I believe the internet warps minds in some ways and that none of us are ever really spared that. I lead off with that because I’m going to admit that I was fooled. The fervor for talking about Deshaun Watson’s comeback and how he wronged those women led me to believe that this game would be a massive vortex of negative energy.
It’s incredibly easy to remember in a general sense that one of the tenets of the internet is everyone is shouting takes that they’ll never have to write receipts for. It’s somehow harder to believe nothing will happen when people hop on to your tweets and describe how they’re going to try to throw things at the Browns sideline and what that would look like. In the end, fooling yourself about how much people actually care is one of the internet’s main exports. The fervor of the takes creates emotion. The emotion replaces action. We shout feelings into the void because there are few actions to take, and society encourages that because it means fewer actions are taken against those who have power. We have a bunch of people who “care,” but are really just trying to host their own versions of a sports debate show, which dumbs down what was already one of the lowest common denominators of human existence. Why? Because a) they can and b) there’s no action to take anyway.
This game was less sparsely attended than some Texans games this year, but only slightly so. The local football team also has a main export, and that export is excuses in the face of wasted effort. The men on the football field play hard. The men on the coaching staff coach hard. Neither of those two groups are collectively talented enough at their jobs for that to mean anything, as has always been the case since 2020 if not earlier.
The team is as well-covered from a media perspective as it ever has been. McClain is still posting. Berman. Kubena. Alexander. Bien-Aime. To name just a few non-radio people tasked to handle this, and not to mention in-house people. There are probably upwards of 25 people who put the Texans as their main media focus. But what I learned in trying to cover this team in 2021 is that no amount of access-heavy deep thoughts about the nature of a player can make any of this interesting to read or write about. It’s a 1-10-1 team that barely has made in-roads to the question of what it wants to be, never mind the question of how you express that sentiment to the fanbase. 15 people posting about Mario Addison’s COVID status can’t make it matter. They are a football team that sold culture instead of football, except now with Brandin Cooks pouting they sell neither.
And so, much as I would love to tell you the Texans made a game of this, what really happened is that they proved Deshaun Watson’s initial trade request was the right move for him to make. They elementally do not even know what a good football team looks like in 2022, to the point that a version of Watson that colloquially played like dogshit never actually had to worry about what the consequences of that might be. He also didn’t have to worry about what the consequences of holding out and demanding that trade would look like. He got a handshake from the owner and fans got Hannah McNair with her back turned as a consolation version of the home game. Browns fans were prevalent in the (at best) half-full stands. The man whose non-firing set in motion the trade request, Jack Easterby, is unemployed now despite being more valuable to the team than a franchise quarterback two years ago. The few teammates Watson still had from 2020 largely seemed to respect him more than they respect whatever the hell being a Texan is supposed to be. The NFL media en masse was more than happy to forget about his “off-field problems” and drape a protective cocoon around him while they talked about his charity work here and made sure Watson never even had to suffer the indignity of legitimately answering non-football questions.
In short, Watson spent his whole life accumulating the power. He transcended a team that never understood what to do with him or what it meant to have him. Then he began to use that power however he wanted. The only sin he can make in the league’s eyes is to play like he did on Sunday 17 times a season. Thankfully nobody watched this game and the Browns won anyway so it doesn’t actually matter.
What football feelings overtook me while watching this? Largely it was just helplessness. I have mostly come to grips with the fact that this whole “caring about the Texans” thing is a waste of time. But the fact that the one date on the calendar we all circled when the season started could be so collectively underwhelming in every facet really underlines how far away this team has wandered off the path. Forget about a full season of good football, the Texans were unable to even fulfill the basic requirements of a revenge game. No emotion, no fans. Not even a vague hint of it meaning something to play the guy who demanded his way out of town.
You may hear otherwise, but the empty seats speak louder. It’s all just posting into the void.