Yes, I know. Half of you just decided to stop reading The Dream Shake forever and the other half whose browsers froze and have to read this are thinking, "I didn't know TDS hired crack addicts." But stay with me here. I'm going to take you Mordor and then bring you back to the Shire.
First off, the facts: these are two teams in two completely different sports; both have owners who are hands-on, though one loves to flaunt his ownership while the other leaves the work (and praise) to his virtuoso GM; one team has five championships, the other two; both teams have rich histories, but tomes have been written about the Cowboys' past seasons.
I came up with the idea about this column while eating lunch with a friend of mine from Dallas. Since I go to Texas Tech (please keep the jokes to a minimum guys-it's getting tiring), I go to school with thousands of rabid Cowboys fans. I personally know only five Rockets fans whose love for the team rivals mine, but it's safe to say almost everyone in Dallas loves the Cowboys on a similar level. Granted, it's fun to see everyone wearing Cowboys gear on Fridays, then when the Cowboys lose on Sunday, everyone looks really depressed on Monday. Imagine the cumulative effect when Obama won the presidency. It was a dark Wednesday indeed in west Texas. Personally, I'm not really a fan of the Cowboys in any way. I hate seeing how much attention they get on ESPN. That's valuable attention the Rockets should be receiving.
Anyway, my friend was talking about the Cowboys in the 90s, and as he kept talking, I realized that our teams had similar arcs in those years. We kept following the trail into the current days, and saw that they were almost mirror images of each other.
Hopefully, I've gotten your attention enough at this point to get you to follow me after the jump. So, without further ado, here's why the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Cowboys are one and the same (so to speak).
1992-1995-The Good Old Days
Our story begins here, in 1992. It's probably the season where the two teams are most unlike in the timespan we'll be covering. The Cowboys did win the Super Bowl this year, so it's worth mentioning. The Rockets went 42-40 and missed the playoffs (sound familiar?).
In 1993, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl again. The Rockets didn't win their championship this year, but they went 55-27 and did make the Western Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the Sonics in 7 games.
1994 is where the going got much better for the Rockets. As we know the Rockets started the season 15-0 and 22-1, and eventually won the NBA Finals in 7 games over the Knicks. Hakeem was MVP, DPOY, and Finals MVP that season. Despite a 12-4 record, the Cowboys came up short in the NFC Championship game.
It's 1995, and the Rockets are grinding through a season without Hakeem due to injury when the Rockets acquire Clyde Drexler from the Blazers. They finish as the sixth seed and win another NBA championship. The Cowboys make a big splash in the offseason and sign Deion Sanders. They go 12-4 and win their fifth franchise Super Bowl. This is the last year both teams will win a championship in their respective sports.
These really were the golden days for these teams. 5 combined championships, 2 deep playoff runs, and individual accolades. Rockets and Cowboys fans look back at these days almost the same way. For us, it was Hakeem, Clyde, and Robert Horry. For the Cowboys, it was Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin. Both of these teams were noted for their committment to defense.
1996-1997-The Beginning of the End
1996 saw the Rockets get swept in the second round by the Sonics. Dallas won their division despite only posting a 10-6 record. They defeated the Vikings in the wild card round, their last playoff win for 15 years, then lost in the divisional playoffs.
The 1997 offseason was historic for the Rockets, as it saw the departure of Horry and Sam Cassell, the future of the franchise, in return for Charles Barkley. However, Barkley, Drexler, and Olajuwon struggled to stay healthy most of the year. The team won their first two playoff series before losing to the douches from that retarded state I hate. Barkley picked up 33 rebounds in his first game as a Rocket, but he would never win another playoff series.
The Cowboys started the 1997 campaign well, too. They defeated the Steelers 37-7 at Three Rivers Stadium. However, a series of countless off-the-field incidents, lack of discipline, and rumors of infighting between Troy Aikman and Barry Switzer plagued the team throughout the year. In a season filled with injuries and controversy, they would finish 6-10 and miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990.
Both teams were trying to keep some of the magic alive from their championship seasons. Ultimately, they both failed.
1998-2000-So Much Hype, So Little Results
More injuries dogged these teams to end the millennium. Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders went down in 1998 at one point or another, and Othella Harrington played more games for the Rockets than Dream. This was a problem. Both teams snuck into the playoffs but lost in the first round.
The 1999 lockout season for the NBA also brought Scottie Pippen to the Rockets. For the first time in years, the Rockets remained relatively healthy and finished 31-19. However, they were knocked out of the playoffs by a Lakers team with an identical record in the first round. The 'Boys finished 8-8 and still made the playoffs, where they lost to the Daunte Culpepper-led Vikings.
