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The Presumed Outcast Becomes Popular

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George W. Bush.  Barack Obama.  Your two most recent "Hey, I'd like to have a beer with that guy" presidents.  Perhaps they weren't the most qualified.  Their backgrounds were not particularly impressive or extensive.  You line them up next to some of the past greats, such as Lincoln or Washington, and it's obvious who was more successful, more accomplished.  Yet, you voted for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and subsequently gave them the keys to the world.  

Why?  Because you'd like to have a beer with them, that's why.  In your wildest dreams, if you saw either W or Barack alone in a bar, you're convinced that you could sit down next to them and hit it off.  It's all about identification.  They don't intimidate you.  They are you, and you are them.

Oddly, the Houston Rockets are the most popular "average" team that the NBA has seen in a long time.  People are absolutely enamored with them.  Kelly Dwyer and Henry Abbott sweat beads of fascination upon making the Rockets the subject of a column.  Michael Lewis' lone basketball venture was based on a Rocket, Shane Battier.  And I have to think that no matter what team a general basketball fan chooses to follow, they choose to root for the Rockets at the given opportunity.  Why is this?  It brings us back to the beer conversation.

I think we're past the point of favoring the Rockets because of their hustle.  They're still scrappy, no matter what OAL wants you to think, but that's not the proper excuse to use.  No matter what the outcome of a game is, we always find ourselves pardoning the Rockets for... well, some thing or another.  It's time that we all just fess up and admit that we genuinely like this team.  Not for the wins, or for the talent, or even because they might be your "hometown team."  When it comes down to it, we really like the players.  Maybe for their personality or their chemistry as a whole, but mostly, it's because we can all identify with the position that they are in.  We feel ourselves fighting the same fight that they fight.  They want respect, they want success.  So do we.

Some teams you watch for the awe factor.  Cleveland, for LeBron James and his acrobatics.  Orlando, to see if anyone can survive a bout with Dwight Howard on the block.  Los Angeles, for Kobe Bryant's ability to do just about anything.

Other teams make you want to study them.  Phoenix, for their offensive theatrics.  San Antonio, for the medieval stronghold that is their defense.  Boston, for their ability to make all of those big names jell together.

And sometimes, you'll just watch a team because anything could happen.  Golden State, for the general daily chaos. New Jersey, because you could see a rare win.  And recently, Philadlelphia, for bringing back Allen Iverson once again.

However, with this Rockets team, it's all about personal identification.  They are starless, with their backs against the wall.  Whether or not you care to notice their statistics or their record, you know what they go through every day, because you go through it every day.  You imagine how nice it would be to meet them, have that token beer, and discuss how similar your situation is compared to theirs.

You root for them because you root for yourself.