FALCON POINTS

Memo to Astros, Rockets, Texans and Houston fans in general: Sports in this city can be fun again. Here's how we make it happen

Getty Images

Being a Houston sports fan is not much fun these days. Astros fan is under siege for something they had nothing to do with.

Rockets fan? The world hates James Harden and who knows if this team is good enough to get over the hump?

The Dynamo? When was the last time they were actually competitive?

The Texans? Bill O'Brien makes it hard to love the team.

Sometimes, we need to be reminded that sports is supposed to be entertaining and fun. Enter the Roughnecks.

Having attended my first XFL game on Sunday, I was struck by two things: 1) Where did all these fans come from? 2) It was more of a party atmosphere than a sporting event atmosphere. And oh man, it was fun.

I don't know if the league will last. I delved into that last week. But they have captured something that is missing from most sporting events, especially in Houston.

It's supposed to be fun. And like it or not, most of the teams in this city are not as fun to watch as they should be.

Capturing something

More on that in a moment. The first question is something I have wrestled with. Are these Roughnecks fans people who just have O'Brien fatigue? Or don't want to pay NFL prices? WWE fans?

I think the answer is all that and more. Many of my friends who attended the game are not from Houston, and thus not Texans fans, but they can get behind the Roughnecks because they aren't fans of another XFL team from another city. It gives them a connection to Houston, the city they adopted, without sacrificing their NFL fandom.

As for the rest of Houston...

And let's be honest; it's hard to be a fan of the Big Three sports right now. The Rockets seem stuck in almost-contender status, and the Harden dribble, dribble, dribble, shoot a 3 offense is a turn off. Even if that is not entirely accurate, that's the narrative. Plus the game atmosphere can be staid, no matter how hard the marketing team tries. Many of the people aren't there to watch basketball, but to be seen. They leave their seats and walk in front of people in the middle of a play.

The Texans have some of the most fun players in the league in Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt. They are easy guys to root for. But O'Brien's stranglehold on the franchise makes for a hard sell. He was even caught yelling at a fan on video. His dictatorial rule and inflexible approach are complete turn offs. That, and NRG has always been a place where a lot of fans from other teams show up. That is to be expected in a city that is as transient as this one. For whatever reason, Texans games just don't feel fun very often. Certainly it is for the hardcore fans - any sport is - but the atmosphere often comes off as stagnant, especially when the team is not playing well. It's strange, because NRG also has some of the best tailgating in the league. But the fun part seems to stay in the parking lot far too often.

As for the Astros...the cheating scandal is certainly going to hang over the team and the fanbase. Houston's most fun team is now a giant question mark. Plus, with all the pending free agents, this year might be the last as legitimate World Series contenders.

There are others...

When the Dynamo were contenders, the atmosphere was electric, but that was a long time ago. UH football is a fun experience when they are winning big, which they have not done for three years. The basketball team has made Fertitta Center the place to be, but if you are not a UH fan...

The Sabercats and Skeeters have found niche audiences and are nice family experiences, but that is really on a different level.

What does it all mean?

Sports matches are supposed to be fun, win or lose. An experience for yourself or your children. Maybe the Astros should embrace their villainy with trash can giveaways or Darth Vader helmet giveaways. Have fun with it. The team and its fans are in the cross hairs right now, and none of it is the fans' fault. All they can do is embrace it and hope for the best.

To the Rockets credit, they do try, with a lot of packages that are fan friendly. But unless they somehow win a championship, it's hard to see them capturing the city. The Rockets do a lot of fun stuff, but the main product seems to turn people off. Harden fatigue, perhaps? Like any relationship, after a while, things can turn sour when you appear to be stuck in a rut. So liven it up with a drinking game: Take a shot every time Harden shoots a step back three. You will be drunk in a quarter, but it will be fun getting there.

Which brings us to the Texans. O'Brien has made them unlikeable, which is a shame. When a coach loses a fan base, the experience is not a fun one for anyone. A Texans Super Bowl would dwarf the Rockets titles and even the Astros, but it's hard to see it happening under O'Brien. Maybe he will prove us all wrong. Again, drinking game. A shot every time O'Brien calls a draw on third and 10-plus? Or every time he says "we have to coach better, we have to play better" in a press conference?

