September 11, 2008

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John Barfield


Believe. Believe. It’s the one word in sports that says so much but says so little. You’ve seen signs in every NFL stadium at some point with this simple word. ”Believe.” When MLB baseball approaches the postseason every year, the word reappears. “Believe.” But believe in what I ask you? Do the Chicago Cubs “believe” that they will win a World Championship? Or do they “believe” that some strange twist of fate will ruin another promising season. What does your team “believe” in?


After week 1 of the NFL season there is a definite divide in the NFL. At no other time in every season is there such a black and white line. As the season moves on, the line becomes blurry and grey. Until finally after week sixteen, the playoff line is drawn in the sand. Then drawn again after the Super Bowl, the penultimate line is drawn-“Champion.”


At this very moment, your team is either undefeated and winning its division; or it is winless and in last place. The Tennessee Titans are in first, while the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Houston Texans are all in last place. Soon, however, astigmatism will set in. Winners will lose and losers will win.


The Denver Broncos looked like world-beaters in its first game. Throw into that category the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Chicago Bears, and even the Atlanta Falcons - the Falcons?  Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders, the Detroit Lions, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Houston Texans looked like they forgot that the preseason was over -the Colts - our beloved Texans? Maybe, they just didn’t get the memo.


Is Reggie Bush back? Is Peyton Manning a below average quarterback? Is Michael “the Burner” Turner the second coming of Jim Brown?  Is Matt Ryan the second coming of Joe Montana? Is Aaron Rodgers really better than Brett Farve?  Time will tell, but history is not on their side. Heck, Rob Johnson (do you even remember Rob Johnson?) had the greatest debut start of any quarterback in the recent history of the NFL and where is he now- bagging groceries in a Piggly Wiggly? And what about former bagger Kurt Warner, who went on to a Super Bowl and two league MVPs?  Time will tell on these players as well.


The season is 16 games not one, whether it’s the first game or one somewhere in the middle; one bad performance is not the time to panic. Nor is it a time to “believe”, unless you are a rational person that believes that his team will eventually find its appropriate place in the world.


 I am a realist by nature. I don’t “believe” in pots of gold at the end of rainbows or that Elvis is alive and well and living in your basement. I scoff at the idea that if a team has lost, they are the worst team of all time. I rebuff the assertion that one win is some claim to greatness, or that it means it is going to be “their season”.  I remember when a Dallas Cowboy fan that was a friend of mine told me in 2006 that the Indianapolis Colts “sucked”, because they Colts had just lost a close game to his Cowboys. Well we know how that turned out.  Besides, these mood swings are a fast track to a straight jacket.


           As for the Texans, here is what we do know-not from one game, but from its recent past. Matt Schaub is a decent quarterback.  Not great, but capable of playing a great game from time to time. He usually doesn’t have that nasty habit of losing games for his team by throwing interceptions as fast as Amy Whinehouse has to “go to rehab.” Andre Johnson is very good. Demeco Ryans and Mario Williams are impressive. I am not sure what all that counts for. If you think about the Miami Dolphins of 2007, they had Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas on their roster. Both were on the downside of their careers, but they are probably Hall of Famers. They only won one game.


           I think most of us do “believe” that the Texans are much better than that. They are a good team in a league that only rewards greatness. They are not going to dominate the NFL in 2008, but (and what we should all hope for)  they could hover around .500 until they catch fire at the end of the season a la the NY Giants. That could happen. Most of the NFL’s “experts” would have put them in the same category as the Giants last year after week 10. Why not us? Why not this year? The same could be said for everyone in the league though-especially after week number one. So, let’s believe in the Texans. Believe that they will compete and be in the running in the final six weeks. Then, we will see what happens.


The right to believe is every fan’s and every team’s right. Believe in improvement. Believe in the playoffs. Believe in a championship. You choose what to believe.  But don’t believe that you have accomplished anything but a win in week one of a 16 game season. For the rest of us, don’t think that we have been eliminated the race. Believe.


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