Above is the end of Game 4 of the 1995 NBA Finals. The Rockets swept the Magic (with a young Shaq) and won their second consecutive NBA championship. That was the last championship the city won, which is about 18-19 years. That’s not as bad as San Diego — which hasn’t won anything since the 1963 AFL Title — or Cleveland (1964 NFL Title), which is often held up as “the most tortured sports city.” But still, the Houston misery is becoming a thing of its own.
A few years ago, the Texans were considered one of those soon-to-get-over-the-hump teams; they kept losing in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, which is fairly far to go (that’s Final 4 for the AFC). They couldn’t clear that hurdle of the Ravens/Patriots/Broncos, though, and now they’re back at almost Square 1 (admittedly, there are pieces there). Tonight’s a big night for the franchise: mega-watt (potential) QB or fear-of-God DE? The Colts are good, but otherwise, that’s not an amazing division they play in. The top of the AFC — Broncos, Patriots — do have amazingly elite QBs in their late 30s, so could a good pick here mean an eventual changing of the guard in that conference? Theoretically, it could.
Houston doesn’t have a hockey team, but MLB + NBA haven’t been great in these 18 years either. Here’s the Rockets since that 1995 NBA title: Conference Semis, Conference Finals, First Round, First Round, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, First Round, First Round, No Playoffs, First Round, First Round, Conference Semifinals, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, First Round, First Round. If you’re scoring at home, that means they went from 1997 to 2009 without winning a playoff series, then won this series in 2009:
… and haven’t won another since, despite winning more than 50 games four times since the ’06-’07 season.
The Astros made the World Series in 2005 (swept by the White Sox, which interestingly is Chicago’s only baseball title since the early 1900s), and since then their loss totals hath been: 80, 89, 75, 88, 86, 106, 107, 111. Right now they’re 10-24; extrapolated, that’s another 100-loss season. The last team to lose 100 games in four consecutive seasons were the expansion New York Mets of the early-to-mid 1960s.
Now, admittedly, the Dynamo are pretty good.
Here’s the thing: the narrative around the 2014 NFL Draft will likely center largely on Cleveland, especially if they end up with Johnny Manziel. But while Houston is a big, great city (I’ve lived there on two different occasions), its sporting history is also largely tortured, especially in the modern era — so what they choose to do at No. 1, and what means to their franchise, is also massively important to the civic engagement of one of America’s five largest cities (and where all the jobs seem to be).