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Fertitta's first three years as Rockets owner has been far from boring.
Fertitta's first three years as Rockets owner has been far from boring.
Photo by Jeff Balke

Rating the Full Plate of Issues for Each Houston Sports Owner

Mo' money, mo' problems. It's not just an iconic song title from The Notorious B.I.G. In Houston, and honestly, around the entire sports landscape, it's a realization that many owners across all sports are having, that with the eight digit annual operating income, and the ten digit franchise valuations, come with tough decisions, sleepless nights, international intrigue, and public scorn.

Oh, I'm not here to tell you to shed tears for any of them. Not a single one. The fact of the matter is that most of us would gladly trade our problems for their problems, because their problems come with beach courses, private jets, and chef cooked meals. For some of the owners, these lifestyles are the results of decades of their own hard work. For some, they're fortunate enough to have parents or grandparents with vision and gumption (and eventually, resources).

Regardless of how the owners of our favorite teams arrived at acquiring their franchise, (most) problems don't discriminate. Certainly, a global pandemic does not. Each one of the three owners is dealing with his own set of issues right now, both COVID-19 related and otherwise. So, if you could swap spots with just one of the three major Houston owners, who would it be?

In other words, whose problems are the least daunting? In reverse order, I think my rankings might go like this (with each getting an "MMMP" rating, "MMMP" standing for "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems", with 1 being "no problems at all, and "10" being "the world is ending"):

3. JIM CRANE, Houston Astros

MAJOR ISSUES:
* Crane owns the team that plays the sport that everyone is most angry with right now. You'd be stepping into a sport that might go dark for 18 months, if they don't reach an agreement. Oh yeah, their collective bargaining agreement is up after the 2021 season. Yikes!

* On top of that, the Astros have one of the highest payrolls in the entire sport, and one of the worst local television deals. This would be an issue WITHOUT the coronavirus doing its thing. Now, with potentially no baseball (or at least no fans in a shortened season), it's a major issue.

* Oh yeah, then there's this little matter of your team being universally hated outside the city of Houston, with your face being one of the symbols of the complete lack of contrition (or presence of phony contrition).

MITIGATING FACTOR: While it's the team with the most dark clouds looming over its sport, you would immediately be in a championship window for another couple years, assuming baseball gets restarted.

MMMP RATING (1 through 10): 7.8

2. TILMAN FERTITTA, Houston Rockets

MAJOR ISSUES:

* While the window isn't necessarily closing on the Rockets, you can start to hear the latches being turned. Both of the team's stars are in their 30’s, with salaries escalating into the high $40 millions within a couple seasons. Also, your very popular head coach is a free agent after this season. The time is now.

* The Rockets are still dealing with the business fallout of Daryl Morey's tweet about freeing Hong Kong several months ago. I'm not sure if those lucrative Chinese companies are coming back as sponsors any time soon.

* Of the three Houston owners, nobody's core business has been hit harder than Tilman Fertitta's. Every single one of his 600-plus restaurants and casinos were closed for two months, due to the coronavirus. Even now, they're not all back, and the ones that are back are doing so at limited capacity. Fertitta says the two businesses, Landry's and the Rockets, operate separately, but he is still the sole owner of both. It has to matter.

MITIGATING FACTOR: Assuming that inheriting Fertitta's problems means you get access to Landry's assets, too, you would get some cool perks at the Golden Nugget!

MMMP RATING (1 through 10): 6.4

1. CAL McNAIR, Houston Texans

MAJOR ISSUES:
* The NFL has been full steam ahead with starting the season on time, but you never know which way the wind is blowing with this COVID-19. At the very least, it would appear the season starts without fans in the stands, which means possible dips in the salary cap, which means "HOLY CRAP... HOW DO THEY FIT DESHAUN WATSON'S NEW DEAL UNDER THE CAP?"

* Unfortunately, the answer to that question will need to be figured out by Bill O'Brien, who has proven to be less than stellar at this general manager thing. As Texans' owner, you'd be stepping into the unequivocal public backing that Cal McNair gave O'Brien earlier this year.

* Then, with social justice issues roaring back to the forefront of society over the last few weeks, there's still the lingering, misguided perception by some that the Texans are not sensitive to this. Honestly, given Bill O'Brien's and Cal McNair's very strong statements regarding this topic last week, if there are people who still believe that about the Texans, then they're probably in the "you'll never convince them" category.

MITIGATING FACTOR: You would own a team in the sport that is the closest thing to "printing money" right now, with most of its major football issues (player safety, collective bargaining agreement) quelled, to varying degrees. The commissioner's embracing social justice issues should help league growth, not hurt it. Also, your biggest non-COVID problem, O'Brien, can be easily solved by you, the owner, if you choose to make a change.

MMMP RATING (1 through 10): 3.8

So, there you go! While the other two franchises have come much, much closer to a title recently — hell, the Astros won the damn thing three years ago — football is still king, and the NFL is still the healthiest of the three leagues.

For now, that is. As we've learned since March, EVERYTHING can change in an instant.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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