Smith: How did Houston sports become so messed up? – Houston Chronicle

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The last 13 months have been tough on Houston’s sports psyche.

What’s next: J.J. Watt telling the football world that the Texans must trade him, too?

The Astrodome being torn down and turned into a parking lot?

The McNair family selling Houston’s NFL team and the franchise relocating to San Antonio?

The Astros winning their first World Series in franchise history, then having a magical trophy tarnished by a sport-changing sign-stealing scandal?

Oh, yeah. That last one already happened. Way back on Jan. 13, 2020. Basically a lifetime ago.

Poor Houston sports.

Sad Houston sports.

Frail and absurdly fractured Houston sports, if we’re all being honest.

And now Deshaun Watson has requested a trade and doesn’t want to play for the Texans anymore.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse or feel more painful, it does.

The Texans were up 24-0, then were blown out 51-7 the rest of the way by Kansas City in an AFC divisional round playoff game a year ago.

A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired by Astros owner Jim Crane a day later.

DeAndre Hopkins was coldly traded for peanuts just as the coronavirus pandemic was kicking in.

Bill O’Brien was fired. Mike D’Antoni walked away. Daryl Morey chose another team over the Rockets. Russell Westbrook was traded. James Harden was traded, joining D’Antoni in Brooklyn. George Springer chose Canada over Texas.

Somewhere in the crazy middle of everything above, Jack Easterby unofficially took over Cal McNair’s Texans.

“Victory minded! Victory hearted! Victory focused! Victory talk! Victory walk! Victory leadership! Victory vision! Victory effort! Victory! Victory! Victory!” Easterby tweeted on New Year’s Eve, apparently unaware what 2021 had in store.

On Sunday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner prayed for Watson and the Texans to reconcile before irreparable damage was done. But the broken relationship was already unsalvageable, and the all-knowing entity upstairs apparently ignored Turner’s heartfelt prayer.

“Houston loves @deshaunwatson and the @HoustonTexans,” Turner tweeted. “Houston is a great City that is hungry to back our players and team. As Mayor of a City that is second to none I pray we move forward together.”

If Turner wants to keep Watt in Houston, he should tweet faster next time.

It’s becoming harder and harder to remember what Houston sports were like before they weren’t falling apart.

From 2017-19, there were so many athletic superstars in America’s fourth-largest city that our three most popular pro sports teams making the playoffs felt like a formality and the Chronicle’s annual “Houston 10” feature on top sports figures needed to be expanded to a Houston 20.

Now?

It’s a big deal when Michael Brantley re-signs with the Astros for two years.

Hey! Look! Someone didn’t want to be traded and really wanted to stay!

Thursday’s earth shaker, in many ways, was the largest and most unbelievable destruction to date.

Watson, the 25-year-old franchise quarterback whom the Texans spent 16 seasons trying to obtain, one-upped Harden and Westbrook by letting America (and the world) know he’s 100 percent done with the Texans.

The depressing trade request arrived less than five months after Watson, surrounded by family, cried tears of joy while discussing a four-year, $156 million extension he had just signed.

“Broken rib, punctured lung, torn ACL — whatever it takes,” Watson said on Sept. 5, 2020. “They’ll have to really keep me off the field. Kicked in the eye, eyeball dripping out, whatever it takes. I’m on that field. Until that doctor is forcing me and holding me down, I’m on the field trying to win. I’m trying to win at everything — just life in general.

“I’m never trying to compare myself to other people. I’m focused on my situation: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans. … I’m doing whatever it takes to get to where we want to get to.”

Watson’s new news broke the morning after McNair’s Texans hired a 65-year-old head coach who had never been a head coach at any level and hadn’t even served as an offensive coordinator.

Poor David Culley. Just when fans were starting to figure out who you were and what you looked like, D4 made everyone instantly forget you.

All is not lost.

The Astros turned a 29-31 record last season into Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, almost making the World Series for the third time in four years.

Kelvin Sampson’s University of Houston men’s basketball team entered Thursday with a sparkling 13-1 record and ranked No. 6 in the country.

John Wall looks sharp again, Christian Wood has initially impressed, and first-year coach Stephen Silas calmly navigated the Rockets through a chaotic Harden storm. And even though a completely remade team started 7-9, it appears to have already won the Westbrook trade.

Dusty Baker is easy to root for. New general managers James Click and Rafael Stone are intriguing. (New Texans GM Nick Caserio is still hard to read.) Heck, Culley could become a great story for the Texans — once they figure out who their starting QB is in 2021.

You see? That’s what I get for trying to be optimistic.

A couple paragraphs of local positivity. Then we’re suddenly sucked back into the vortex that is Houston sports.

What would ESPN and all the national websites do without us?

What’s it like to draft a franchise QB, win a second-round game with him, then keep him in uniform for a decade as the legend keeps growing and history keeps stacking up?

“If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground,” Texans legend Andre Johnson tweeted on Jan. 12. “The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!”

Ahhhhh.

That’s more like it.

Back to normal.

brian.smith@chron.com

twitter.com/chronbriansmith

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