The past several years, I've been fortunate enough to attend the annual tilt between the Texans and Bud Adams' Army of Darkness in Nashville. I generally head up there with my dad and a handful of buddies. We watch football or basketball all day Saturday at a local sports bar, head out to the bars on Saturday night to listen to some live music, take in the game at LP Field the next afternoon, and then fly home on Sunday night. It's always a good time, and I look forward to it every year. What keeps it from being a great time is the nightmare that unfolds on LP Field nearly every season. Last Sunday's disgusting display was simply the latest chapter in the unabashed disappointment that has been the 2010 season and this year's steaming pile of contribution to the Texans' 2-7 record against the Titans in Nashville.
You know what the worst part is? I'm numb to it. I expect bad things to happen every Sunday. The Texans have successfully conditioned me to expect failure. Whether it's in the form of an excruciating, what-are-the-odds-of-that-happening last second play, the familiar first half no-show, or a complete whipping that makes you wonder how the Texans ever managed to win
eight five, I watch the Texans play with the constant question of when the other shoe is going to drop buzzing in my head. Sometimes, the shoe drops at kickoff. Other times, the shoe drops on the first drive. Occasionally (and far too frequently with this Texans squad), the shoe drops within the last minute of the fourth quarter or in overtime. The shoe almost always drops.
I hate that feeling, and I hate that I don't see any hope on the horizon.
That'll change, of course. The season will end. The offseason will begin. Free agency will start. The 2011 schedule will be released. Anticipation of the 2011 NFL Draft will build to a fevered pitch. The Texans will bring in a new class of rookies, and I'll convince myself I like/love the picks (great call on Kareem Jackson there, self). Spring will give way to summer, and I'll anxiously count down the days until training camp, and then the days until the first preseason game, and then the days until the first regular season game. By the time Week One of the 2011 season rolls around (owners and NFLPA willing), I'll be convinced anew that THIS will be the year.
I'll have nine (9) years of evidence that this won't be the year, mind you, but I'll dismiss that evidence, either by rationalizing the schedule, trumpeting new additions to the roster, projecting development from younger players, and/or perhaps even by the promise of a new coaching staff. One way or another, I'll trick myself. I do it to some degree every year. I wasn't so delusional as to think the 2006 Texans would be a playoff team, but I was certainly delusional enough to think the 2010 Texans would be.
Reality, however, says that I root for a 5-9 team. Reality says I support a team that's lost seven of its last eight games after starting 4-2. Reality says I back a squad that started 3-1 and now faces a best-case scenario of finishing the season at 7-9. Reality says I once again cheer for the worst team in the AFC South.
My team features a defense so blindingly horrific that Antonio Smith's weekly idiotic penalty, spiced up by him ripping the helmet off a teammate who was just trying to keep him from getting flagged for escalating said idiocy, gets completely lost in the shuffle of third and fourth-down conversions so regular they might as well be sponsored by Metamucil.
My team features an offense that boasts the best running back and the best wide receiver in football yet all too often struggles to put points on the board, especially in the first half.
Very quietly, my team features some of the worst special teams play (Matt Turk, what happened to you?) I've seen in a very, very long time.
Most frustratingly of all, my team is (1) led by a coach who just looks perplexed by what's happening every week, despite the fact that the same things happen every week; (2) managed by a guy who--if he does actually have final say on personnel decisions--seems incapable or totally disinterested in addressing the glaring shortcomings in the middle of the defensive line and the secondary; and (3) owned by a guy who could probably find the positives in an Ebola outbreak.
I hate that I love this team. I hate that I keep coming back for more, week after week, year after year. I hate that I'm used to the losing, and I hate that I manage to fool myself that the breakthrough is just around the corner when all the evidence suggests otherwise. I hate that there's zero doubt I'll renew my season tickets next year, knowing full well it's a virtual certainty that this team will bring me far more angst than joy. I hate that I'm a sucker.
New year. Same story. Ninth verse. No playoffs for your Houston Texans. Here's to Year Ten being the exception to the rule.