Been a bit since we last wrote in this blog — we had a hit piece with the 2022 Texans Poll, and then Real Life hit me pretty hard. Took a vacation. Cut my knee up pretty bad at kickball and had problems walking around normally for two weeks. Have a cat that’s dealing with extreme health issues requiring hospitalization and blood transfusions. Had a bird drop dead on us on Sunday. Have had plenty of non-Texans work to deal with. I know you probably don’t actually care or will glance over this. We’ve all got our own stuff going on.
But there’s more to it than that. I’m struggling to write about the Texans this year.
Part of it is, to take the 2021 Steph Stradley pledge, my feelings are in escrow. I have spent 2.5 years ensconced in awful football that feels bad. I am as sick of writing about my bad feelings about the team as I imagine most are at me reading them. And, well, I’m more or less feeling withdrawn in admitting this to you. Writing, to the best of the truth in my eyes what I think about this team, is something I took a lot of pride in. I try to read negative criticism as much as praise about my work, and I try to answer it if I feel it is fair.
So why now, when the Texans have some young and potentially exciting players for the first time in a few years, am I feeling this way? Well, mostly because I’m not really feeling like the Texans are all that interested in me being a fan.
Let’s rewind to last Thursday night, the final night of the preseason. Where my belief is that the Houston Texans DMCA’d 28 videos on my account:
Now, at first I believed this was coming from the NFL themselves. The notices are certainly signed by the NFL’s people. Perhaps it was Amazon — wouldn’t be the first time they’ve been overly aggressive. But as I dug into this more deeply, it became very clear to me that the Texans were overwhelmingly likely to be the ones that did this. Here’s my evidence:
– I did a search for NFL DMCA on Twitter, and my account is the only one that has mentioned it in a non-joking way since May. I know that there are some problems with all-22 and Brian Baldinger that I’m tangentially aware of, and I know that YouTube has generally been bad with it. Not Twitter, though. I have been posting clips like this to Twitter since 2018 with no problems. If it were the NFL, I feel like they’d have a wider target base than some piddly 10K account, right?
– If it were only Amazon trying to shake me, they would have targeted only clips from preseason Week 3. They were targeting clips from all three preseason games.
– I have only ever been DMCA’d on Twitter one other time — what happened was that I sarcastically took the Texans field goal celebration GIF and used it with no alteration. That was me being cheeky, and I got thwacked for it. And I deserved that, to be honest.
– Other reporters such as Jayson Braddock have posted clips from that game and none of them have been touched.
– I’ve been made aware from at least a few people that people inside the building took in Texans Poll 2022 with interest and took it negatively.
– When I experimentally blocked the Houston Texans’ Twitter account as the DMCAs were rolling in, the DMCAs slowed and then stopped abruptly at about 1:30 AM.
– I know of at least one other reporter with credentials who had his stuff DMCA’d that night with warning from the Texans PR team that they were doing it.
The generous read of this is that there is media favoritism afoot. The more negative way to think about this is that the team is actively deplatforming me from something I’ve done for years. And the funniest part about it is: I’ve been way more negative about this team in the past than I’ve ever been this season and offseason. I liked certain picks in the draft. Some a lot! The videos I’ve posted this preseason have largely been of rookies doing good stuff — Dameon Pierce in particular, but also Derek Stingley and Jalen Pitre. I’m not saying that I haven’t said a negative word or that I have a great deal of belief in the front office — I’m definitely not an 8 on Caserio like the majority of poll respondents — but I’ve largely slowed my roll on that sort of content because after three years of this there’s just not a lot of new ground to cover. The positions are staked out and I’m hoping to be wrong.
It’s just a weird ground to take, both in the timing and in the target. I’ve spent thousands of hours promoting the product for free. I know a lot of you have almost no sympathy for media people or even media-adjacent people, and I’m prepared for the cry-laughing emoji to be deployed. But uh, when your product has problems engaging people — y’all know, the thing where the stands were mostly empty last season and so concession stand prices were lowered this season? — one thing I’d advise not doing is actively trying to push away one person who has been working to keep you on the radar.
I’ve put in 20 years of fandom over a franchise that has never really been popular. I was watching 2002 Texans games this offseason to paint a picture of Andre Johnson’s past. I maintained this website’s Texans focus not to make money — I think if I counted it up on PayPal I may have been tipped $2,000 in three years of doing this all here — but because I was a fan. Nobody is holding on and hoping to make big donation dollars through the trio of Blown 24-Point Chiefs AFC Divisional Round Lead, Oops The Franchise Quarterback Hates Leadership and Also Is Allegedly A Serial Sexual Assaulter, and The David Johnson-David Culley Era. There’s no bandwagoning that.
And I enjoyed writing my truth, and I believe it’s extremely good content, or I wouldn’t put it out there. And what the actions are now suggesting to me is not only is the feeling not reciprocated, but it isn’t appreciated. What I have learned from this is that the Texans do not want me to be a Texans fan anymore. I haven’t felt for a while like I was the target market for Texans football, and that was something I tried to push through. I have largely not made a stink about things that they’ve done to me in the past that I felt were extremely petty, such as making me drive from Humble every week to pick up a press pass rather than giving me a season-long one because I missed their arbitrary deadline. Or when they unfollowed me on Twitter earlier this offseason out of nowhere. Or how J.J. Watt spent more time communicating with me than the Texans organization as a whole has.
I think they’d rather have Debbie The Texan as a fan than me, and I think Twitter follows prove my point. (I make no judgements on Debbie The Texan; for all I know she is very much different than her online persona.) I live in Houston, and I love football. But this kind of football is now for somebody else. It’s for simps. It’s for cheering in lockstep because we said so and Cal McNair fed some of you burgers one time. It’s only for The Positive People.
And, so, I’m doing some Real Thinking right now. I can’t tell you that I have no desire to keep doing this, because my day feels a little emptier without it. I’m also loathe to give it up because it feels like another part of my past is dying, and I don’t have a lot of pieces of my past that are still alive. If I were like pot-committed in some way — if I were working for a place that was paying me to cover them — well, this is just a thing that I’d have to deal with. But it doesn’t really benefit me much to post about the Texans, outside of just being something I’d like to do.
But barring an olive branch that I doubt is forthcoming, I’m leaning towards taking them up on it for this year. I am obligated to follow the Texans for the national work to some extent, but I definitely could cease all fan operations. There definitely doesn’t need to be a preview of this team, and there definitely doesn’t need to be weekly coverage here.
One thing I definitely won’t do is post Texans clips on the main account. Wouldn’t want to draw any positive attention towards any young players making big steps.