LOOKING BACK

What has changed since the last time we heard the words “Houston wins the Pennant?”

Jeff Bagwell was near the end when the Astros played in the World Series in 2005. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Stringer/Getty Images

After the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year, I read an article about the country’s most depressing sports cities. This was obviously an exercise in futility because every city that has a long drought from winning titles feels uniquely depressed in their own way. The last “Big Three” Houston sports team to win a championship were the Rockets in 1993-94 and 1994-95. If the Astros win the World Series, I imagine the “then and now” articles will be even more drastic. The last team to even go to a championship game were the Astros in 2005 and they were swept by the Chicago White Sox. Houston and the entire country as a whole has completely changed since 2005. I was just a high school senior, working as a server (in 2005 they called us waitresses) at a wing restaurant where I experienced the euphoric highs of watching my boys win the pennant and the lowly lows of watching that same team get beaten four straight times. It almost feels like the 2005 World Series never happened. We celebrated FINALLY beating the St. Louis Cardinals, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath us in a week.

How much has Houston changed in the 12 years that have passed since the Astros last won the pennant? Well, for one – the Astros are now an American League team, the only team to win a pennant in both the American and National League. Where there used to be a hill in the outfield, there is a now a Torchy’s Tacos, and both Saint Arnold and Karbach have a presence at the ball park. The make-up of this team is also very different. Young players acquired through the draft supplemented by veterans give the team an underdog feel, but also a locker room with experience in the postseason.

But outside of the Astros and their home field, how much has changed? The answer? Everything.

Let’s start with downtown Houston. In 2005, downtown was a complete disaster. Houstonians drove into downtown to go to work, then immediately left to head home. There was no bar scene, the light rail system was used by no one except people looking to migrate from one part of downtown to the other, or homeless people trying to get out of the elements. There were barely any restaurants downtown and any places that did exist closed at 5 pm. It was a barren wasteland of office buildings and space begging to be utilized. Flash forward to now and you’ll see a completely revitalized downtown. Hotels that never existed before, a revitalized and expanded rail system, and a transformed bar scene on Main that attracts patrons from neighborhoods that 12 years ago were just as downtrodden and hopeless as the city center itself.  

My current neighborhood, Montrose, was one of those neighborhoods. In 2005 it was generally still a haven for the art crowd, and LGBTQ folks hoping to find a safe space where they wouldn’t be ostracized. As a weird teenager in 2005, I longed to escape the suburbs and move to Montrose. Now, Montrose is where yuppies looking for an artsy neighborhoods tear down bungalows and build giant apartment complexes and three story townhomes. Gay bars have been replaced by kitschy restaurants and the annual Pride Parade has moved from the neighborhood to downtown Houston for no other reason than the complaints of people who’ve never experienced the parade in the first place.

What about the world as a whole? What changes have we seen since 2005? Currently on it’s 8th iteration, the phone that has completely changed the world and how we experience it wouldn’t even be released for another two years. In 2005, the phone to have was the Motorola Razr – a slender flip phone that fit perfectly in your back pocket. You were still using T9 to text your friends and plans that included “data” weren’t even necessary. No one thought about accessing the internet on your cell phone. You used it for calls, texts if you were good enough and taking grainy low resolution pictures.

Because the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet, you had to access Facebook from your actual computer. Twitter didn’t exist. The idea of taking a photo that lasted for only 10 seconds was a thought would only occur to Brett Favre or Anthony Wiener – and in 2005, both of them still kept their pants on. If you went out for a delicious dinner, there was no Instagram to share your meal with. Apps didn’t exist, so highlights were consumed via SportsCenter or on your computer. You couldn’t watch game highlights on your phone seconds after they happened. For me, one of the most jarring changes of the past twelve years comes in our exposure to athlete’s real time thoughts on social media. In 2005, if a player felt a certain way about social issues, or team issues, or even other players in the league we didn’t know that unless they spoke with someone in sports media. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have given us access to athletes in a unique way. We are seeing them as people and not just the carefully crafted robots that the media have access to. Because of this, instead of beat reporters or sideline reporters having the best information about a team, it’s many times their own words on social media that people dissect. Generally, we’re not interested in a canned locker room response to a specific question, but rather a set of emoji eyeballs on Twitter, or a random Instagram like from an athlete.

The No. 1 song in October 2005? Gold Digger by Kanye West. Batman Begins was released. George W. Bush was still president.

Our city has changed drastically in the past 12 years. But more important still, our world purview and access to the athletes we’ve seen before only as entertainment has changed the most. This year for the World Series I’ll be trading in the Wings N More from 2005 for a sports bar, favoriting tweets from the Astros social media, and keeping up with my internet friends online. Along with all of the changes in Houston and the world, let’s hope the boys have a different outcome on the field as well.

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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