What if the Rockets won in a forest and no one was there to see it? These are the kinds of philosophical questions many fans must ask themselves this year because the vast majority don't have access to games on TV thanks to an apparent impasse between Comcast SportsNet Houston, the official home of the Rockets and Astros, and major cable and satellite providers without the word Comcast in their names.
The problem over how much carriers should pay per subscriber is apparently at the heart of the matter. More simply put: Money is the root of all blackouts and fans are caught in the crosshairs.
It's unfortunate that the sides involved in this mess, which includes everyone from the team to the providers to CSN Houston, chose this particular year to make it happen. This time last year, the NBA hadn't even started playing games yet and the Rockets were still mired in mediocrity when the season did start. Now they have an almost entirely new team that is shockingly young and, dare I say it, exciting to watch...and still no TV deals.
But the lack of TV goes well beyond just preventing fans from watching. Routinely, I have heard sports radio hosts say they weren't able to see road games because they don't have Comcast, like more than half of the Houston area. Since the fans for the most part are unable to watch as well and the Texans are 11-1, there is very little buzz about a team that really deserves it.
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I said last year that the Rockets were a very easy team to root for. They worked hard, played unselfish basketball and won more than not despite their athletic and talent deficiencies. This year, the talent level has improved (if not dramatically) and they still play hard, unselfish basketball. They also have fun doing it with a cast of extremely young characters leading the charge. Ostensibly, this youth movement means we'll have at least a handful of these core players around for quite some time and now is when we get to see them grow...if we could actually, you know, see them.
Currently, the Rockets are 9-8, coming off a stunning, come-from-behind win against the Lakers and heading into a stretch of three games against division and interstate rivals San Antonio and Dallas. There is every reason to believe, barring major injury, that they will be better, maybe substantially so, in January and February than they are in December. They might even challenge for a playoff spot.
Off the court, things are improving for the team as well. Season ticket sales are reportedly up 25 percent and the NBA All Star game will be in Houston this February. Routinely, there are Texans players in the stands -- good athletes like watching other good athletes. All that and yet, it's as if they are locked out for many Houstonians thanks to a fight over money.
It's ironic that perhaps the only way fans will get to see one or more of the Rockets' star players this year is if they end up on the Western Conference All Star team. Good thing it's on TNT.