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In Which I Slay A Straw Man

Or: Momentum Is Crap.

My fellow degenerates Texans fans, tonight I'd like to piggyback on bfd's post about the meaningfulness (or meaninglessness) of the preseason.  In fact, I might have actually written mine before he did, but I was trying to get the kid to sleep and "Star Trek" was on the TV and well, the next thing you know it's kinda late and that rat bastard has snuck one in right under my nose.  Jerk. the imponderable I'd like to ponder is the notion of momentum.  You hear this term a lot in sports.  Like many other terms that sports media and fans like to throw around (intangibles and clutch come to mind) the definition of momentum tends to be somewhat fluid, probably, I suspect, to better fit whatever point the speaker is trying to make at the time.

If a team wins a couple of games in a row, they have momentum.  If a team wins all four of its preseason games, some might say it is carrying a certain amount of momentum into the regular season.  Except, of course, until they lose.  Momentum might be a great way to describe, say, a bowling ball rolling at an object, but it's probably not a good way to describe the behavior of a complex organism such as a football team as it bounces its way through the season.  Once the bowling ball runs out of momentum, it just stops and sits there. 

A football team, on the other hand, has momentum until it doesn't.  And then it does again until it doesn't again.  Witness your 2009 Houston Texans.  Or your 2008 Houston Texans.  These teams won a bunch in a row and lost a bunch in a row.  Or they lost a bunch and then won a bunch.  Either way, the Texans (being a multi-faceted collection of human beings) had the ability to change course and go from winning to losing and vice-versa whereas a bowling ball (being an inanimate object propelled by another force) just stops and sits there like Tim when he finally makes it to bed after a six-day Zima and "iCarly" marathon.

All of which brings me to my main critique about the concept of momentum as applied to professional sports.  Sports teams are not inanimate objects.  They are intricate organisms.  The coaches and athletes are paid to be the best they can.  I submit that every professional in any field, be it sports or not, is capable of putting a bad day or performance behind them because no matter what, they're coming back to the same environment the next day to do it again.  Repeat this hundreds of times over and a lot of the nerves and anxiety that might cause poor performance are worked away.  So it is for professional athletes as well.

All of this is a roundabout way of pondering the same issues that bfd does in his post.  Because, while I believe that the effects of momentum are way overrated, I can think of some examples of recent Texans history that might disprove that.  I'm thinking specifically here of the 2008 season.  Those of you who haven't drank the memory away might recall that we lost the last two games of the preseason and then went on to lose the next four games of the regular season, capped off by the infamous Rosencopter game against the Colts.

Was this a case of a lack of momentum from the preseason affecting our regular season play?  I'd be more inclined to suggest that the preseason revealed a series of weaknesses within the team that the regular season exposed.  If you go back and look at the write-ups of the preseason game against the Cowboys, you'll read some things that would, by the end of the season, sound very familiar, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  Specifically, you'll read that Marion Jones gained yards at will and that Tony Romo had enough time to discuss his favorite Tom of Finland book with his offensive line before completing one of his many passes.  On offense, teh Schaub was teh mediocre.

In other words, the weaknesses we saw against the Cowboys came back to hurt us in the first four games of the season.  The offense eventually got on track but the defense didn't until four games into the following season. 

So.  While the actual winner of this weekend's game doesn't matter, what matters is how well our team addresses the glaring weaknesses we saw against the Saints.  I think bfd has pretty much nailed the concerns, although I'm not quite as pessimistic as he is.  But if our first team defense doesn't at least battle the Cowboys' first team offense to a draw, I think we will be looking at some serious question marks going into that first game against Fivehead.