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.

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Martin Treux Jr. is a threat to win each week. Photo via: Wiki Commons

The NASCAR Cup series heads for the paperclip this week for the Xfinity 500. This will be one of if not the most important race of 2020. This will be the final race before we decide who races for a championship in two weeks at Phoenix and what better place to decide that than here at one of NASCAR's most legendary tracks. There is a good chance we see a driver put the bumper to someone for the win as everything will be on the line for the eight drivers who are trying to punch their ticket. You definitely won't want to miss this race as there are sure to be hurt fenders and hurt feelings.

Last week NASCAR had maybe the longest rain delay in the history of the sport as mist halted the field for nearly four days. On Wednesday the race was finally restarted around the evening as they were finally able to complete the remainder of the race. When they finally got started, Kyle Busch was able to drive away from the field and claim his 57th career victory. While in the grand scheme of things this victory won't have too much of an effect on the championship, for Kyle to finally break that winless streak and make it to victory lane for the first time in 2020 had to have been special for him.

Another bright spot for this race was the emergence of rookie phenom Christopher Bell. In the closing stages, he seemed like he had the fastest car on the racetrack and was suddenly reeling in Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Busch for first and second but just couldn't seem to find the momentum to pass them. This race was special for Bob Leavine and his race team as this would be their final race at their home track. To commemorate this, they drove a throwback paint scheme to 2011 when the team started. I don't know if Bell and this team will get a win this year but I can see them rattling off some good runs before Leavine Family Racing closes its doors at the end of the year.

The final domino to fall in this year's insane Silly Season has finally come down as it was announced that Kyle Larson will drive the #5 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports next season. Now everyone knows what happened with Larson earlier this year when he used a racial slur that cost him a job at Chip Ganassi Racing. This was one of the most embarrassing moments for the sport in recent memory and there isn't any doubt that Kyle deserved to be suspended. But I have to say I have been impressed with his community outreach efforts. Overall, I think that he is truly sorry for what he did and has learned from his mistake and that is something I can respect. I hope that he can continue down his road of improvement but now he will have to remember that he will be under constant media scrutiny and will have to be very conscious of what he says. But I think he will understand that and do just fine. Regardless, I wish him nothing but success going forward as he is one of the most talented race car drivers around.

So it has come down to this, eight drivers will have one more chance to qualify for the championship race. The four drivers that are currently in are Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski. Without a doubt, these four drivers are probably the most deserving as there have been 23 victories combined between all four of them. While these are the four most likely drivers to get in, there is always a good chance that one of the drivers on the outside looking in can win and take a spot from one of those four. Those four drivers are Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr, and Kurt Busch. While Bowman and Elliott can still mathematically get in on points, for the other two, it is win or be eliminated. While Busch has shown speed here I am not sure if he can run with some of the faster cars in the field. But if there is one thing we know, him and his crew-chief can get in on strategy as they did at Vegas. Martin Treux Jr is another threat to win each week, but he will be without his crew-chief James Small after it was discovered last week that he had an illegal spoiler as his crew-chief was ejected, and he was docked 20 points. If there is one thing the 2017 champion has on his side though is that he did win here earlier in the year. This battle will be fun to watch for sure.

The driver that I have winning this week was one I mentioned earlier and that's Chase Elliott. Over the course of his seven starts here, he has three top fives and five top tens. He has been so fast here ever since his rookie year in 2016 and even made his first start here one year earlier in 2015. This track is similar to what he cut his teeth on in the late models around the southeast and that has reflected in his performance. While he hasn't won here yet, he has been very close including back in 2017 when he was leading the race before being taken out by Denny Hamlin. I look for him to break through this weekend and clinch a spot in the championship race at Phoenix.

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