Taking Their Knocks

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July 31, 2002
Taking Their Knocks
By Ric Sweeney

Imagine, if you will, that Britney Spears has agreed to go on a date with you. (snap, snap) Hey, stay with me… Do I need to maybe give you some time to wrap your brain around that one…? Fine…


Ready? OK. So you’re on the date with Britney, and she looks hotter than she’s ever looked. What’s that? Yes, she’s wearing the Catholic school outfit. But here’s the thing: throughout the evening, she makes repeated racists comments, unleashes a relentless stream of bodily functions (each followed by her giggling, “Oops, I did it again”), talks endlessly about the N’Sync tool she dated, discusses at length her growth as an “artist” and admits that she doesn’t think Caddyshack is funny. Then, as you’re dropping her off, hoping against all hope for a goodnight kiss, she extends her hand, thanks you for the most boring evening of her life, gets your name wrong and then does a full-on sprint to her door, leaving you standing alone on the curb.

Sounds like the date from hell, and yet, the next day, when all your buddies come over wanting the lowdown, you tell ’em what? “Greatest night of my LIFE!” Greatest night of my life?!? Oh, yeah.

Think about it — you were with Britney Spears. Looking hotter than ever. And yes, she was in the Catholic school outfit. Under those circumstances, wouldn’t it be difficult, nay, impossible, to see all of her faults, let alone allow them to bother you? It’s Britney Spears. And she’s on a date with you. Everything else is kind of rendered inconsequential, right?

Well, the Texans have kind of been our Britney Spears these last three years. Not that they’ve really given us any reason to turn our noses up at them (Toro, aside), but I’m pretty certain, even if Bob McNair had hired Ladd Herzog as GM, named the stadium Bud Adams Field (but with no toupee double entendre intended) and nicknamed the team the Houston Sucks, we’d all still be sitting here this week, just days removed from their first preseason game, with smiles on our faces as wide as Adams is fat. Football is back. Everything else is kind of rendered inconsequential, right?

For the most part, yes; but that doesn’t mean the Texans are above reproach. Granted, we won’t see any real returns on most of their decisions up to this point until the fall, maybe even next fall, but in my opinion, the Texans have dropped at least one gigantic ball thus far in their brief history. Namely, the fact they’re not being featured on this year’s Hard Knocks (which debuts tonight).

Quickly, for the uninitiated, Hard Knocks is HBO’s behind the scenes, all-access look at NFL training camp. Last summer, their cameras followed the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens around, which made for an interesting angle and an intensely absorbing series.

While some of it felt feigned and staged (namely, almost everything involving Ray Lewis, Shannon Sharpe and Tony Siragusa), the majority of the show gave us a glimpse into a world we’d otherwise never get to see. We watched coaches game plan, cut down their roster, scramble to replace significant injuries; we watched players struggle with the jump from college to the NFL; sweat cuts, work to develop camaraderie and chemistry; most memorably, we watched Todd Heap’s hot wife do… stuff.

And as soon as the series ended, I thought to myself, “Man… the Texans would make a Tony-the-Tiger-like geeeeeeeeee-rate subject for next year’s show.”

Alas, here we are, on the brink of another Hard Knocks season, and the Texans will be on the sidelines with the rest of us, watching the Dallas Freaking Cowboys soak up the spotlight. It’s like the Oilers never left; once again, the city of Houston is playing second fiddle to Dallas.

Not that it’s an altogether bad decision on the part of the Texans. Assuming Houston did say no to HBO’s offer, you have to admire the Texans’ attention to the business at hand; their focus is on getting ready for September 8, not mugging for documentary cameras, and who among us can fault them for that?

And, of course, this may very well be HBO’s error; maybe the network wanted the Cowboys all along and never even gave thought to featuring the NFL’s newest team. Seems hard to believe, but if that is indeed the case, then a) my apologies to the Texans, and b) it would have to rank as HBO’s second worst decision ever as a network. (Number one, without any question, is their decision to give Robert Wuhl a series. Honestly, UPN executives watches Arli$$ and vomit.)

I’m not denying the Cowboys offer an intriguing story line because I think they do (more on this later), but whatever they might bring to the table, it’s no comparison to an expansion team getting ready for its inaugural season.

The Cowboys have had training camp every year since 1960 and will continue to have training camp every year until infinity (shudder), but the Texans will only have one inaugural training camp, and the dynamics of building a franchise from scratch, to me anyway, would seem to offer limitless stories and possibilities. David Carr alone could fill countless Beta tapes. And let’s not forget: he has an attractive wife… always a big bonus.

But despite the snub/slight, you better believe I’m still going to watch the show. Just counting the number of times delusional Cowboy players and/or their fans mention the team being a Super Bowl contender alone should be worth the $12.95 a month I pay for HBO.

In addition, how can footage of players trying to hide their “We traded up for this guy?” looks while Quincy Carter bounces another screen pass to his intended receiver not be entertaining? And who isn’t absolutely giddy at the prospect of seeing Emmitt Smith talk about how little the all-time rushing record means to him while HBO shows footage of him working with a trainer to improve his helmet removing time? And let’s not forget, Jerry Jones, like Bill Murray, circa 1979-1984, is pure, unadulterated comedy gold. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing it, Jones’ inability to string together a coherent thought is, trust me on this, worth the hour of your time. So the show’s got that going for ’em, which is nice…

But Cowboy bashing aside, I’m still disappointed that the Texans won’t be the show’s focus because they really should be.

It would have given Charley Casserly and his crew a chance to show off how hard they’ve worked to build their roster; it would have given fans an up close look at Carr, who has all the makings of a superstar; it would have put the much-maligned city of Houston in the spotlight for reasons other than being the home of Enron; it would have given Steve Patterson a chance to show off Reliant Stadium; it would’ve attracted new fans, caught the eye of prospective players and agents and served notice to the rest of the NFL that there’s a new sheriff in town, and that the bar has officially been raised.

In short, on the eve of the much-anticipated Hall of Fame Game, Hard Knocks would’ve given Bob McNair and every last member of his organization a chance to bask in the glow of their accomplishments, something they’ve certainly earned the right to do. What could the Cowboys offer that would top that, short of Britney Spears, in the Catholic school outfit, spending a day with their cheerleaders…

Ric Sweeney is a saint with children and a genius with food additives. Britney Spears Britney Spears Return to Houston Pro Football If you have a question, comment or suggestion, contact Ric Catch up on past installments of Quick Slant