View Full Version : Battle of Texas actually matters this time

09-25-2010, 09:54 AM
Eight years ago, after conducting some interviews on a warm August afternoon at Raiders training camp in Napa, Calif., I got a call from my new boss at Sports Illustrated.
David Carr celebrates the Texans' victory over the Cowboys in 2002.
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

”I’m thinking about putting the Houston Texans on the cover this week,” managing editor Terry McDonell said excitedly. ”Everyone’s talking about their opening game against the Cowboys.”

A look of semi-disgust flashed across my face. I tried to make sure it didn’t show up in my voice, but I proceeded to tell McDonell I thought he should reconsider, that an expansion team hosting its first game against a struggling in-state rival wasn’t all that big a deal in NFL circles. Though McDonell, who still runs the magazine and its website, would enjoy a highly successful tenure, at the time I was worried that he had set himself up for ridicule only months after coming aboard.

”Don’t do this,” I pleaded.

He did it, fashioning a cover that screamed ”War For Texas” and featured a somewhat sensationalized quote from Cowboys safety Darren Woodson: ”We’ve got to win that game.” Grant Wahl’s well-written story talked up a rivalry that seemed a bit contrived, and included a quote from a Texans fan: ”You know, we could lose every other game this season. But if we just beat Dallas, I’ll be the happiest man on the face of the earth.”

Sure enough, the Texans came away with a 19-10 victory, creating a sense of excitement that lasted all the way until the following Sunday, when they began a five-game losing streak en route to a 4-12 season. And really, if you think about it, that ostentatious but ultimately hollow opening-day triumph was so Texans. No NFL franchise has gotten its fans so hyped up for alleged landmark moments yet failed to provide a satisfying follow-through.

In short, the Texans are pro football’s biggest tease. Still without a postseason appearance in eight seasons, Houston didn’t win more than two consecutive games until 2008. Though the Texans managed their first winning season (9-7) in ’09, they rallied only after a stretch of four consecutive defeats in November and early December had essentially killed their postseason hopes.

The reason I bring this up (besides wanting to give my ex-boss a laugh on an early autumn Friday) is that on Sunday, for the first time since quarterback David Carr(notes) led the home team to victory in the War For You Know What, the Texans will host the Cowboys in a regular season game.

And this time, it really is meaningful, or at least it has the potential to be.