This is an unsettling thing: Once, when I was in college, I went to a park near the campus to play pickup soccer with a few people. While I was sitting in the front seat of my car putting on my cleats, I saw a dog get run over by a single-cab truck. The dog, a tiny yellow thing, had bounced away from his or her owner and ran out into the road and GROSS.
I remember the guy that the dog belonged to shouting, “Oh no! OH NOOOOOO!” to nobody at all. Up until that point, it was the saddest I’d ever heard anyone sound. It was devastating. And gruesome. The dog looked like how the toothpaste tube looks when it’s halfway empty. The guy kneeled next to the dog and just cried and looked around and then cried some more. Nobody knew what to do, because everyone knew there was really nothing that could be done. The dog was dead, even though it stayed alive for a few minutes after the accident.
Hand to God, this was the first thing I thought about after the Texans lost again on Sunday.
The Texans have now lost eight consecutive games. It is, I’m certain, the longest losing streak in the history of American sports. (Do not fact-check that please.) And watching it unfold at Reliant Stadium, exactly 1.8 miles from my home in Houston, has been zero amounts of fun.
The worst part hasn’t been the evaporation of the Super Bowl aspirations the team had. It wasn’t the moment that Brian Cushing broke his leg. (While that was of course a sad, sad thing to have happened, and while he is one of my very favorite football players, know this about Cushing: He is a maniac. He’d have chewed through his femur and played from a three-point stance for the rest of the game, if they would have let him. He’ll be back and he’ll be fine. Or he’ll murder everyone. Either way.) It wasn’t Matt Schaub’s devolution into the Good-bye Forever morass, and it wasn’t even seeing backup quarterback T.J. Yates standing on the field against the hapless Rams trying to figure out exactly what it is he’s supposed to be doing (throwing an interception that was returned 97 yards for a touchdown is what he eventually settled on, FYI). No. Nope. No. None of that was the worst part.
The worst part is the inevitability. The inevitability of failure/heartbreak/sadness that clots up the air in Houston now. To wit:
With less than two minutes left in Sunday’s game, the Texans were staring at a first down, down by five, with the ball just footsteps from the end zone. This, as you for sure already know because you are a smart and beautiful person, is an auspicious set of circumstances in the NFL. But all that anybody expected to happen Sunday was terror. And that’s exactly what came.
The Texans did nothing for three straight plays. On fourth down, Schaub called up to Gary Kubiak for a play, then Kubiak called back like, “Hey, bro. A field goal isn’t five points, is it? It’s only three, right? Dang. OK, but, like, what about if we kick it twice real quick? Like a double kick? Is that a thing? Will they give us five points then?” Schaub was like, “I think that might work. Let’s do that.” Then J.J. Watt was like, “… Dudes.” So Schaub and Kubiak decided they had to score a touchdown to win just to be safe. And that was that. That was the game.
The ball was less than 10 feet from the goal line but Schaub might as well have been asked to throw it across the Pacific Ocean. There was a zero percent chance anything good was going to happen there and everyone knew it. I knew it. Schaub knew it. Andre Johnson knew it. All of the people in the stadium knew it. All of the people on all of the continents knew it and so did the Raiders and so did any actual real raiders that happened to be watching the game or listening to it on radios or however it is that a raider would consume a football game.
The ball was hiked, Schaub threw it way too early to Johnson, Johnson caught it, then he was tackled by 90 people at the 1-yard line. An offside call gave the Texans another opportunity to disappoint everybody so that’s what they did; Schaub didn’t even get the ball to any of his receivers’ hands on his second attempt, instead opting to try to throw it through a mass of Raiders defenders.
After the series, the superheroically even-tempered Johnson was moved to say not nice things to Schaub on the sideline. It was the first time in his decade’s worth of games in the NFL that he was so offended by a quarterback’s play that he felt compelled to do such a thing, remarkable considering he existed through the David Carr era. I can think of no greater indictment.
Inevitability has swallowed up hope in Houston.
The Texans’ season has been toothpasted.