Bottoms Up!

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September 16, 2004
Bottoms Up!

by Ric Sweeney

I didn’t get a chance to watch the Texan game Sunday. I do, however, have a valid excuse for what would seem to be an egregious error on the part of someone who writes for a Texan web site.

Sunday marked day three of my vacation to New Orleans.

And if you’ve ever been to New Orleans, then you know good and well that by day three, you’re coughing up cocktail napkins, writing apologies to various hotel housekeepers forced to clean your bathroom the two previous mornings and attending services for your liver, who asked for no funeral after diving head first into a steady stream of Hand Grenades and Hurricanes.

By day three, the town is officially known as New F’ing Orleans, which can be taken either way, good or bad.

Sunday at noon after two full days in New F’ing Orleans feels like day 56 at Shawshank. Watch football? You’re lucky if you can still see. But you know what? I didn’t have to watch the game; I only needed to know the final score and then listen to reaction from rambunctious Texan fans Monday morning to be able to write this column. And frankly, I usually write armed with far less insight and knowledge.

And here’s what I’ve concluded: outside of that abomination against the then-winless Bengals their first year, I can’t think of a loss in the Texans’ brief history that was more unfathomable. And you know what? That’s a good thing.

I’m betting Dolphin fans can probably relate to a lot of us right now. After all, Miami was the team Houston punched in the face 365 days ago, remember? Which isn’t meant to serve as a “Anything can happen in the NFL ‘cause it’s whacky!” silver lining, either. Because like my stomach after adding a vomit mural to the bathroom wall of room 801 at the Omni Hotel Friday night, the Texans’ loss had no lining, silver or otherwise.

Losing to the Chargers, at home, on the NFL’s opening weekend, is inexcusable. San Diego is a miserable franchise. They’ve earned the first overall pick in two of the last four drafts and list Doug Flutie on their depth chart. I don’t care if Houston gave the game away and played well enough to win. In season three, it’s time to see significant progress, not incremental lurches. To put it more succinctly, you should be treating teams like San Diego the same way Kobe Bryant treats Colorado hotel employees.

So get mad, get angry – you have every right to be upset. And then realize that getting upset is all part of this journey and that, more than anything else, proves that the Texans are on the right path. The only way you can be disappointed is if you have heightened expectations dashed. I mean, we think Joey’s mediocre because Friends was consistently great for 10 years and raised the bar… not that I watched Friends. I mean, I’m not gay, or anything. What?

Think about it – if over the past two years, the Texans hadn’t shown flashes; if they didn’t have, on paper, a potentially explosive offense, if they didn’t have capable playmakers on defense, if they hadn’t improved their roster top to bottom over the past three offseasons… well, no one would care if they lost to San Diego.

But the Texans do have an offense with loads of potential, they do have playmakers on defense, their depth has improved. And those are all good things. Let me put it to you this way: do you think anyone in San Diego would have been upset had the Chargers lost? Of course not.

We’re mad right now because the Texans are being built the right way. Charley Casserly and his scouts have done, let’s face it, a phenomenal job. His three drafts have produced eight starters (if you count Jabar Gaffney) – that’s a third of the team. And not marginal starters, either. David Carr, Domanick Davis and Andre Johnson all have Pro Bowl potential. Dunta Robinson and Jason Babin add a much needed dose of speed and athleticism to the defense. Chester Pitts and Seth Wand anchor the left side of the offensive line.

So hell yes it’s okay to be disappointed by underachievement because at this point, the Texans have achieved enough for us to feel that way. And that has me excited. I will not be happy with six or seven wins this year. This team has a chance to break .500; they have a chance (an outside chance) to be among the teams featured in various year-end “If the season ended today” playoff scenarios that I love so much. And anything less than that and you’re damn straight it’s going to upset me.

Good. It’s about time. From here on out, nothing short of living up to, and exceeding their potential and our expectations will satisfy me. Bring it on. Let’s see how they react and what we’ve got here.

On Bourbon Street, you have to wade through the urine and human carcasses to get to the bars. But once inside, they’re all offering 3-for-1 drinks and a party that never ends. The expansion process to this point has been like wandering Bourbon Street, ankle-deep in bodily functions, our faces pressed against the glass, wondering what it’s like on the inside. Now it’s time to see what all the fuss is about.

Drinks are on me.

Ric Sweeney can be found hitchhiking along I-10 on his way back to Texas.

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