Time to Grow Up

No more excuses for the Houston Texans

This fall brings a feeling unknown in Houston for more than ten years: Pro football fans actually expect the town's NFL team to do well.

The Houston Texans have gotten a pass through their first three years as an expansion team, but no more. Team members are expected not only to have their first winning season but to compete for a playoff spot.

If they stumble they won't just get a pat on the head and a "nice try" from the faithful. Already the boo-birds have been heard at Reliant Stadium, when the Texans failed to convert a first-and-goal from the one-yard line in a preseason game.

Are fans expecting too much? Not if you believe Brenda Trifon. She's a child-development expert who's worked at the University of Houston and Montgomery College, and she says there are major differences between a three-year-old and a four-year-old.

"There's more manual dexterity and coordination, and they can work and play better with others," she says. One can only hope to Christ she's referring to the team's secondary, which got lit up by Peyton Manning for five TDs in a game last year. (Not to mention the rest of the team -- even the normally staid NFL.com newswire wrote of that Colts game that "Houston couldn't block, run, tackle, cover or even down a punt in an embarrassing performance.")

But there's more good news, for those fans who are growing testy about the team's ultraconservative offense: "Three-year-olds very much need a routine, but fours are risk-takers," Trifon says. "In play, they are much more imaginative than three-year-olds…They don't have to be as safe."

Does this mean the Texans might actually use deep threat Andre Johnson? For something other than a decoy, we mean. The mind reels.

It's not all roses, though: "Four-year-olds still tire easily, and they are still prone to tantrums," she says. Four-year-olds have steroid rage? Who knew?

Our bottom-line question: You've got first-and-goal on the one. Who's going to get the job done?

"A four-year-old would figure out a way to get into the end zone, where a three-year-old wouldn't. Four-year-olds just solve problems much better."

Well, yeah, but the four-year-old Texans didn't manage to accomplish the feat last month. Looks like we might have some slow developers here.

Trifon herself is a huge fan of the Texans and has season tickets for A&M football. So what's her prediction?

When it comes to boldness, she's more of a three-year-old than a four. "Oh, I don't want to make a prediction," she says. "I'll just say they should be better this season than last season."

Still taking baby steps, we guess.

Five from Off Center

For many years, Craig Roberts was one of Houston's best-known sports anchors, until KPRC decided he wasn't Gen X enough to attract all those twentysomethings who apparently spend all day watching local news.

He's now hosting Sports Off Center on Channel 55 and is sports director for talk radio's KFNC-FM 97.5.

Here are his five takes on the Texans:

1.I don't like the fact the Texans go to Buffalo and then come home to play Pittsburgh. My Oilers memories really kick in when you talk about games in Buffalo (good-bye 35-3 playoff lead) or against Pittsburgh (good-bye several AFC championships). In fact, when FEMA announced that 25,000 people were going to be sleeping in the Dome, I thought the Oilers had returned.

2. I am writing this with my Tony Boselli jersey on. I have picked Tony as the team's all-time draft pick: He got several million dollars for the team to look at his shoulder X-rays. My second top pick is Bennie Joppru -- the tight end has been here three years and never seen a snap in a game. He has a sore groin and a bad knee. I think Coach Dom Capers kneed him in the groin after last season.

3. Sometime this year owner Bob McNair will take time out from his busy schedule to explain how it's all about the fans. He will then leave in his police-escorted limo. (Note: He isn't using the same policemen as last year, so he is spreading the overtime wealth.)

4. I look forward to General Manager Charley Casserly's postgame reports on TV. Charley needs a new hairdresser. In fact, he could use an old one.

5. Do we really think it's important to go to the Super Bowl? It's in Detroit this year. Is going to Detroit a realistic goal for grown men to try to reach?

The Muse Speaks

You may not know it, but there's already a Texan in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is…ummm…a poet.

He's also an officially recognized Super Fan, and that's why he's in the Hall. Joe Texan (that's what he wants to be called) got inducted in 2004, along with that guy with the bulldog mask from Cleveland and the Raiders' Mad Max reject.

"I hung out with the likes of Big Dawg and Barrelman and Arrowman and Weird Wolf and Spike," says Joe of his Canton visit. "When I walked in that room last year and they were all sitting around the room drinking beer and stuff, and I opened the door and I walked in with my hat on and everything, they all jumped up and stood up and said, 'Welcome, Joe Texan. You're one of us now.'…It's just overwhelming, to say the least."

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