Two days into 2017 I was able to meet one of my goals for the year: attend a live Houston Rockets game. I was invited by a good friend of mine, and I could not have been more excited. The last time I was at a Rockets game, Rudy Tomjanovich was the head coach and they played in The Summit. Yes, it’s been that long. I saw that we were going to play the Washington Wizards, and like any Clutch City fan, I brushed them off and considered this game an easy win. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Walking into the now 13-year-old Toyota Center, I felt my once-latent sports excitement building again. After witnessing a disappointing college football season with my beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders, there wasn’t too much I had been excited about lately. But I'd been hearing how Houston was having a good season so far, even after hiring a notorious coach, and my eyes widened when I caught sight of the giant Jumbotron front and center over the glossy court. To my right hung retired jerseys, including that of our beloved Rudy T. At center court, Clutch was prancing around, messing with the opposing team during warm-ups. I found myself highly amused at even his milder antics.
Before long, the game was underway, and to my unpleasant surprise, the Wizards created a lead and kept it for the first half. Many fans thought it was going to be an easy game, assuming that Player of the Week James Harden was going to lead the charge to victory, but the point guard was off his game this past Monday evening. What I got to witness, however, were his teammates charging into the spotlight: Eric Gordon, whose three-pointers left the crowd in a sweet moment of suspense each time before the swish and an effervescent cheer erupted from the fans, and Ryan Anderson, who’s proving that in 2017, white men can definitely jump and score major points.
There are times when you can lose a little morale for your team while they’re trailing, but the devoted fans showed their undying support. For the first time, I was able to visualize what season ticket holders can look like and sound like. Whether it’s the bird-like call sent out for luck during a free throw, or the drumline from the heavily scarlet-clad Red Rowdies, the support was authentically felt. There was a sense of intimacy between the players and the fans. We’re all in this together, I felt. Even I, who hadn’t watched a single game this season, was diving right into the game, my emotions becoming tangled with each basket and foul.
And then, in a highly anticipated moment in the third quarter, the Rockets caught up and took the lead for the first time, 67-66. The arena grew electric with positive energy. The power was officially shifted, and our team never looked back. I was starting to lose my voice from shouting excitedly. I almost felt a little too into the game because before I knew it, I was jumping up and down after another glorious 3-pointer from Gordon. I believe I fell in love that night.
The fan support was now tenfold, urging the players to keep leading, the crowd going wild with each foul made by the Wizards. By the time we made a 10-point lead with mere seconds to go, jubilation was in the air. I had witnessed the perfect comeback, a full team effort when the main man Harden fell short for the night. Before the final buzzer sounded, “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang was already blasting through the speakers as streamers floated down from the ceiling. My elation was so present that I collected two streamers off the floor to take home as a memento.
My friend and I headed home feeling like we had gone on an emotional roller coaster. We cheered and screamed and groaned together, and enjoyed some beer and popcorn despite an otherwise laser beam focus on the game. I walked away with the feeling that our team can—and should—actually go further this year in the playoffs. With the show they put on in 2016, I have no doubt we are in for an exciting rest of the basketball season and exciting start to 2017.