Rockets Redux

Paranoid Houstonians such as yourself and myself may be forgiven for wondering if Clutch City (a phrase that, ohmigod, is starting to worm its way into my available vocabulary, replacing, perhaps, dialectical materialism), the NBA video that celebrates the life and times of the '93-'94 Rockets, is, like Sports Illustrated's special issue, merely for local consumption. It's not just that the Rockets are shown only in the most flattering light, but rather that even their failures are seen as important, even necessary character developers en route to glory. Hey, here the Knicks are simply cast as the heavies.

Actually, I'm told that paranoia's not necessary, and that the entire country is being offered Clutch City. We'll see how well it sells, since America seemed united as never before in pulling for the Knicks (and/or ignoring the series, natch).

Oh well. For those of us who got all tingly watching the repeat of the last game's fourth quarter, and were charmed by the notion that the city willingly wilted in the parade-day sun so Hakeem could finish his midday prayer, this video will seem like a very wise investment. The Astros' attendance is likely to drop while fans stay home with their VCRs.

The video follows the genre's well-established story arc. A quick intro takes us back to game seven of the Seattle series of '93, followed by the first talking head. (Scotty Brooks has this honor.) Then we speed through the '94 season's first 14 victories. Happily, the story lingers a nice long time on game 15, the first Rockets-Knicks encounter. Happier still, it only mentions the doldrums that followed the 22-1 start. And then, the thrilling overture concluded, we're ushered into the playoffs.

The video does a nice job of recapturing Houston's despair after the first two games of the Phoenix series (but without any mention of the Mother's Day massacre of Houston fans), a series that gets almost as much attention as the finals. Cynics might say that's because the NBA will show Charles Barkley's face every chance it gets (he does have a good post-game-two line: "We were all over Hakeem like that cheap suit you got on"), and they'd be right. But since Barkley generally looks like a role model for sufferers here, that's fine with me.

The championship series is generally nicely handled, though game seven gets curiously little attention. We're not even shown the final seconds ticking off.

Still, that's a quibble, if anything. Hey, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cheer. Best of all, Clutch City ends without mention of the Rockets' very weird off-season, so we're left with epic, rather than soap opera.

-- David Theis


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