The point is the fans at the Roughnecks game were having fun. The party lasted three hours. It was just sheer joy of sports. Will they still be into it when the team loses a couple games? That remains to be seen. This is Houston, after all, home of the front-running fan. But it should remind us what we are supposed to take from sports. Entertainment. Fun. Win or lose.

And no, this is not about the hardcore fan, but the casual fan, who is not won over or who is frustrated. And that's OK, but irritation with a player or coach aside, you can still enjoy the experience. Many of you have become jaded - I hear from you all the time on the radio or see it on Twitter. But maybe take in a Roughnecks game and remember why you fell in love with sports in the first place. Then take that back to your Big Three fandom.

Sports is supposed to be the best reality TV. Sometimes it is a comedy. Sometimes a tragedy. Sometimes a feel-good story. That does not mean you can't bash O'Brien or get frustrated with Harden's playoff performances, or go nuts over the way the national media is pounding the Astros. But shouldn't we enjoy each experience and see how it plays out?

Maybe it's not a bad thing to be reminded that sports is supposed to be fun, especially now, when things seem so bleak and stagnant.

For a time, however brief, the Roughnecks have reminded us of that. What we do with it is up to us.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM

The Houston Texans took to the field for OTA practice on Wednesday. Here are 11 observations from the practice.

1. Derek Stingley doesn't take full reps yet. Stingley is working up to full reps after last year's injury-plagued college season. Lovie Smith said the plan is to work to get Stingley, as well as other rookies, up to full reps in practice.

2. Despite not having full reps, it doesn't mean the third overall pick can't impress. Stingley did well in the drills with other defensive backs showcasing his agility and quickness. During one of the team drills, Stingley effortlessly matched step for step with Chris Conley on a play that finished on the other side of the field. It was also surprising to see Stingley working on punt returns as well.

3. It is just shorts and helmets so not much can be gleaned from the team's other first-round pick Kenyon Green. Green worked at left guard with a variety of other offensive linemen. Lovie Smith made it clear there are currently no first, second, or third teams for the Texans. Green's pre-season analysis will pick up when training camp and pads roll around.

4. Max Scharping looks to be in phenomenal shape. The former second-round pick has been a disappointment in his time with the Texans. Scharping enters a year when he will need to battle to remain on the roster. It seems the delicacy of his roster spot led to an incredible offseason for Scharping.

5. Laremy Tunsil and Maliek Collins are two veterans who are not at the optional team activities. Lovie Smith detailed he has spoken to any player who isn't here and understands this is indeed optional.

6. With Laremy Tunsil missing, Charlie Heck saw snaps at left tackle. The team's right tackle for the majority of last year looks, like the above-mentioned Scharping, to be in great shape. He was moving well on a few of the plays which required the line to get out and block.

7. Roy Lopez, who was a surprise contributor last year, had what would have been a great play in a full-speed game situation. Lopez darted past the offensive line sniffing out a reverse and tapped the receiver as he went by. It would've been a 10-yard loss and a smushed wideout in a live game.

8. Nico Collins had a few nice plays. Collins displays his athleticism and he made some nice cuts in his routes to get open.

9. Pharaoh Brown and Marlon Mack had two bad drops in the team portions. Brown made up for it later with the catch of the day, sliding to haul in a Davis Mills pass near the sideline.

10. This is not an impressive tight end group overall. Not yet, at least. There are several new faces and their actual tight end abilities are unknown to this point. Brevin Jordan had some nice plays in the open field and Davis Mills found him a few times on dump-off passes. Rookie Teagan Quitoriano didn't practice today.

11. Davis Mills operates with the calmness of a player who is the for sure unquestioned starting quarterback. As he should, that's what he is for the Texans. Mills didn't show off a lot in this practice but he didn't make too many mistakes. There was a wideout miscommunication that almost went for an interception. There is a clear emphasis on getting the ball out on time for Pep Hamilton's offense. Mills had a few chances to drive a deep pass, but opted for a quick pass to not hold onto the ball too long. This should be expected and obvious, but he isn't anywhere near the quarterback I saw last year have one of the worst training camp practices of all time.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome