September 7, 2007
Happily Ever After…?
By Ric Sweeney
We’ve never lacked suspects to hold accountable for the Texans’ less than stellar start. Bob McNair. Charley Casserly. David Carr.
“You?!” Yes… me. This is my story.
It all began August 2, 2002. Less than 24 hours removed from having made my first-ever mortgage payment on my first-ever house, I was trying to come to grips with my first-ever lay-off.
Which left me in a bit of a predicament: No, not how I was going to make my second-ever mortgage payment in 20-some odd days without a job, but whether or not my horrifically-timed forced unemployment would impact my enjoyment of the Texans’ first-ever scrimmage against the Cowboys scheduled for later that evening.
Priorities and all.
It did impact my enjoyment, by the way, and as soon as it ended, I did start to immediately worry about mortgage payment #2. So the Texans’ franchise was launched under the haze of pending doom and gloom for yours truly. And from that moment forward, my life – both the good as well as the far-too-frequent bad – have weirdly, and more importantly, accurately portended things to come for our Texans. It’s like the plot of a really bad Charlie Kaufman movie: Bad things happen to Ric; bad things then soon happen to the Texans. Ridiculous, I know; yet the more I try and dismiss it as coincidental nonsense, the longer its roots seem to grow.
Thus, I’ve decided to at last embrace my role as the cosmic enabler of the Houston Texans. You can now blame me for everything that’s happened to this point with our NFL franchise. But, as you’ll soon see, you can also thank me for what I think is about to be a monumental shift in the team’s fortunes.
In April 2003, several months after picking myself up from the lay-off blindside (rookie David Carr spent this same period picking himself up from blindsides as well), my life took another unexpected tumble. As the Texans were stepping to the podium to announce their first round draft pick that year, my wife announced she wanted to separate.
What’s interesting is that the pick turned out to be, of course, Andre Johnson, hands down the best draft pick in franchise history. It would seem getting dumped moments before the Texans found draft-day gold would put an end before it ever began to this seemingly inane idea of my life impacting the life of the Texans, but hear me out.
After months of teetering on the edge of “Fine, Go! No, wait – stay!”, my wife and I had seemingly reconciled for good and were headed to smoother shores when – and my hand to God, I swear this is true – she moved out once and for all as Steve McNair was leading Tennessee to a come-from behind victory in Houston on December 21, 2003. In fact, I actually paused what turned out to be the game-winning drive for her to tell me the news.
I know – eerie, huh?
After several months, I emerged from my hole of depression and was soon dipping my toe in the single pool; meeting new people, drinking heavily… Coincidently, my rise from the ashes of a broken marriage coincided with the rise of the Astros. They were winning playoff series and I was pretending to be 22 all over again. It was, needless to say, a terrifically great stretch in my life, even though we all knew it was fleeting and would soon bottom out. But I never lost sight of the Texans in my rearview mirror. I continued to keep up with them and found the 2004 season – while a distant second to the excitement engulfing Minute Maid Park – full of all kinds of promise.
And sure enough, as the team was wrapping up its best season ever, the one that had us all convinced they were on the right track, I met someone with “special” potential written all over her while, I kid you not, attending the Packer-Texan game on November 21st of that year. We proceeded to date over the next 32 (or so) weeks but I should have instantly known things weren’t going to work out when, on the final week of the 2004 season, we attended the infamous collapse against the Cleveland Browns together.
Do I bring the hell or what?
But at the time, what did we know? We were having a great time and the Texans had everything in place to be a force for years to come – what could possibly go wrong and derail this inevitable happy ending?
Well, lots of things, actually. I was oblivious to the obvious writing on the wall regarding the shakier-by-the-millisecond financial status of my soon-to-be ex-wife and the increasingly bizarre behavior of my then-girlfriend; and the Texans were busy releasing important veterans, trading for Phillip Buchanon and drafting Travis Johnson whiled acting equally oblivious to the fact that their supposedly “headed in the right direction” team had finished the season losing to five eventual playoff teams by a combined score of 148-61.
By July 2005, both my money and new girlfriend were gone, igniting a ferocious 5-to-7 month stretch that remains the low point of my life. At roughly the same time, the Texans reported to camp and began preparations for what would be the worst season in their short history…
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.
Remember the seemingly contradictory occurrences in April 2003, when my marriage splintered just as the Texans were moments away from drafting future Pro Bowler Andre Johnson? Well, turns out that day set in motion an incredible journey that led me to where I am now; meaning that what seemed like the worst day of my life at the time was really, in hindsight, the best….
Because after 10 years of hard time in Dallas, in which I had lost my job, gotten divorced, bottomed-out financially and then been ripped apart by another relationship, I was offered a too-good-to-be-true job in Houston; my hometown; my foundation – a chance to wipe the slate clean and start completely over in the city of my birth. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving 2005. Less than two months later, another former Houstonian returned to his hometown to accept his dream job… Kubiak somebody or another.
Here’s where the interlocking theory again takes a seemingly momentary detour: Less than a month after unpacking my bags, I met someone. It was love, people – the good kind. Bliss ensued.
Now then, if I really was somehow cosmically guiding the fortunes of the Texans, then logic would dictate that their 2006 season would be an overwhelming success – I fall in love, the Texans win the Super Bowl, and the Weinstein brothers outbid everyone for my screenplay, “Me and the Texans.”
But that’s not what happened. David Carr was extended, the team passed on Reggie Bush and Vince Young, and it continued to lose as it had always done before. And the idea that my silly little life was somehow impacting the Texans’ progress ceased being anything more than a ridiculous set of coincidences. In fact, my first date with the new woman in my life actually took place at an Astros game, and when I finally popped the question last November, it was on a cool, beautiful night in front of an absolutely pristine Minute Maid Park.
It seemed I could, at long last, absolve myself of any guilt over the Texans’ horrific fall from the starting gates. I was happy, moving on and starting a new life with a new partner, and they were stuck in their own self-made rut, tied to the anchor of Carr and sinking from the forefront of an increasingly apathetic fan base…
We set a March 31st wedding date and then, as they’ve seemingly done so many times before in the past five years, the Texans soon followed suit, embarking upon a new journey themselves. Yep, exactly 10 days before our wedding, which had been planned for months, the Texans traded for Matt Schaub and released David Carr…
Which means it is now reaching fruitless status for me to try and deny what and who I am in relation to this franchise; instead, I choose to embrace it. I’m driving this bus, people – the facts don’t lie.
So if you’re a Texan fan, I suggest you wish my bride and me well in our new life together.
The future of the franchise depends on it, after all…
Ric Sweeney has failed to mention: the bride’s maiden name? Campbell. The eeriness just doesn’t end, does it…?