The heart versus the inevitable

If you actually read this post, and you’re going to respond to me on Twitter about it in good faith, please use the hashtag #ReadThePiece. I know this sounds silly, but it’s an easy way for me to separate responses that I want to honor with a real answer from people who just want to be mad about everything they read online.

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I take some lumps from a smattering of fans who remain anonymous and are often fighting against an idea rather than a person. For them I am a stand-in avatar to project what they believe is terrible on — usually it winds up being not clapping hard enough. Sometimes it’s that the media is out to get their team. Sometimes it’s that Jack Easterby isn’t a mastermind. And so on. But as for the rank-and-file riversmccown.com blog reader, I think it’s okay for me to admit that even you guys regard me as the reality check you don’t want at times.

I have written a lot of words about football over the last 13 years. Some of it’s about this team. A lot of it is about other teams. I write a column for a chill little Ravens website with some regularity. I think the Ravens are a really well-run team, but it doesn’t matter much because a lot of what drives your comments and furor is the idea of winning a championship. Since I started writing about the Texans regularly, they and the Ravens have the exact same number of rings. So, in this reductionist exercise, there is no difference between good and bad, right? Well, no, one of those teams has a direction that has worked for many teams over the years and is a consistent contender. The other is the Texans.

But I come to this not to bury the Texans, but to praise the moments.

Listen, the extent that last Sunday’s performance matters to the aether of time, I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anything this team could have done last week to change the perceptions around them short of revolutionize football. It’s another bad opponent and you’re at home.

The reason Tyrod Taylor was a free agent is because he doesn’t hit the throws he hit in that game against Jacksonville regularly. The goal of objective and rational football analysis is to look at what happened in the past and predict the future. You don’t need me to tell you that Taylor isn’t likely to hit those throws next week. If he was likely to do so, he’d be making $35 million this year.

But what I can’t take away — and what I hope you understand regardless of rationality and a lack of understanding about how building culture matters for the long-term here — is how preposterously cool this throw was. I have watched it tens of times and every time I see a replay I still can’t believe it happened.

The moment he threw it I wrote it off. I figured the drive was over. Someone right in his face on the throw. As Brandin Cooks comes into frame, I was thinking the ball would get picked. As Cooks gets to the ball first, I’m thinking it could get stripped from him. And no matter how happy I am to see it completed each time, in my mental library of throws that look like this, very few of them end like this.

And that’s kind of the excellent thing about sports to me. You couldn’t make this play happen in Madden. It’s too irrational to be logical. But it happened. And it’s a moment that I’ll take from this team that joins several moments from older bad-to-mediocre Texans teams. (Aaron Glenn’s game against the Steelers in 2002 comes to mind first, beating the Patriots on the final day of the 2009 season is another. In the bad corners of my mind there’s the Rosencopter and the Glover Quin Hail Mary bat down.)

There exists a space between legitimate criticisms of a team and just enjoying the players who played for it in whatever way that’s worth to you. If I wanted to not write about the Texans it’s really easy — I don’t make anything but gas money for tips here anyway, so the incentive is all in the heart. And, much as I would rather have someone who meant more to the future of the team at quarterback found this offseason, I think this Taylor throw is etched in to me forever.

And that’s why we watch even if they hand us a team that mathematically aspires to win seven games at best and looks to be executing a player acquisition strategy that emulates a naughty or nice list. Hopefully they make us all eat a big shitburger for doubting them, but even if they don’t, they still have the capacity to give us moments that are unforgettable.

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The Monday before the season started, I got heart palpitations. It’s a stupid word for something that’s a big deal, makes it sound like my heart got a visit from a tax regulator. Graham Glasgow had the same thing I have, an elevated heartbeat. He’s not expected to miss any real time, as the parlance goes in transactional world.

Now, if I’d had more urgent symptoms — chest pain, trouble breathing — that would have been an ER call. Instead, what’s happened has largely been my wife doing more of my housework while I have been unable to do a lot of strenuous things without accruing lightheadedness. At my worst moments my heart has pounded uncontrollably and I get burning sensations in different parts of my body, like suddenly someone exposed my shoulder to a full 95 degrees of sunlight, followed by a gigantic headache that sometimes has that same sensation as well. At my best moments, when I’m writing and not focusing on my body, I don’t even know anything is wrong with me.

I saw a cardiologist, they ruled out anything incredibly dangerous and had me do several tests that I have no immediate closure for because the American medical system is a disaster and the office closed down on an appointment day due to a hurricane. But, anyway, when the bad stuff comes, I know that by all rights someone should have pulled me into a hospital if I had real signs of danger.

But that doesn’t make the feelings I feel any less intense, and it doesn’t make the lack of a plan of attack for dealing with whatever I have any less stressful as we inch into Week 2. This is my first real experience reckoning with my own mortality rather than someone else’s. It doesn’t make the thoughts I have over what happens when I die — whenever that is — any less dark and haunting. Could happen when I fall asleep because this one little thing avoided my doctor’s eye, right?

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And as I’ve been mostly laying low, trying to be calm, what I keep coming back to is the parallels of those feelings versus that place of mostly-secure knowledge. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my 13 years working at a mostly-national level inform me about this team as compared to (for most of my readers) your anecdotal experience or thoughts, colored by what you want to believe to be true.

I think about how I doubt my doctor even though I am sure she’s very good at her job because she doesn’t feel what I feel. She’s very well-studied. By all means I should just take her at her word. But she doesn’t go home to the dread I feel when this thing starts pumping at light speed. She doesn’t know the unresolved parts of my life that this is pushing into my mind. She doesn’t know the myriad of bad things that have happened to me and how I Am Different.

And I kind of have played with those two ideas next to each other, because I can tell you something from experience, and you can tell me your feelings, and words don’t really change feelings all that often today. And that’s about how I feel about this too, as I wait for a plan that is an action instead of a “you’re okay enough to go home.”

We really all do believe what we feel is just as special as Tyrod Taylor lacing it just between two outstretched sets of arms right to Brandin Cooks.

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