RAHEEL RAMZANALI

Hypothetical: What animal your favorite athlete fought as a child

Can you beat this guy? J.J. Watt can. Hypothetically. Getty Images

One of the most underrated things from the UFC 229 brawl and fight was Khabib Nurmagomedov’s childhood video of him wrestling a bear. Soon as that hit Twitter, it explained so much about Khabib as a fighter, man, and competitor. In fact, I think I saw more, “Wow, this makes so much sense now.” tweets than, “I’ll never watch the UFC again after this brawl! I’m so offended.” tweets.

So keeping in the spirit of that conversation, here are five hypotheticals of what animal some of our favorite Houston athletes fought as a kid:

  1. James Harden vs a Lion: OK, I’m going to start this whole thing off with a lazy joke, ready? “Have you ever seen a lion play defense?” Think about it, lions are the craziest hunters when they’re in attack mode, but do they ever play defense? NOPE! And neither does James. OK, I’m sorry. Look, James has improved on his defense and I constantly argue with people that he’s a really good post defender, but this joke and stigma will never get old for a lazy blurb on my SportsMap article. In fact, the last time a lion had to play some defense was when Mufasa had to fight his brother Scar and because he didn’t know how to, he ended up dying. Now, the true comparisons of James being a killer on the court when he wants to is real and that’s why him fighting a lion as a child makes sense. Also, is there anything more fashion forward in the animal kingdom than a lion’s mane? There isn’t! James picked up his killer offensive instinct, fashion forward style, and blase attitude from this childhood fight with a lion. Seriously, lions literally nap the entire day. Here’s a little behind the scenes, after I wrote this blurb I ran it by my editors Jordan Smith and Del Olaleye (we’ll hear from him again in this post) and they said James vs a Bull makes more sense. Here’s why: the obvious ole jokes, the bull’s nose ring is even more fashion forward than a lion’s mane, and Harden can be a bull in a china shop at times when he’s driving to the hoop and flailing his arms everywhere.  

  2. Justin Verlander vs a Golden Retriever: OK, this wasn’t a fight as much as a stern talking to because Justin Verlander is such a sweet person and dad that he was more disappointed in the dog. Verlander just expected more out of the dog and that moment as a child instilled a dedication of always giving his best and exceeding expectations as a professional. This was the most boring of the fights, but probably makes the most sense.

  3. Alex Bregman vs a Chupacabra: Some people (aka the fake news media) believe Bregman learned spanish so he could help his teammates adjust to the clubhouse and become friends with all of his teammates, but as one conservative radio personality, Del Olaleye, put it, Bregman really learned Spanish so he could tame the legendary Chupacabra. Bregman’s attitude of never backing down was instilled from a young age because his entire life was dedicated to fighting a mythical creature so powerful that Animal Planet has dedicated 18 episodes of Lost Tapes on it. How did this fight start? Because of an intense staring contest. I’ll see myself out.

  4. Deshaun Watson vs a Goat: There an old saying in sports that goes something like this, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man - WOOOO!!” and that is exactly what Watson did as a child. To be the goat, you have to beat a goat. Deshaun is still the greatest QB ever and is going to lead the Texans to new heights under Bill O’Brien - like maybe win more than 9 games - so it’s only right that beat an actual goat so he could be called THE GOAT.

  5. JJ Watt vs a Badger: Look, few things in life are more relentless than a badger. They never stop coming at you and will always grind it out. This explains why JJ Watt is so relentless. When he was a young lad, his fight with a badger put him on a path of greatness where he would never stop working hard and chasing greatness. Even though JJ lost that fight, he really won it because it gave him a goal to become the new badger.

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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.

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