The Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys, along with the NFL, will decide Tuesday whether to stage a scheduled preseason game between the two teams. It was set to be played Thursday at NRG Stadium on Houston’s South Side.
This should be the easiest decision ever.
Just go and cancel it because if there was ever a moment when an NFL game should be canceled, the fourth and final preseason contest set to take place in a city currently undergoing a historic, tragic and deadly natural disaster is it.
Under these circumstances, the Super Bowl is meaningless. A preseason game shouldn’t even be considered.
It’s not like the Texans aren’t taking Hurricane Harvey seriously. They are. This is their town. These are their people.
“It’s tough,” head coach Bill O’Brien said Monday from the Dallas suburb of Frisco, where the team fled and are using the Cowboys’ practice facility. “It’s tough not to be there. We have players who are dealing with water in their homes. We have three coaches in neighborhoods with mandatory evacuations, coaches in neighborhoods with voluntary evacuations and players the same thing.
“We are trying to do the best we can to keep everyone together.”
At this point, it appears they could play a game in Houston on Thursday. The Houston Chronicle reported that NRG Stadium is untouched by floodwaters right now. The question is why?
It would be an unfathomable mistake to cause even a single first responder to be taken away from search, rescue and recovery because they need to direct traffic or deal with crowd control or provide emergency medical help for a football game.
All of those services are precious right now in Houston.
A preseason game is not.
The game could be moved and played in Arlington, Texas, but even that seems pointless. Undoubtedly the players, coaches and support staff are anxious to get home.
The Texans are professionals and they are both respectful of the opportunity that football provides and aware of the significance it can offer. They aren’t the only Houstonians who have to work. Whenever they do get to play again in Houston, be it the season opener on Sept. 10 or later, it will provide a lift for the city. The New Orleans Saints certainly did after Hurricane Katrina hit their area in 2005, and sent them off to San Antonio for a season.
That comes later. This is still in progress. This is still active. This is still viciously dangerous and only getting worse.
Everyone deserves the chance to get home and help their families and communities. And those communities deserve to not have to deal with staging an NFL game.
“It’s very difficult,” J.J. Watt said. “You’d like to be back there to help. You wish you could be there. We want to support each other and obviously get home as soon as possible.”
“It’s like a punch in the gut,” cornerback Johnathan Joseph said of being away from his wife and children. “You want to be back there for your city, your family and of course your kids.”
Should they just cancel the game, Joseph was asked.
“That’s kind of out of my decision,” Joseph said, diplomatically. “Obviously I think there is other things going on than this game. Of course we’d like to play it because there are people who enjoy this game but I think taking care of the city [should] come first.”
It’s up to ownership and the NFL to make this call, but it shouldn’t be difficult. The Texans and Cowboys would lose some evaluation opportunities when it comes to determining the final roster spots, but that’s a small issue compared to this. Maybe the league offers some scrimmage opportunity on Tuesday or Wednesday to make up for it.
O’Brien wouldn’t provide an opinion, noting it was “above my pay grade,” but he summed it all up by reminding of a simple truth.
“Nothing is more important than family,” the coach said.
And right now, all of Houston is family.
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