BEAT LA: Media's Collective Shock Over Howard Choosing Houston Not Surprising
In 1999, the NFL had a decision to make. Would they award the NFL's 32nd franchise to Los Angeles or Houston? The contingent from Houston had the better bid worth $1.1 billion, an organized plan of attack and a city ready to build a brand new stadium. LA had the second largest television market in America, and that's pretty much it. The NFL extended deadlines it had set for Los Angeles while Bob McNair waited patiently. When, finally, league officials threw up their hands in frustration, it was clear Houston was begrudgingly going to get a team.
Photo by Jon Harvey He picked Houston? Over FOUR OTHER TEAMS?
LA still has none.
So, when Dwight Howard ultimately made his decision to join the Rockets on Friday, it came as no surprise that pretty much everyone at ESPN and a whole host of others in the media simply could not believe it. They were in such disbelief, they conjured a way to keep hope alive with rumors that Howard was waffling. He wasn't, but it kept Twitter feeds burning and eyes on the four-letter network an hour or so longer, which is exactly what they want. It took Stephen A. Smith -- yes, that Stephen A. Smith -- to debunk the rumors and put ESPN in its place.
When the dust finally settled, seemingly no one could believe Howard would leave a "storied franchise" -- Howard used the words himself repeated ad nauseum by every outlet on the planet sounding like like talking points issued by the Buss family -- for the Rockets. He was leaving a team with a history of great big men for Houston, a franchise known for...oh, right. It might have been satisfying to see all the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the national and LA-based media, so vested in the success of the Lakers, if not for the fact that a sizable number of media members in Houston turned into Sally Field at the 1984 Academy Awards. He likes us, he likes US!
There is an unfortunate predictability to such things it would seem. When players (former or otherwise) and coaches like Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson call Houston a "little town" or refer to the Rockets as the "Astros," it's like a guy on his phone in his expensive car flipping you off when you honk at him for cutting you off. It's annoying, but pretty much expected. When the media does it, however, it's something else.
Chris Broussard came on ESPN Friday night and went Keith Jackson telling everyone "Whoa, Nelly!" that Howard was flying to LA and was still on the fence. Sure, he was just going to tell Mitch Kupchak to his face he was leaving for Houston, but same diff.
Then J.A. Adande penned this thing for ESPN backing up the assertions and using them to heap additional criticism on Howard. That unleashed a fury of "he's scared of the 'bright lights' of LA" including Shaq's shot and Arash Markazi (for ESPN LA, natch) saying Howard shrunk from the challenge of life in the big city. Of course, there is no ESPN Houston for rebuttal, but that's probably because we're a "little town."