POINT BLANK

Joel Blank: The Warriors are coming. Are Rockets fans ready to step up?

Steph Curry and the Warriors are coming. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

You asked for it, you got it! Toyota Center better be rocking when the Rockets need you the most!

It's the matchup everyone wanted to see ever since the Chris Paul trade. The two teams that everyone wanted in the Western Conference Finals are about to tango. The Rockets have been obsessed with the Golden State Warriors for over a year. Halfway through the season, Daryl Morey came out and admitted that this team was "obsessed" with the champs and built for a matchup with Golden State. The Warriors are the reigning champions and are the team that everybody has marked on their calendar as must see TV. They are the gold standard, pun intended, and it's one thing to pack the house to see them play in the regular season, it’s on another level when it can determine who goes to the Finals. The obsession is now a reality and dreams can come true if the Rockets and their fans can live up to the expectations that they have set for themselves.

Houston played all year to capture home court advantage and have a series deciding contest in their house. They felt like they were evenly matched with Golden State and the difference could be having that Game 7 on the Toyota Center floor instead of at Oracle Arena. With that in mind, they took care of business in the regular season and even took it a step further and assured themselves of home court throughout the NBA Finals by having the best record in the entire league.The time is now to make sure that there is some value in that achievement and Red Nation needs to step up big at the biggest time of the year. That means showing up on time and staying late, while they cheer loud and make sure that the world knows this can be a basketball town too. Texas is known as a football state, and that goes for the city of Houston too. They do a great job supporting the Texans, but have also proven to be a heck of a baseball community as they rocked the roof off of Minute Maid Park during the Astros run to a World Series title. Why then has it taken so long to do the same thing for the hometown hoop team?

So far this postseason, and let's be honest, in the regular season as well, attendance at Rockets games has been anything but stellar. Whether it's traffic, parking, ticket prices, family commitments or other excuses, Houstonians are quick to be on the defensive, but not as quick to jump behind their basketball team and support their efforts to return the community to the days of Clutch City.  I don't wanna hear any of the excuses and believe me, I have heard them all season long as you have called the radio station and tried to defend your actions, or lack thereof? I know the failures of playoffs past have not helped and James Harden has let you down. But that was then, this is now and you could help write the script for the future. I'm not looking for more defensive fans, I'm looking for a solution that puts butts in seats, and does so on time. Maybe a match up with the Warriors is just what the doctor ordered and the inspiration that H-town needed?

Look across the league and all the cities that have a team that participated in this year's playoffs and for the most part you will find a community that is passionate about their hoop squad and fans that are rabid. They are in their seats way before tip off and raucous, creating an environment that makes it difficult for the visiting team to hear, let alone execute a play. Meanwhile in Houston, the regular season laissez-faire  attitude of the fan base has continued over into the first round and a half of the postseason. With Houston one game away from the Conference Finals and likely meeting the Warriors, it's time to put the past behind us and step up to help this team in the biggest series it has faced since they last lost to Golden State in the 2016 West finals. Fans forget that a season full of hard work that earned them this huge edge if it comes down to one final game, can all be lost if this team falters in one of its first three home contests against the "Dubs." This Rockets team did its part by earning the best record and all the accolades that come with it, it's now time for the fan base to do their part and back this team when it needs you the most. I don't care if it's a 7 o'clock game or an 8:30 late night affair, I expect you to be there and be on time. I would love to see a sea of red T shirts on rabid Rockets fans as they welome the squad with the best record in the NBA onto the floor for pre-game warmups, instead of a sea of T shirts stuck on the backs of empty chairs as people continue to dress up like empty seats come tipoff time.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Texans vs. Vikings could have fans in attendance. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Houston Texans say it's time that fans were allowed to cheer on the home team at NRG Stadium. On Thursday, the team announced extensive safety protocols that would put 15,000 fans in the stands for the Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 4.

While the Texans are awaiting permission from city and county officials to host a limited number of fans - socially distant and wearing masks – no plans have been announced how much tickets will cost, and who'll have the opportunity to buy them.

You have to love the free enterprise system: hundreds of tickets for the Oct. 4 game already are on sale on secondary market websites. Lower bowl tickets are going for $800 and up. If you don't mind sitting in the nose bleeds, tickets can be had for around $250.

So the question becomes, if you had the chance, would you attend the Texans game in early October? The tickets are big bucks, and there is a whammy – COVID-19. While the rate of COVID-19 infections is on the decline in Houston, the virus remains a major factor in our daily lives, and there's no guarantee that the pandemic won't spike here again.

Here's the rub, at least for me. Of all the sports we have in Houston, a Texans game might be lowest on my wish list of attending in person. Television does NFL games the best. There are dozens of cameras, so when a receiver catches a pass on the sidelines, we get several views, in slow motion even, to see if the receiver's feet were in bounds. We can almost feel the crunch of a quarterback sack. We get highlights of other games. You don't have to sit next to a face painter like David Puddy.

The NFL is a made-for-TV production. Which is, I suspect, part of the reason the Texans rarely open the roof at NRG Stadium. With the roof closed, the field becomes a controlled TV studio, with no worries of weather pranks.

Television doesn't do basketball or baseball nearly as well. Conversely, the experience of attending those games is terrific fun. What beats eating a couple of dogs at an Astros game? Is there even a traditional food at NFL or NBA games?

The Texans promise that strict safety rules will be enforced. And I believe them. Fans will be scattered over the 67,000-seat stadium. I'm not sure how much of a home field advantage that will be. Most of the crowd noise will come from pre-recorded tapes.

Here's one worry. Sure fans will sit apart and socially distanced. But what will happen when the game is over? Will fans file out in orderly, non-contagious single file? I flew Southwest a few weeks ago. The airline makes a big deal – we don't sell the middle seat. Passengers kept their distance during the flight. When the landed, you know how it is, everybody got up and piled into the aisle, shoulder to shoulder for several minutes.

What will happen if some goofball takes off his/her mask during the Texans game? Will there be enough security to handle each case?

Baseball is planning to have some fans attend post-season games at Minute Maid Park next month. UH Cougars, the Dynamo and Dash are playing in front of small crowds. It remains to be seen how safe – or how risky – allowing fans at sports events will be.

Will parents let their kids attend? Is waiting for a vaccine the smart play? If President Trump is right, that could be only a matter of weeks away. If scientists and doctors are right, nestle in for pandemic life another year. Even if scientists do come up with a vaccine, how many Americans will roll up their sleeve? Some believe, in the case of COVID-19, the cure may be worse than the disease. Not me, the moment Dr. Fauci says the vaccine is safe and effective, I'm sprinting to CVS.

The thinnest of silver linings, if ever there was a year worth sitting out, 2020 has been it for Houston sports fans. The Astros are scratching to stay above .500 (their present position), Jose Altuve hasn't had an extra base hit or RBI in almost a month, and Justin Verlander is throwing bullpens on his way to recovery. The Rockets are searching for a new coach, and possibly another team willing to take Russell Westbrook in a trade. The Texans season could go either way, we'll know if a few short weeks.

Why the rush to fill stadiums? The NBA is thriving in a bubble. Why not baseball and football? There's a fine line between safe and sorry.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo already has safety plans for next year, including masks and distancing. That will be interesting. Good luck controlling crowds pushing and shoving for corn dogs and funnel cakes.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome