A few years ago, in 2013, the city of Houston was about as far off the relevance map of the sports landscape as we could get. The 2-14 Texans were the worst team in football, the 51-111 Astros were the worst team in baseball in about a decade at least, and the Rockets were a first round playoff exiter.
Well, the times have changed, and four years later, the Texans have won back to back divisions AND drafted a quarterback, the Astros are the best team in baseball, and the Rockets won 55 games in the regular season! The postseason is a regularity once again in Houston!
However, as we found out last week, in this corner of the sports world, generally speaking, with postseasons come postseason disappointment. James Harden took us to that dark place last Thursday. For all of his greatness during the regular season and first round of the playoffs, the lasting image we will all need scrubbed from our brains is James Harden's 10 point foul-out against the Spurs in a 39-point loss to end the playoff run.
So now, as a public service announcement of sorts, I remind you of the pain that comes with renewed relevance. With mountains of your input (via text, tweets, and conversations), here are the ten biggest postseason disappointments in Houston history...
10. Albert Pujols takes Lidge deep (10/17/05)
We start the list with one that has micro-pain, but a positive macro-payoff. Many Astros fans cite this Pujols moon shot as one of Houston's heartbreaking failures, but doing so, in my opinion, kind of ignored the fact that the Astros went on to win this series. Still, enough of you brought this up when I sourced feedback, so as someone who wasn't born here and who has only spent a couple decades here, who am I to argue?
9. The James Harden Elimination Game Experience
Since the genesis of this list rests solely at the feet of Harden and his abysmal Game 6, he needs inclusion somewhere on here. So let's just take his elimination game performances as a Rocket, in particular Game 5 against the Warriors in 2015 (13 turnovers) and Game 6 the other night (2-11 shooting) and roll them up in one big ball of uninspiring failure, and hope Harden never makes a list like this ever again.
8. Brian Hoyer Turnover-palooza, 2015 Wild Card Game vs Chiefs (1/9/16)
Before Brock Osweiler was run out of town for his ineptitude, Hoyer was run out of town for peeing down his leg in a playoff game against the Chiefs, turning the ball over five times (four INT's, one fumble). Basically, Hoyer made getting run out of town cool. Osweiler was just copying him.
7. Astros lose to Phillies in five game extra inning festival, 1980 NLCS
This was one of the first MLB playoff series I was really "into" as a kid, and I was actually on the non-Houston side. (I have a whole half of the family from Philadelphia.) So after this series, for about two years, I just assumed playoff games ALWAYS went extra innings. This was some incredible baseball, made even better by Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell on the telecast!
6. Joe Montana announces his presence, 1979 Cotton Bowl (1/1/79)
Holy smokes, if I didn't know any better I'd think U of H was trying to lose this game. It's incredible how much farther we've come in a few decades in both the size of the players and the management of game situations. Wow. Watch the last five minutes of this game. It'll blow you away how dumb some of the decisions are.
5. Best Astros team ever goes out in four games, 1998 NLDS vs Padres
This might be my personal biggest disappointment as a Houston sports fan. I moved here in October 1994, so I got to experience a Rockets title in 1995. However, a run of great baseball, not to mention a trade for Randy Johnson, made the summer of 1998 magical. This was the only Astros team to ever win over 100 games, so to say losing in the divisional round in four games to the Padres was a THUD is an understatement. This sucked.
4. The Stockton Shot, 1997 Western Conference Finals (5/29/97)
No wait, THIS sucked worse. Screw the Jazz.
3. The Renfro Call, 1979 AFC Title Game (1/6/80)
Again, this is one where I was on the other side as a kid (I was born in Pittsburgh), but SO many of you brought this one up, I had to include it, and considering where football stacks up in this town, it belongs high on the list. This Renfro play would have tied the game at 17-17 in the third quarter. Instead, the Oilers had to settle for a field goal and the Steelers would go on to win 27-13. This was a gigantic momentum loss for the Oilers.
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2. Lorenzo Charles (4/4/83)
The "30 for 30" on this Phi Slama Jama team captures what this team meant to the city perfectly. I think you could very easily argue that the essence of March Madness and all its unpredictability can be traced back to this night in Albuquerque in 1983.
1. 35-3 (1/3/93)
Enough said. The end.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.