In these plague-riddled times, sports should serve as an escape vehicle from the problems of everyday life. For fans in Houston, however, sports itself has become an everyday problem. In the past 12 months, their star athletes have left the city in droves — some willingly, some not.
To cover the many failings of the Houston Texans’ organization in one section would be impossible. In fact, it would be pointless because something new may have already come up in the time it took for me to type this sentence. For now, let us tread upon ground that has already been beaten to death.
Before the 2020 season, head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien, in his final coup d’grace, traded away star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. This, along with several other personnel goofs made during his tenure, tore away the foundations of a team that had won the AFC South just a season earlier.
In week 10, Hopkins showed Houston fans just what they missed out on. Against the Buffalo Bills, he caught a Hail Mary touchdown from Kyler Murray in the dying seconds to give the Cardinals a 32-30 win.
J.J. Watt is the next Texans domino to fall. Friday morning the news broke that the most famous Houston Texan of all is no longer with the team. At his request, the team released the 31-year-old defensive end. With Deshaun Watson having demanded a trade and the team culture so toxic, it’s unlikely that Watt will be the last Texans departure this offseason.
Rockets retreat from Houston
But the Texans are by no means the only disappointing and dysfunctional pro team in the city of Houston.
At one point, it looked like the Houston Rockets had the makings of an NBA champion, as former NBA MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook shared a court. But like many other super-teams throughout history — especially in Houston — this core simply did not gel.
All reports indicate that the Rockets franchise had become the James Harden Show. Rockets management practically bent over backward to cater to Harden’s every whim. By December, the Rockets were so desperate to keep Harden happy that they dealt Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall.
It wasn’t enough. Harden pushed for — and received — a trade to the Brooklyn Nets, where he could form yet another super-team. That’s the abridged version. The full version is a hundred times more messed up.
Believe it or not, the Houston Astros may be the healthiest major pro team in the city right now. Twelve months ago, it would have been inconceivable to write this sentence. The prospects for both the Texans and Rockets were still bright, while the Astros were still dealing with the aftermath of their sign-stealing scandal.
Behind the steady hand of Dusty Baker, last year’s Astros proved that they could win cleanly. They snuck into the playoffs with a losing record, but put together a heroic playoff run to reach the American League Championship Series. They nearly became the second team in baseball history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit but lost the seventh game to the Tampa Bay Rays.
If the Astros are to make it back to the World Series in 2021, they’ll have a harder time doing so. They failed to retain one of the key pieces of their core, outfielder George Springer, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason.