Back in my younger years, I was quite the pro wrestling aficionado (as opposed to now, when I am...well, still quite the pro wrestling aficionado), and while my favorite wrestling organization was the WWF (and still is WWE), I would watch the weekly shows on cable for a handful of other companies -- NWA, UWF, World Class, to name a few.
Back in the mid-'80s, one of my favorite non-WWF guys to watch was a wrestler named Terry Taylor, who was a mainstay at one time or another in all of those other territories. A highly skilled worker (wrestling speak for "performer who put on great matches"), Taylor was touted by many to be the next Ric Flair, which was (and still is) about as high a compliment as you could give a pro wrestler.
Fast-forward from my formative years to 1989, or Sean Pendergast: The College Years if that helps you. Terry Taylor by that time was starting his first stint in the WWF. Even though it was a time when the WWF was known mostly for steroid-jacked, 350-pound freaks, I was excited to see how Taylor would do. So around that time, I went to a WWF house show in South Bend (my collegiate home at the time), in part because Taylor was on the card.
I was quickly depressed and horrified by what I saw.
The first match of the night at any wrestling house show is usually a couple of preliminary guys who barely anybody recognizes. Working the opening bout (or "jerking the curtain," in wrestle-speak) is often a rite of passage for a guy working his way up the ladder, or it can be the nadir of the tumble down the ladder for older guys.
On this particular night, the first match involved some nondescript jabroni (probably Jose Luis Rivera, or Mac Rivera, or any one of the Riveras) with no theme music as the first wrestler. Your typical hump who got no reaction as he plodded to the ring in his generic windbreaker and blue tights.
Terry Taylor! Sweet! But wait, there was one problem....Terry Taylor wasn't Terry Taylor anymore. He was repackaged with a red mohawk and a manufactured strut and called the "Red Rooster."
I was horrified.
The next Ric Flair had been relegated to being an opening-match joke of a cartoon character. I would have been angry if I wasn't so depressed. Taylor...oh, sorry...Rooster would go on to win that match against Blah Blah Rivera, but would pretty much lose every other match in his WWF career.
I bring this up because that's what this weekend's Texans-Jags game at Reliant essentially is. It's the NFL weekend's equivalent of an '80s WWF prelim match, the Jags are Blah Blah Rivera and the Texans are Terry Taylor, a once proud up-and-coming title contender turned punch line.
A year ago at this time, the Texans were 9-1, a championship contender, the next big thing.
And now? They're 2-8, their coach is on career death watch and the players are sniping with the fans because they're booing too loudly.
Yes, the Texans are now the Red Rooster. The Battle Red Rooster....
Let's get to BATTLE-DRINK. I'm sufficiently bummed out now: B3: Jeff Tarpinian tackle B4: Jake Byrne catch B5: Justin Rogers INT The attrition during the NFL season is fascinating, and a little bit scary. Go back and find a copy of the Texans' roster from the opening weekend against San Diego (I have no idea where you'd find it, but go look.). Now look at Sunday's roster. Think about the alterations:
* Two of the top three running backs (Foster, Wood) are gone. Replaced by a gaggle of young guys and Deji Karim.
* Owen Daniels is on the flavor of injured reserve where he can come back, but he'll be out again Sunday. Jake Byrne, in.
* The defense has been especially hard hit with Brian Cushing and Danieal Manning both going out with leg injuries, and Ed Reed getting cut for the injury of sucking.
Actually, the number of injuries for the Texans hasn't been all that bad, but it's who's gotten hurt. Three Pro Bowlers and Manning (a position with no depth). These squares are homages to the new faces on the team in their place, including my man Tarpinian, who scary enough, has come in off the street and been more effective than any other inside linebacker of the last two seasons not named "Cushing."
I1: Houston Texaaaans FIRST DOWN I3: Texans DB signals incomplete The celebration column gets one old entry back and one new entry added. First, in honor of the fans who don't really know about keeping the noise down while there's an "OFFENSE AT WORK" (actual Toro sign), we bring back the gulp on every Texans first down. Also, we welcome a new square to the board, for every Texans defensive back who gives an exuberant "incomplete" sign after the other team throws an incompletion. take three gulps. For this, you'll want to keep an eye on Brandon Harris, who specializes in this move even when more often than not it's the sideline or the receiver's chest (i.e. drop) breaking up passes to his assigned guy.
N2: (Any college prospect) mention At 1-9 and 2-8, these two teams are both on track for, at a minimum, two of the top five picks in the NFL Draft. Jacksonville is the odds on favorite for the number one pick overall, so expect to hear at least some conjecture as to who each team might take. Rather than get specific with names you'd have to hear, we will cast a wide net. Any college prospect's name is two chugs.
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N5: Texans 2nd Half TD Two second half touchdowns in the last eight games....I wouldn't worry too much about having to chug five times.
G1: Owen Daniels "smart fan" mention G2: Ben Tate "wishy washy fan" mention G3: Ed Reed "not a good fit" mention G4: Andre Johnson walks off G5: BOOOOOOOOOO!!!! A true sign that your season has been reduced to football rubble -- the majority of the follow up talk during the week has to do with press conferences, fans flaming players, players flaming fans, and former players flaming coaches. And let's face it, there's a really good chance that the product on the field Sunday will be so bad that attention will turn to the soap opera that is Playmakers: Texans 2013. And in the event Schaub comes in the game again this week (y'know, since he's the only one who can run up tempo), well, that last square has you covered. BOOOOOO!!!!!
O2: Gary Kubiak "That's on me" O3: Gary Kubiak "Good kid" O4: Gary Kubiak "That's this league" O5: Gary Kubiak "Gotta look at the film" We can't remove John McClain and his legendary Twitter vitriol (Twitriol!) completely from BATTLE-DRINK, and a little tease...next week, will be a McClain BATTLE-DRINK tour de force for the Patriots game. So this week, we make the BATTLE-DRINK cover not just the game, but also the post game! Gary Kubiak quotes!!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.