FALCON POINTS

Yes, fans have the right to boo the Astros. You have the right to ignore it

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As we prepare for the start of baseball and the restart of the NBA, Houston sports fans will get to revisit some old story lines. Can James Harden and Rona Westbrook pull it together long enough for one surprising playoff run? If the Dynamo fall in the bubble, does anyone hear it? And most common, will the national media ever get over the Astros scandal?

To quote Letterkenny: That's a hard no.

It's already started, of course. ESPN.com had an article on how fans are being cheated from booing the Astros. While he is correct in that other team's fans would have been merciless (and still will when they finally get the chance), speculating that the Astros own fans would boo is kind of silly. Using a spring training game as an example is a fail. Spring training draws fans from all teams.

That aside, you can expect more sanctimonious, holier-than-thou diatribes in the coming weeks on the subject. The main question is why? It's pretty simple. The Astros cheated. They got caught. They got punished. End of story.

At least it should be the end of the story. But we live in a media culture where everything is overanalyzed, over reported, and hot takes rule the day.

The reason is simple: Media members want to be part of the story. There is an entire cottage industry based on what members of the media say. Websites publish stories daily detailing hot takes. And the Astros are an easy target. It's nothing new. The Saints Bountygate case was endlessly and pointlessly debated. Deflategate led to lengthy debates on PSI. Everyone had a take, screaming into the microphones, using pejorative phrases and inflaming the subject, context be damned.

It's not just sports. Wear a mask. Don't wear a mask. Everyone has a take, and their take has to be heard, because it is the most important. What gets lost is reason and context, because that does not contribute to the noise. Takes are designed to get a reaction, to get a response, and build upon themselves.

So how do we change it? Stop retweeting takes. Ignore the noise. It can't grow without being fed. The Astros will be the obvious topic again over the next few months. Rather than get enraged, just move on. Comment on real topics with context and depth; avoid the either/or mentality.

Is that realistic? Probably not. We live in a "gotcha" society. If someone messes up, they are to be canceled. That will include the Astros. All of the takes that dominated earlier in the year will be back. This is just the first of many stories to deal with the issue.

Hey, Fred, isn't this whole column just responding to a hot take? Gotcha!

Perhaps. But the point is bigger. The hot take response would be "Waaah. You don't get to boo. Poor you." The reality is the writer uses the Astros as a way to make booing acceptable, which is fine. There is not a lot to dispute there. But it also uses the scandal of the day as an entrance point. There will be a lot more of this moving forward and the best thing Astros fan can do is ignore the noise, enjoy the ride as the team rolls to another World Series title in 2020.

Then the noise will be louder than ever.

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The Texans and Rockets are disasters, so bring on the Astros! Even if they weren't disasters, bring on the Astros! Their spring training opener is Sunday, their regular season opener one month from Monday. Alexander Pope wrote "hope springs eternal." I hear he played a pretty decent shortstop. All 30 Major League Baseball teams can be hopeful in March. The Astros have plenty to be hopeful about and plenty about which to be wary. A couple of early storylines: 1. Yuli Gurriel admitted he was unacceptably overweight last season. It would be great for the Astros if that explains most of Gurriel's pathetic performance as opposed to age catching up with him. 2. Jose Altuve is in great spirits and health. His MVP level days of 2016 and 2017 are likely gone for good, but getting the Altuve of 2018 or 2019 would be a tremendous boost. The Altuve of 2020 was one of the worst players in MLB.

And now to the dueling debacles…

Rough stretch for the Rockets

The Rockets are awful. They sit with 11 wins and 19 losses. Just three seasons ago they lost 17 games the entire season. They are routinely non-competitive. They lug a nine game losing streak to the court Friday night in Tampa against the Toronto Raptors. Among the losses are blowouts by 20, 22, 25, and 29 points. All of those routs came against teams with losing records. By NBA standards the Rockets' roster stinks. The injured Christian Wood is the only player they have who is or projects to be an average or better starter. John Wall's contract is an anvil.

That they are this bad is actually one of the few silver linings to the Rockets' near term future. The Rockets only retain their first round pick this summer if it falls in the top four of the draft. The Rockets currently have the fourth worst record in the NBA, just one half game ahead of third worst! Where the pick falls comes down to which draft lottery ping pong ball combination is drawn, but the worse their record the better shot the Rockets have of being in the top four. If not in the top four, the Rockets settle for the lowest of their own, Oklahoma City's, or Miami's first rounder. That's probably the Heat pick, and probably not in the top 15.

The longest losing streak in Rockets' franchise history is 17. During their expansion season the San Diego Rockets lost 17 straight. The longest losing streak in Houston Rockets' history is 15 games during the 2001-02 season. They finished the season 28-54. How many of their five most frequent 2001-02 starters can you name? Answer below.

The worst team in Rockets' history was the tanking and awful 1982-83 club that finished 14-68. Longest losing streak that season? 10. The first 10 games of the season.

Releasing JJ Watt might have been a mistake

The Texans are poised to add yet another feather to their dunce cap if J.J. Watt signs with the Packers, Bills, Titans, Roughnecks, Inmates (The Longest Yard) or anybody else for 15-plus million dollars per season. Such a deal would indicate at least one team would have been willing to give up a decent draft pick (say a third rounder) for Watt and the one year 17.5 million that was left on his contract. If the Texans think they score points for doing Watt "a solid" in setting him free they are absurdly mistaken. The Texans need all the draft capital they can get. J.J. Watt will always have a hallowed place in Texans' lore but they owed Watt nothing. Over the last five seasons he played just three seasons worth of football and was paid 82.5 million dollars for them.

More Deshaun Watson drama

Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson reportedly directly told new Texans Head Coach Edward Smith that Watson has no interest in playing for him. It's nothing personal against David Culley (Edward Smith captained the Titanic) but Watson wants the Texans' organization permanently in his rearview mirror. We'll see if Cal McNair and new General Manager Nick Caserio have the stomach to not trade Watson through the draft. If the Dolphins offer Tua Tagavailoa, the third and eighteenth picks in the first round, the fourth pick in the second round, and their first round pick in 2022, the Texans should make the trade and move on.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Rockets' starters by most starts in 2001-02: Cuttino Mobley (74) Kelvin Cato (73) Kenny Thomas (71) Steve Francis (56) Moochie Norris (26).

2. It can't soothe Rocket fan nerves that the best bet for the Eastern Conference Final matchup is James Harden's Nets vs. Daryl Morey's 76ers.

3. Most frustrating 2021 Houston-visiting player appearances: Bronze-Harden the Net Wednesday Silver-George Springer the Blue Jay in May Gold-Watt the Titan this fall? Would he really sign with the Titans?

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