disliked. Then in a short span he yelled at a customer, blew a 24-0 lead in a playoff game, and the national sharks went into a frenzy. His weird play calling, clock management and general small man's syndrome has been the bane of Houston for years. The national media got to see it on the biggest stage, and immediately started piling on. Don't fret for O'Brien, however. He reacted by getting a promotion.

4) Daryl Morey

Daryl Morey Rockets.com

This is more of an international hatred thing, since he angered all of China. But he also got both praise and heat around the country after his "stand with Hong Kong" tweet. The incident has cost the NBA millions and sparked a worldwide controversy. Morey has been quiet since and his re-tooling of the Rockets roster has made a lot of the controversy disappear, but for a short time, this was a monster story.

3) Jim Crane

Jim Crane Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

The Astros owner got off light on the sign stealing punishment, and much of the national media and many of the players on other teams were critical of that. He didn't help himself with his spring training "apology," which was never going to be good enough for some people, even if he had not botched it. What Crane did or did not know will remain a mystery, but even if he had no knowledge of what was going on, the national media is out for blood. Crane's players, however, will likely bear the brunt going forward (more on that in a minute) and the Crane hatred will likely fade, but it was a dominant story earlier in February.

Interestingly enough, the two management guys who got punished by losing their jobs - Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch - have dodged most of the bullets, probably because they were the two who paid a price.

2) James Harden

James Harden.

This has always been an odd one. Harden has won an MVP, leads the league in scoring, and has put up some historic numbers. But his playoff failures coupled with a style of play that rubs some people the wrong way has always made him a target. It doesn't help that he has the personality and charisma of an old shoe. He also gets some love nationally, but overwhelmingly it is dislike. Winning a title would probably only make it worse. Most players become disliked because of fatigue of seeing them in the championship so often. Duke basketball, the Patriots, the Yankees, Red Sox, etc. Harden has done it without the title. It will be interesting to see what the narrative is if he and the Rockets can hoist a trophy.

1) The Astros star players

Astros Jose Altuve Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa and even Justin Verlander - who did not cheat - have been the most hated men in the national media over the past month, because none of them were punished. While the story was completely overblown, nationally very few came to their defense. It became a daily dose of who criticized them next. Bregman and Altuve seemed to take the brunt, because they were the ones who were part of the "apology." And rest assured, this won't go away anytime soon. The players will likely face boos and will have to answer the same old questions with every road trip. Is it fair? No. But that's how the media world works these days. Plus, the hatred far transcended the traditional media. Housewives who never watched an inning of baseball weighed in on social media. So no matter what they do, there will always be a fair amount of disgust for them.

The epilogue

The truth is, locally, most of these guys are beloved, other than O'Brien and to a much lesser extent Harden. But the view of the national media is a different thing, and Houston sports figures have put themselves in the crosshairs with tweets, cheating scandals and more. The good news is Morey seems to be getting past it, O'Brien can still prove he deserves his promotion by winning big, and maybe Harden will start winning more people over, because he does have some supporters. The Astros might never win back the media, and who cares? If they win back the title, people in Houston will be just fine.

And hey, embrace the fact that the national media has noticed, even if it is for negative reasons.

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