I listen to a lot of sports radio and talk to people online and off about sports on a regular basis. Despite the fact that the Rockets are in the playoffs for the first time in three years, there just isn't the buzz about the team Houston has seen in years past. There are fewer calls about them on sports radio. There is less chatter about them online. Obviously, fans who follow the team are excited, but the casual fan seems somewhat uninterested.
That doesn't mean Toyota Center won't be full when the Thunder get here this weekend, but the average sports fan isn't paying close attention yet. Here's why.
5. Recent history of losing.
We love to reminisce about the championship seasons, but that was almost 20 years ago (I feel old). There is an entire generation of fans who were not alive or were just toddlers when those two Larry O'Brien trophies were hoisted inside the Summit. Yeah, it wasn't even the Compaq Center yet! The last serious playoff run was in 1997 in the pinstripe blue unis with Sir Charles Barkley at power forward. Yes, that fat guy on TNT. Since then, it has been a steaming pile of mediocrity and the last three seasons have ended in the lottery, albeit barely leaving the team with even mediocre draft position (even if they did get solid players). The James Harden trade and the Jeremy Lin signing helped -- just like T-Mac and Yao -- but it will take more than that to get the average fan watching again.
4. They are terribly overmatched.
Let's be honest, the Rockets are playing against one of the best teams in the NBA and it shows. Even if they do manage to win a game or two, they are likely to be bounced in the first round of the playoffs. It's tough to watch a team you love get trounced, and only the really hardcore fans want to see the growth of these inexperienced players.
3. Roster turnover.
General Manager Daryl Morey often seems to treat his job like the owner of a fantasy sports team. While there may be a method to his madness, the fact that he has made an enormous number of changes to the roster over the past couple of seasons has made knowing the Rockets' players confusing for any but the most ardent fan. Fans love continuity because it gives them a chance to get attached to players they love. With only two players remaining from last year's roster, it's been tough to do that.
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2. Football is still king.
The Texans are months removed from their playoff crumble, yet their fortunes moving forward still dominate the sports talk landscape. The Rockets are not being helped by the fact that the NFL draft is this week. As was mentioned on a radio show the other day, the ratings for the NFL draft's first night last year beat out the ratings for the Spurs-Thunder Western Conference finals last year. Ouch. With so much riding on a strong draft for the Texans, a lot of fans have chosen to put them ahead of the Rockets in the pecking order for attention span.
1. What TV coverage?
The single biggest complaint from sports fans this year has been the lack of TV coverage for the Rockets thanks to the ongoing stalemate between cable television providers and CSN Houston, the official broadcast home of the Rockets, Astros and Dynamo. With only 40 percent of the general public able to access games on TV -- only Comcast carries the channel among the biggest providers, if you've been living in a cave the last eight months -- it is tough for many fans to get to know the team. Sadly, for many Houstonians, the national television broadcast of Sunday's playoff loss was the first chance they've had to watch the team all season.