Love It Or Leeve It
Houston, We Have A Problem
I’m suffering from fair-weather-fan syndrome.
See, I was raised on the Houston Astros, who sported ridiculous rainbow jerseys, and the Oilers, outfitted in powder blue. With the exception of the Rockets’ back-to-back championships, which occurred relatively late in my sports education, my hometown was mired in consistent mediocrity.
When you’re brought up with so-so teams, you learn to appreciate the finer points of the game. That’s a nice way of saying that it’s possible to find good qualities in losing teams—hustle, sportsmanship and, of course, great potential.
Well, at least I didn’t have to suffer through the acrobatics of Warren Moon and Kevin Bass the whole time I lived in Houston. The Rockets won it all twice, and the Dream Shake became a national phenomenon. The Astros separated themselves from the rest of the Central in the late ’90s, and the Killer B’s became regular playoff contenders (who inevitably choked in the first round, but that’s not the point). The heinous Bud Adams left town with the Oilers in tow, and we have a brand spankin’ new team with the coolest logo in the NFL.
But now, with Houston pro sports stuck in the middle of the standings, or closer to the bottom, I know little more than any casual fan would about teams that once held players that I called the men in my life. They aren’t competitors, and I find myself bypassing ESPN.com in the mornings in favor of “real news” on CNN.com.
I can’t tell you who the Rockets’ sixth man is now, with the glory days of Mario Ellie, the Junkyard Dog, long gone. Hakeem’s retiring this weekend, and I will feel his leaving more keenly than any award Yao Ming wins because the Dream defined the Rockets for me.
The Astros failed miserably in trying to catch St. Louis this year, and I didn’t suffer the pangs of defeat I would have just a season ago. I didn’t even watch all of Game 7 of the World Series, and I was suckered in more by Darren Baker, being dragged to safety in Game 5 and seen sobbing after Game 7, than the buzz around Bonds’ postseason.
My co-manager and I demonstrated remarkable negligence by checking our fantasy football lineup for the first time three weeks ago. I can no longer name the starting quarterbacks of all the teams in the league, and I didn’t make the time to watch Jerry Rice’s return to San Fran on Sunday.
I know, I’m terrible.
It’s hard to say exactly what caused my sports apathy. I definitely miss having SportsCenter as my lullaby each night. But I have no excuse, because I have friends with satellite dishes and channels galore, and I still don’t catch Stuart Scott nearly enough. The Sports Guy is packing up his bags for Hollywood, and I’m not suffering from any feelings of betrayal.
So in trying to trace my sinking to the depths of fair-weatherdom, I’m certainly disgusted by the money games that plague professional sports. It’s a standard complaint, yes, but I think it’s legit in the Houston case. We don’t throw around money to lure in big names with the lone exception of the failed Randy Johnson experiment. After the Enron debacle, the only good thing I can say about Minute Maid Park is its awesome nickname of the JuiceBox.
Reliant Stadium reminds me more of a building fit for MIB III with all its glass windows, and I can’t say that I’m planning on trying to catch a live game when I go home this year. And by the way, does it bother anyone else that “reliant” means that it’s dependent on something else, not “reliable” in itself?
But I still believe that there’s nothing more fulfilling than the crunch of a monster hit in football. When unleashed, it’s actually a beautiful sound—and the image of the recipient’s head snapping back is ridiculously satisfying. I went to the Ted Williams tribute at Fenway this year and reveled in the crowd’s allegiance to the good ole days of the game. To this day, one of my favorite stories remains the have-you-ever-smelled-the-bat-burn exchange between Teddy Ballgame and Mark McGwire at the 1999 All-Star Game.
I want to know what’s going to happen to Hideki Matsui once he arrives in America. I want Yao Ming to break the Asian barrier in the NBA with flair. I want the Twins to stay alive, Roy Oswalt to win the Cy Young and the abolition of the designated hitter. I want a return to finesse over show in basketball, to fundamentals over power in baseball, to consistency over flash in football.
So I’m riding out this wave of sports indifference because I know that it’ll come back. The churning in your stomach on a 3-2 count. The tingling feeling while watching effortless flow of basketball. The open-mouthed wonder of a hellacious block. It wouldn’t hurt if the players cared more and money meant less. Then again, I know that I’m still going to get chills and tear up when I watch ESPN’s video montage at the end of the year.
It’s there—I just have to find it again.
—Staff writer Brenda E. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.