LANCE ZIERLEIN

Texans better check their arrogance: They don't own this town

Think J.J. Watt was dejected on Sunday? How about the fans? Bob Levey/Getty Images

After another sad performance in the books for our Houston Texans. Yeah, I said it. OUR Houston Texans. You don’t get to just walk away from this mess. It doesn’t work like that. Oh, you may have turned the game off on Sunday to pay attention to the Astros or and you may head out for an incredible BBQ experience at Southern Smoke because you know that it will absolutely kill the crap out of watching what the Texans are selling these days.

But you must always remember that “Houston is a football town.” Do you know how I know? Somebody on Twitter told me. Well that’s only partially true. The idea of Houston as a football town has been the prevailing notion for quite some time, but is it accurate?

Shut up about their “sell outs”.

When you ask people why they believe this is such a football town they will tell you to look at the “attendance” and the “sellouts.” Yes, let’s take both:
 

  1. The Texans have to sell out a grand total of eight games per year. Big deal. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country with a football sprawl that heads well beyond the Houston area to the North, West, and East. These “sellouts” are tickets sold and not actual people at the game.

  2. The Texans are insulated against mass amounts of people dropping their season tickets because of the initial PSL charges they imposed on many of the season ticket holders. My foul-mouthed radio partner, John Granato, is one of those people who can’t walk away for that very reason. He’s stuck.

  3. If you fancy yourself a football town, then wouldn’t it make sense to actually attend the home opener? This was the home-opener and the stadium was filled with blue and much of it was “deep steel blue” or whatever corny, outdated branding the Texans use to describe their team colors. NRG was loaded with Giants fans….who bought their tickets from Texans fans….who didn’t want to go.

Football Town or Baseball City?

Personally, I think the phrase “Houston is a football town” is nothing more than a phrase people toss around. Or better yet… it might be a football town, but it doesn’t feel like a Texans town right now. This town is definitely an Astros town. To the victor goes the spoils.

I had a very interesting interaction with a member of the Texans back in 2011 that seemed and seems representative of the arrogance that has permeated certain factions of that organization.

When the Texans are winning….and I mean really winning and not that middling, 9-7 crap where they get punished early in the playoffs, this town will be on fire for them. That happened in 2011 and 2012 and that is it. I’m not saying fans haven’t been excited about the Texans over the years, but that has faded and faded badly.

The Rockets are consistently competitive and were likely a hamstring injury to Chris Paul away from winning a title last season. The Astros knocked “World Series” off their bucket list last year and are primed for another big run in the postseason after putting up another ho-hum, 100-win season full of clutch play. The Texans? Same old Texans.

This is an Astros city right now. People are buzzing about them again all around the city in anticipation of what is to come. The Texans have almost no buzz right now. Things change. When I ask my kids their favorite Rockets or Astros memories, they can rip off a checklist of plays or games. When I asked them the same question about the Texans, they had nothing. Maybe the Texans will get it on track against the Colts, but most of Houston may be too busy getting ready for a championship team to notice.

 

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Yordan Alvarez came up big in Game 5. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros can win the pennant Friday night. Can't dangle the carrot any closer in front of the face than that. Taking the last two games at Fenway Park has the Astros in excellent position, but any notion that a third American League championship in five years is now inevitable, is silly. The Astros are probably 80 percent or better to advance, but of course the Red Sox could win games six and seven at Minute Maid Park à la the Nationals in the World Series two years ago. The Astros had all the momentum after winning three straight in D.C., came home for the coronation, and pfffft. You have momentum...until you don't. It's nothing to bank on. The Red Sox had all the "mo" after clobbering the Astros in games two and three of this AL championship series. Then Jose Altuve crushed the eighth inning tying home run in game four, ahead of the seven run volcanic eruption of a ninth inning. Nine more Astro runs later in game five, and here we are.

One key distinction that makes the Astros hand look stronger up 3-2 now than vs. the Nats, the Red Sox don't have Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer ready to pitch. Like Framber Valdez vs. Chris Sale in game five, game six is another starting pitching rematch. Alvin native Nathan Eovaldi grossly outpitched Luis Garcia in game two. We'll see if Sox manager Alex Cora winds up regretting even more using Eovaldi to start the fateful game four ninth inning. Eovaldi only threw 24 pitches, but three nights later we'll see what and how much he has in the tank.

After pitching horribly against the White Sox and then the Red Sox, and then citing a sore knee, Luis Garcia is his own huge question mark. So was Valdez before Wednesday spinning one of the great postseason pitching performances in Astros' history. Framber was awful in each of his first two postseason starts, absolutely magnificent in cruising through eight innings in game five. Should the Sox force Game Seven, Valdez certainly is a relief option on two days rest. Jose Urquidy would start, opposite Eduardo Rodriguez in a game three rematch.

Valdez and the Astros hope his next outing is Tuesday night in game one of the World Series. Ideally, at Minute Maid Park against the Atlanta Braves. Alas, the defending champion Dodgers remain alive and kicking, having won their fourth do or die game already in this postseason to send the National League Championship Series back to Atlanta. Now, if somehow we knew as fact that the Astros are going to win the World Series, I'd estimate approximately 99 percent of Astros' fans would prefer to beat L.A. Since we don't know that the Astros are going to win it all, getting the Braves would be more favorable for the Astros, if for no other reason than the Astros would get home-field advantage. Should the Braves make it, among other factoids Charlie Morton would be in his third World Series with three different teams in the last five seasons (Astros in 2017, Rays last year, Braves this). If the Braves can close out the Dodgers Saturday, Morton is Atlanta's likely game one starter at MMP. Provided the Astros are the AL Champs of course.

Watt a matchup for the Texans

The Texans play at Arizona Sunday. Yeah, and? You imagine that J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins find the two team's current situations amusing? The Texans are a 1-5 stink bomb that will keep on stinking. The Cardinals are 6-0 and an emerging Super Bowl contender. While Deshaun Watson continues collecting about 600 thousand dollars per week to do nothing (and waiting to become a Miami Dolphin?), Kyler Murray has made the leap to upper echelon NFL quarterback.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Decisions, decisions. Astros-Red Sox game 6 or Rockets home opener vs. Thunder. Tough call?

2. The Rockets will regularly be overmatched and probably lose 55 games or more again this season. At least they have young talent to offer some hope. The Texans presently have near nothing.

3. Best 2021 Astros' postseason journey signature food: Bronze-Atlanta/Los Angeles, anything? Silver-Chicago, deep dish pizza Gold-Boston, lobster roll

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