THE CITY OF HOUSTON HAS DIED AND GONE TO SPORTS HEAVEN. THE HEADLINES THAT HAVE SURROUNDED THE CITY’S SPORTS CULTURE OVER THE LAST 12 MONTHS HAVE BEEN NOTHING SHORT OF MIRACULOUS. From the Texans’ bold decision to draft DESHAUN WATSON 12th overall in the 2017 draft, to the ASTROS’ CHAMPIONSHIP run, and most recently, the ROCKETS’ COMPLETE DOMINATION OF THE NBA, the past calendar year has been one hell of a wild ride. While 2017 was a tumultuous year full of destruction and political division, our city’s sports franchises have stepped up in a major way to make the road to recovery a little brighter. In the past, Houston sports have redefined the word mediocrity into a subtle artform. With the exception of two improbable Rockets championships in the mid 90s, “CLUTCH CITY” has historically been anything but. The Texans’ short history as the youngest NFL franchise has been a legacy of 8–8 seasons and early playoff exits. The Rockets have long teased their fans with “almost” great teams that wow during the regular season, only to sputter out in the playoffs. The Astros – well, let’s just say they have long earned their Lastros nickname. Even the DYNAMO, who for a while were among the MLS’ best franchises, have recently suffered a stretch of painful obscurity, even by their normal standards. Yet, over the past year, and seemingly out of nowhere, all four major franchises have either entered into, or brought to fruition, impressive organizational turnarounds.
The Texans kicked it off on April 27, 2017, when, in a move that was more than a little out of character for the typically risk-averse franchise, they traded up from the 25th pick to the 12th, and selected the championship winning phenom from Clemson University, Deshaun Watson, as the team’s newest quarterback. Although Watson’s rookie season was cut tragically short by a season-ending knee injury, it lasted long enough to leave no doubt, both for the city and the league, that this young man is going to be the face of the franchise for years to come. Things only got better in the summer, when news of the Rockets’ acquisition of CHRIS PAUL broke in June. Paul, perhaps the best point guard in the league, joined a Rockets team captained by this season’s potential MVP, JAMES HARDEN. Despite missing much of the first half of the season with injuries, Paul, alongside Harden, has now helped lead the team to a league best record. As of the writing of this article, the Rockets are the Vegas favorite to win it all this year.
Of course, the greatest story of them all has been our beloved ‘Stros. From the worst team in baseball just five years ago, to your 2017 World Series Champions. Owner Jim Crane’s master plan – to turn the Astros from out of touch perennial losers to the data-driven winning machine of the future – came to complete fruition last year as the Astros became an unbeatable force of nature on both sides of the ball. The team won over 100 games and defeated the top three payrolls in baseball during a historic playoff run, mere months after the worst natural disaster in history brought our city to its knees. Oh, and while this was happening, the Dynamo earned their first playoff berth since 2013, making it all the way to the conference championship.
These are only a handful of the inspiring and incredible headlines that came out of Houston this past year. On an individual level, stories of the city’s athletes stepping up to help their community have exploded onto the national news circuit, J.J. WATT’S fundraising becoming the most viral among them. Though it’s important not to overstate the impact that a game has on our day to day lives, years like 2017 remind us that sports are a vital part of culture, and often play a pivotal role in bringing people together when they need it most. Houston needed a win this year, and we got them in spades.