Find out what it means to me!
I must admit that I fall closer to the fairweather variety of Houston fan when it comes to our sports teams. Well, that’s what most people would say. However, I feel I just hold the team to a higher double standard due to the treatment we, as the city of Houston, get in the national sports media.
When the Rockets won the NBA Championship in 1993, Sports Illustrated originally planned NOT to issue a commemorative edition. The commemorative editions being a long followed tradition. After considerable protest from the Houston community, they did end up issuing a special issue, although it was a limited print, and was not distributed nationally. You see, in their eyes, it just wasn’t worth it. No one wanted a cover celebrating the NBA champion from Houston. I gave up my SI subscription shortly thereafter, and haven’t looked back since.
In the end, a Houston sports team has to be twice a great to get a fraction of the recognition of teams reserved for teams from the so-called sports elite cities of New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles. It makes me sick, it frustrates me and causes me no end of sadness and anger. In fact, I bawled my eyes out after the Astros were swept in the 2005 World Series. Not because we lost necessarily, but because that most special team would be dismissed as being unworthy of participating on baseball’s greatest stage. This is also why I have remained incredibly frustrated by the Astros over the past three seasons. They hardly seem to try at the beginning of the season, then take us on this wild ride after the All-Star game. They play like the media expects them to, and they try to prove them wrong. Well dammit, if you are that good, you should play that good ALL SEASON LONG.
Enter my frustration with the Rockets at the end of the 2009 regular season. Here we were, an opportunity to close out the season with the #2 seed in the Western Conference with a win against, of all teams, the Dallas Mavericks. We played with little heart, and were bounced all the way down to the fifth seed. With the 2 seed, I saw a great shot at landing in the Western Conference Finals, mainly because we would, ironically, avoid the Lakers in the second round.
Looking at the hand we were dealt, I decided we just needed to get to the second round, give the Lakers a good run, then see where we could go next season. Like everyone else, I was resigned to the fact that the Rockets did not have a great shot to defeat the Lakers. This was all before Game 3, and Yao going down with broken foot. At that point, I gnashed my teeth, cursed the sky and simply stopped caring about this NBA season.
Why bother? This team could hardly expect to beat THE Lakers without T-Mac, much less without Yao. Then Game 4 happened. The Rockets built a 29 point lead, and ended up with a 12 point win. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in Houston sports, including the back-to-back titles in ’93 and ’94. This team didn’t simply catch the Lakers off guard, they outplayed, out hustled and showed more heart that ANYONE would give them credit for. The next day, the media, of course, was concentrating on the Celtics/Magic series. It was almost more than I could bear. What does my team have to do to get some attention? Fuck’em I cried. Go to hell, the lot of you! I know what I’m watching is the stuff of legend, it’s your problem you’re too dense or proud to acknowledge it.
Then came Game 5, and the 40 drubbing given to us by the Lakers. I didn’t care, I knew it was nothing but a win. The Lakers were still going to have to beat us in Houston to move forward in the playoffs. Of course, the media tore into the Rockets. “Lakers set things right, blow out Rockets.” “Lakers send message.” BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. I’ve come to realize now that fans and writers about these “elite” teams need to shoot their mouths off to prove to themselves, not the general public, that these teams deserve our unending admiration. No matter if they are wrong or, in the case of these Lakers, the team fails to perform up to its vaunted image, these people are more rattled when things don’t go as they expect. The sports world doesn’t exist outside these places to these fans. It’s only about their storied teams, and damn anyone who wants to join the party.
I could care less if they want to live in their deluded little sports worlds. Fine, cling to the glory of the past, you have the history, and I can’t take that away. BUT, give my team a some fucking respect! I mean it. I’m so tired of watching my teams ignored by the (supposedly objective) sports media. If you substitute the Rockets with the Knicks, Bulls or Celtics, and I swear to you, they would be calling them America’s team. They would make T-mac the housing crisis, Yao the banking industry failures, and their drive to win the American spirit proving to everyone that we will not back down, we will not go quietly into the night, and we will survive. But that story has to come from Houston only, because the boys in New York can’t imagine anything that great happening off the island of Manhattan. I’ll say it again, Fuck’em.
I tell you what, I’ve stopped not believing in this team. I truly believe a championship can be won with this group of rag tag men fighting for something great. The fans in Houston are waking up today with the heady brew of Clutch City pumping through our veins again. The Dream is alive, even if he now sits on the sidelines cheering on the new generation. Whatever happens in Game 7, this team has proven themselves worthy of ten times the accolades. They’ve exposed a paper champion in a team that was supposed to waltz into the NBA Finals. They have humbled one of the greatest players in Lakers and NBA history. Do not lessen this fact, these Rockets have put a tarnish on the legacy of Kobe Bryant that will not wash off easily. Michael Jordan would not have suffered this Rockets team. Should the Rockets win Game 7, and that is finally being acknowledged as a distinct possibility, the legacy of one Kobe Bryant will be inalterably damaged, and the team may never recover from it.
Game 7 is Sunday.
Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me.