I remember the first time I saw Reliant Stadium. The year was 2001, and I was ten years old. I was visiting my father, who lived in Houston for a large chunk of my childhood (presently he lives across the street from Soldier Field in Chicago). As a project manager for ARCO/BP, he spent many years working in and around the Texas City refinery on various projects, and I visited him a few times if he couldn’t get away to come home for a weekend. On this particular trip, he took me and my brother to Six Flags AstroWorld, where I learned that to some people bowel control is absolutely impossible when riding Dungeon Drop.
After our day at the park, we went on a detour to some ice cream shop I wish I could remember. We drove by the Astrodome on one side, and on the other was Reliant. I remember asking him what it was while in absolute awe of what was being constructed in front of me. It was then that he told me about the old Houston Oilers--tales of cowboy hats, blown calls, and Earl Campbell. I was mystified and enthralled. Then he told me about how the Oilers were now the Titans, what Bud Adams had done to this city, and how a new franchise was moving in to Reliant Stadium. Despite knowing of the team’s existence for mere moments, it broke my heart. I decided then and there to cast off my customary southern California support of the Chargers and adopt the Texans as my team. They would be my fresh start in the world of football, which admittedly at the time was my third favorite sport behind baseball and hockey.
I can still picture the almost completed stadium like it was yesterday. So fresh. So pristine. So full of promise. It stood in front of me as a cathedral of modern football, and ten years later it’s still the best Sunday service in town. I remember for several years watching the highlights on Sportscenter when I got home from school. If I was lucky enough to have the game broadcasted in my area (which was usually only when playing the Raiders, Chargers, Niners, or Rams), I would savor every moment of it. This continued throughout high school until college, when I was able to go out to sports bars and sit quietly in the corner with my ground bacon burger watching the game alone. There aren’t many Texans fans in California. In fact, I’m the only one of my kind at NFL Network. It’s a cold, dark world outside of Houston.
When people asked me what my team was, most of them gave almost dumbfounded looks when I answered them. They didn’t understand – how could they? Why root for a team that never wins? Why not be a Cowboys fan? Why not jump on the Patriots band wagon while it was still hot? I don’t blame them for not getting it. It takes a special kind of crazy to love this team. This is a club that has never done anything. It’s never taken a playoff spot from Peyton Manning. It’s never been to the Super Bowl. It’s never done anything but sell seats and act as a farm team for the Ravens.
Or has it?
To Houston, the team means more than wins and losses. It’s about being the new kid in class. It’s about doing things the right way in a world full of wrong. It’s about having people you can be happy to root for every weekend. It’s about your favorite players making headlines for community service rather than domestic violence. It’s about getting the one thing back that you never wanted to lose – football. To me, every time I watch this team, I think of my dad. I think of the moments I got with him as a child in between long trips to China, Europe, and whatever backwater hellhole they kept sending him to in India. I can never abandon this club, because doing so would be abandoning one of the best memories I have with the man that shaped me into who I am.
My father raised me on three principles: The Sooners are good, the Huskers are bad, and no matter what you never, ever stop working towards what you want to be in life. In the last week alone, the Sooners beat Florida A&M, the Huskers lost to UCLA, I started my dream job working for NFL Network, and got a gig as a staff writer on my favorite sports website. If Richie Incognito killed me right now, I would die a happy man.
I look forward to the rest of the season, and I can't wait to make you all sit through wordy articles about third string linebackers. Have a nice day ya’ll.