Many a football fan become so through this man's video game. - Scott Halleran
Battle Red Blog's newest featured writer introduces himself to the community and shares his story of getting hooked on the Houston Texans.
I was born and raised in a lost city with no identity whatsoever: racially diverse, segmented, home of the Alamo, a decent Six Flags, Sea World, and really good Mexican food. Some of my first memories, and most of the ones in between then and now, involved a bunch of silly games we have all grown to love. Games like playing hockey in the kitchen using chairs as goals, catching slant routes before I knew they were defined as that, and catching pop flies thrown as high as my child arm was capable. The problem was that I, like many kids growing up in towns like San Antonio, Las Vegas, Bismark, and Albuquerque, have no clear team connections.
Yes, San Antonio does have the Spurs, but as a 10 year old that knew way too much about basketball, it was impossible to celebrate Spurs victories with those around me because of the lack of basketball knowledge of San Antonioans. Every Spurs fan would just obnoxiously chant "Go Spurs Go," drink Dos XX, parade around the wins, but not know why they won. Every time I saw a broom when the Spurs were on the verge of sweeping the T-Wolves in the first round, I wanted to spew. As a result, I grew up stuck right in the center of a professional sports wasteland. I wandered from team to team trying to find the "one" NFL franchise that would be right for me. I was a sports orphan who watched every game but found franchises I liked through video games.
The first time I heard of the Houston Texans, I was 12 years old playing Madden 2002 (in retrospect, it's weird to see the same hits that were glamorized in the intro to this game being phased out now), the one with immortal Hall of Fame quarterback Daunte Culpepper on the cover. This is the same man who changed the face of the league when the Dolphins chose to sign him over Drew Brees, which led to the Saints staying in New Orleans instead of moving to the Alamodome.
Anyway, I was sitting on my throne, a black, tattered, LA-Z boy-like chair, hammering buttons on a bulky XBOX controller. I was playing my used copy with my Seattle Seahawks franchise, but that night would be different: I would be playing for the Super Bowl. To prepare, I had my mom blend up a strawberry smoothie as I analyzed how I would dissect the Bucs. In my imaginary NFL bubble, I was the GM of the Seahawks. The first thing I did was trade for Shaun King to lead my offense. Why Shaun King? I enjoyed the Bucs team in 2001, which lost to the Eagles in the first round, and hated it when they started Brad Johnson in front of him. I was intrigued by the idea of a QB that could run and pass, only to see Michael Vick revolutionize the position the next year. After a few weeks of preparation and romping opponents in the regular season, there I sat, playing in Super Bowl XXXVI. I celebrated with my pixels when the clock reached 0:00, showered in virtual confetti, thanks to a MVP performance by King that cemented him into NFL lore. As soon as the season was over, I couldn't wait for the offseason. Even since that age, I liked trading, scouting, drafting, and being a GM more than actually playing the game. The games were just a necessary inconvenience.
Before I entered the off season, the game offered the option of the expansion draft and taking over some team called the Houston Texans. "Who the heck are the Houston Texans?," I thought, as I hit "accept." Afterward, the game autosaved, I lost my rights to the Sehawks and was stuck with this team that I did not know even existed.
I was furious as that steel blue bull mocked me. I went to the apartment complex computer room to use the Internet 8th graders would use to look at inappropriate images to do some research on the Texans. I read article after article about this team previously unknown a few hours before. I quickly became jubilant as butterflies swam around my stomach. Had I found my NFL team?
A few hours later, I went ahead with the mock draft. The the only player I remember taking was Jermaine Lewis, who would run back TD after TD for me on kick returns. Over the summer, in between exploring the nearby woods of my apartment complex, shooting baskets at my alma mater elementary school, and games of Madden 2002, I prepared for 6th grade and counted down the days to the real Texans' season.
In the middle of this long summer, I saw the Texans take the field for the first time in the Hall of Fame game against the New York Giants. In my mind, it will always be known as the game when then- rookie Jeremy Shockey trucked that poor safety (#9 on this video, not the exact play). Even though they got whipped like eggs for breakfast tacos, I was shaking with excitement for the start of the regular season against the Dallas Cowboys.
Days quickly came and went until Sunday night, September 8, 2002. My Dad came over to help me put our new bunk beds together and to watch ESPN Sunday Night Football, since he did not have cable for us to watch it at his place. I only remember two plays from that game--the Corey Bradford 65 yard bomb from David Carr (Bradford came back for the ball after a weak throw from Carr, leaped over the safety for the catch, somehow stayed on his feet and then walked into the end zone) and a Gary Walker/Seth Payne combined sack/safety on Quincy Carter at the end of the game. After the sack, Walker jumped up and flexed his biceps, which popped out of his arms like those people's eyes from their their skulls on that "Guinness Book of World Records" TV show.
After the game, I was ecstatic and already thinking real Super Bowl, not a fictitious Madden one. If Dom Capers could get to the NFC championship with the Panthers, he could do it with Houston. My dad quickly shot down this fairy tale and told me 6 wins would be more realistic. He was right, unfortunately, as I learned the harsh truths of NFL reality. Houston would go 4-12, Carr would get sacked 76 times, and Jabar Gaffney would finish with a better QB rating than Carr.
Just like the Texans having a difficult time getting accumulated to the NFL, I was having a rough time in middle school. As an overweight, slow, white kid without a millimeter of hair on his body, I was picked on by fellow Generals that were already almost full grown. Most of the days were spent biding my time until the bell trying to avoid some type of humiliation. However, days turned into weeks, turning into months, morphing into years, and I slowly sprouted, becoming tougher, making friends, and starting to succeed in sports and school. During this same time period, the Texans grew from 4-12 to 6-10 to 7-9 to 8-8 to 10-6 to 12-4. As I grew up and started to understand how life worked, the Texans did the same. Hand in hand, together, the Texans and I crawled out of the septic tank.
A couple of months ago, I started a blog on Blogspot to put my thoughts into words and give me something to do instead of studying and winning World Series with the Texas Rangers in MVP Baseball 2005. You can check out the link here to get an idea of the type of articles I plan on writing. Over time, my writing ability and analysis improved, and now here I am having reached the Nirvana of Texans fandom, writing for BRB. I look forward to providing material to read as we wade through the slosh that is the NFL offseason. You can follow me on Twitter here; I am new to this new world of social media. If you see a Sasquatchean-sized white dude wearing a Texans hoodie and a Rangers hat, don't hesitate to say hello.