2000 was bad for both teams. The Rockets finished 34-48 and the Cowboys 5-11. Neither made the playoffs. The only noteworthy events for the teams were the addition of Steve Francis (we'll get to him in a minute) for the Rockets and T.O. gloating on the Cowboys star during a regular season game.
OK, on to Steve Francis. Ask any of my friends and they will tell you about how much I hated Steve Francis. From the start, I felt like he was a plague to the team. It was like trying to watch Michael Jordan go 1-on-5, if MJ was 6-1, slower, played no defense, had no jump shot, and couldn't pass to save his life. I can't remember how many times I yelled at the screen, "STOP DRIBBLING! DO SOMETHING! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? DON'T SHOOT THAT! YOU DON'T HAVE THAT RANGE!" I know Francis was beloved by most of the city, but I despised him. Some people say the Rockets can't win a championship with Aaron Brooks, but I bet many of those people were huge Steve Francis supporters, too.
So from 2001-2004, Houston had to endure the Steve Francis years. The records were pretty good, but the teams managed one playoff appearance, losing in the first round (of course). Eventually, JVG grew tired of Francis, and pushed for a trade.
The Cowboys were dealing with their own demon. His name was Lavonya Quintelle "Quincy" Carter, and he was awful. The Cowboys went 6-10 or worse three times in four years, and their only playoff appearance ended in a quick defeat. Carter was constantly fighting for his starting job, but was eventually released when drug charges surfaced in 2004.
Both players showed flashes of brilliance. For Francis, it was the first Yao vs. Shaq game that I will always remember as his best moment. Overshadowed by the bigs and Kobe, Francis scored 44, dished 11 assists, and pulled down six boards. We won't mention the 7 turnovers. Whoops, I just did.
Carter's standout game was in his rookie season during a 20-13 victory over the New York Giants in which Carter threw for nearly 200 yards, scrambled for a first down late in the game, and threw the game-winning touchdown pass. There was joy in Mudville. Someone to replace Aikman!
Around this time, both teams had hired micromanaging hardasses. Jeff van Gundy slowed the game down and focused on defense. Bill Parcells did the same thing for the Cowboys.
2005-2008-Are You Fucking Kidding Me?
Rockets 2005: T-Mac's first season, go up 2-0 over Dallas, lose 4 of next five (2 at home) to lose series.
Cowboys 2005: 9-7, do not qualify for playoffs.
Rockets 2006: T-Mac injured for roughly 167 games this season, Rockets go 34-48; no playoffs.
Cowboys 2006: Golden-boy Tony Romo becomes starter, Cowboys go 9-7, Romo can't hold onto a ball, Cowboys lose.
Rockets 2007: Rockets go up 2-0 over Utah, lose next four of five (game 7 at home) and exit early again.
Cowboys 2007: 13-3 regular season, number one seed in the NFC, lose to eventual champs (and division rivals) Giants in divisional round in their first playoff game.Also Wade Phillips's first season with team.
Rockets 2008: Rick Adelman's first season with Rockets. Team wins 22 games in a row at one point, but injury to Yao destroys hopes of getting past the Jazzholes again. Jazz fans believe they are responsible for this victory.
Cowboys 2008: Cowboys start 8-4, but lose three out of next four (including blowout by Eagles in finale) to miss playoffs.
During this time period, both teams fired their tough coaches and hired guys considered more to be "players' coaches." This is a normal transition for any team from Little League to professional sports, but it's interesting that both teams figured it out around the same time.
The Rockets finally break through in the first round over the Blazers in 2009. They then get
screwed hosed cheated screwed in the second round against the Lakers by the David Stern Task Force feat. Joey Crawford. Yao's injury didn't help. I immediately promised my Cowboys friends that the Cowboys would win a playoff game that season, but only one.
What ho! I was right. The 'Boys defeated the Eagles then lost in their second game to the Vikings.
2010 Rockets miss the playoffs, but still go 42-40. Therefore, I must assume Tony Romo or someone vitally important to the Cowboys will also get injured/released so the 'Boys will miss the playoffs as well.
Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe the similarities aren't as glaring as I think they are. All I know is that both teams enjoyed success in the early 90s led by future Hall of Famers, followed by injuries to key players in the latter part of the decade. The beginnings of the Aughts were bad for both teams, but now things are looking up again for both squads.
Oh yeah, and they've both got a 57% winning percentage during this time period. The actual difference is less than a percent.
Someone tell me I'm not crazy. Please?