COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Latest Watson saga fallout raises stakes for everyone involved

The Texans already may be accepting life without Watson. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Deshaun Watson had a good day last Friday, relatively speaking, as good a day as a 25-year-old quarterback who is demanding to be traded but there doesn't appear to be any team at the moment willing to take on a player with a $156 million contract who's being sued in civil court by 22 masseuses claiming inappropriate sexual behavior and is under criminal investigation by the Houston Police Department.

Friday it was announced that all 22 of the civil suits against the Houston Texans All-Pro quarterback will be consolidated during the pre-trial phase of the case. Also, the names of the 22 accusers must be made public before Friday.

This will boost Watson's position as it will help his lawyer Rusty Hardin to determine which, or all or none, of the masseuses are telling the truth in their accusations before the lawsuits go to court or are resolved in mediation.

"I think it's a critical first step in a journey of a thousand miles that will, in my estimation, result in the bulk of these cases being settled," according to Channel 2 legal analyst Brian Wice. "This is a step that benefits both sides. Neither side has to engage in hand-to-hand combat over 14 or 15 different venues."

Hardin held a press conference last week and got high marks for his folksy personality and respectful demeanor toward the accusers. A CBS Network legal contributor said Hardin clearly is "more likeable" than Tony Buzbee, the bombastic lawyer representing the 22 women accusing Watson of inappropriate sexual behavior.

What the legal analyst didn't say is, some might say that Hannibal Lecter is more likeable than Tony Buzbee. Likeable not, Buzbee's successful track record in court is undeniable.

The steady drip of lurid headline stories about Deshaun Watson and the 22 women accusers has turned into Shakespearean tragedy that is wrecking careers and lives. This needs to be resolved fast, one way or another, either in court or mediation.

Parents shouldn't have to worry about their children clicking on reputable mainstream sports websites and finding: "Content warning: This story contains details about alleged sexual abuse. The content may be difficult to read and emotionally upsetting."

Explicit court filings, also available online, are troubling reading, portraying Watson as a privileged sexual predator who doesn't believe rules apply to him. In two of the cases, Watson is accused of forcing a masseuse to perform a sex act on him.

However, the wheels of justice grind slowly and there doesn't seem to be an end to this nightmare any time soon. The stakes couldn't be higher. Either Watson is a serial sexual predator or the victim of an unimaginable character assassination and extortion plot.

For his part, Watson has denied all accusations of inappropriate behavior with the masseuses. On March 16, the day the first lawsuit was filed, Watson said on Twitter that he has "never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect." Eighteen other masseuses have come forward saying that Watson has never acted inappropriately with them.

Meanwhile, the 22 accusers are being ordered to put their names on their lawsuits and possibly face disparaging and unfair remarks about their motives and private lives. If you read the comments sections following published articles about the Watson saga, some Watson supporters, often anonymous, challenge the masseuses' honesty and integrity. Some comments are outrageous and sink to "slut-shaming," going so far as to equate the masseuses with sex workers.

Watson's lawyer Hardin admitted that the quarterback gets massages up to 150 times a year and consensual sex does sometimes occur. While not illegal if it's consensual, Watson's sexual history with masseuses does reveal a side to the quarterback that perhaps fans didn't expect, and certainly Watson didn't want revealed.

So far, Nike, Beats by Dre, and H-E-B have ended their endorsement deals with Watson. So has Reliant ("an NRG Company"), the corporation that owns the naming rights to the stadium where Watson plays.

Or played. Watson's demand to be traded apparently still holds, but that doesn't seem likely, at least until Watson's legal problems are resolved. The NFL Draft is April 29 and teams that might have been interested in Watson appear to be making other plans. Plus a suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could be coming Watson's way for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

The Texans already may be accepting life without Watson. Except for a brief glimpse of Watson in a background shot, the team has removed Watson, the face of the franchise, from its latest promotional video.

In collateral damage, the Houston Chronicle has dismissed Aaron Wilson, its Texans beat writer since 2015, after Wilson went on a Boston radio station and likened Watson's accusers to "terrorists."

Wilson said, "In his (Watson's) case, you know, it's kind of like you don't, you know, you don't negotiate with terrorists.

"People are demanding money, they're asking for money. It kept escalating, it kept going up and up and up. You're talking about more funds. I'm not going to say how much it got to, but my understanding is, you know, that there was an admission that, it was, you know, something, you know that this was, you know, just a money grab."

Wilson added that the women's lawyer Buzbee acted like "an ambulance chaser" by soliciting other masseuses who may have had an inappropriate experience with Watson to contact him.

The 22 women have sued Watson in civil court, where a money settlement is typically the goal. There's nothing unusual or suspicious about that.

After news of his firing was made public, Wilson acknowledged his error in judgment on Twitter: "I made a mistake that I fully understand and own. My efforts to convey perspectives on the situation clearly demonstrated an unintentional lack of sensitivity in the serious nature of these types of allegations. And I sincerely apologize for my remarks."

This is why it's smarter for news organizations to assign hard news, cityside reporters, who don't have a personal or, in some cases "fanboy," relationship with team personnel, to cover stories about coaches and players' off-field legal situations.

How's it all end? Borrowing from the brilliant philosopher and pro wrestling manager Paul Heyman … this is not a prediction, this is a spoiler.

Sometime in the next few months, too late for the Texans to trade him this season, Deshaun Watson will reach a financial settlement with his accusers. He will not admit guilt about anything, but say that he's made non-specific errors in how he deals with people in private situations, and will seek counseling. He will be suspended for eight or more games by the NFL.

The Texans ultimately will trade him for veritable pennies on the dollar. Nothing new about that, it seems to be the team's standard operating procedure.

Then the big question: who gets the exclusive TV interview with Watson? The early favorite is Gina Gaston, lead news anchor for Channel 13, the Texans longtime TV partner for pre-season games. Others in the running: Channel 26's Mark Berman, Channel 2's Vanessa Richardson and Channel 11's Matt Musil.

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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