Integrity, respect lead to a change of loyalties to football teams

Loyalty and respect are character traits very important to me.

When it comes to sports teams, I have been steadfastly loyal to the Denver Broncos. They are and have been my favorite team in all of sports. I was born and raised in the Denver metro area and season tickets have been in my family since 1986. My blood runs orange and blue.

From the Orange Crush to the Mile High Salute and being United in Orange, I have been unapologetically and enthusiastically a proud supporter of all things Broncos.

As a Broncos fan I am a natural Raiders hater and have a special dislike for the ever growing list of teams that have beaten the Broncos in the Super Bowl – especially the Cowboys.

Recent events, however, have shaken me to my core. There has been a paradigm shift in my fandom. The Houston Texans have supplanted the Broncos as my favorite team. Even as I sit here I cannot believe I just typed that last sentence. It seems surreal and anyone who knows me well will know that I do not make that statement lightly.

Fort Bend Star Editor Joe Southern poses with Houston Texans mascot TORO at a game last year. The Texans have replaced the Denver Broncos as Southern’s favorite football team by showing excellent character in times of crisis.

Wow, this must be what it felt like when Anakin Skywalker went over to the Dark Side. Is this what it’s like for a politician to switch parties? I feel like Saul must have when he, the Christian hunter, converted to Christ and became the Apostle Paul.

All this comes from a combination of gaining respect for the Texans and losing respect for the Broncos. I suspect that proximity to the teams for the past nine years has something to do with it as well, but that’s only a minor factor. The game-changer came Sept. 24 when 32 members of the Broncos knelt during the national anthem. At that same time the entire Texans team stood with arms locked in unity.

Like I said, loyalty is very important to me. The Texans demonstrated that even though they were hurt and upset by comments made by President Donald Trump they were big enough to set that aside and stand for the country. They stood strong together. They were loyal to one another and to our nation.

The Broncos couldn’t even show unity amongst themselves, let alone loyalty to the country. I know players felt they had to make a statement in regard to Trump’s statement and for the racial equality issues that initiated the original kneeling protest. I feel strongly, however, that disrespecting our national anthem and our flag is an unacceptable form of protest.

Taking a knee, however, isn’t the only reason for the switching of my allegiance. There are many reasons. First, let me explain why I like Houston. My interest in the team came when the city, in an underdog role, beat out presumptive winner Los Angeles for an expansion team after the Oilers defected to Tennessee. When the Texans won their inaugural game in 2002 by defeating the Cowboys, I knew there was something special about this franchise that I would like.

I moved from Colorado to Texas in 2005 and then to the Houston area in 2008. Throughout that time the Texans have been my second favorite team. I am now in my second year as a season credentialed photographer with the Texans and I’ve had a chance to see the team up-close and very personal. The organization is top-notch.

They’ve been very accommodating to all of my credential and interview requests over the years. I’ve done stories on and befriended the mascot TORO and Texans cheerleader Taylor H. It’s not just that I’ve appreciated the access; I’ve appreciated the friendliness and professionalism everyone in the organization has shown.

This year, however, the real character of the team came through when Hurricane Harvey hit. J.J. Watt started a relief fund with $100,000 with the goal of raising about $200,000 to help those in need. The last I heard that fund had crossed the $37 million mark. Watt and his teammates put skin in the game by helping unload trucks of relief supplies and becoming directly involved wherever they were needed. The organization has also donated to hurricane relief efforts and has been very active in the community.

On top of that, rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson donated is first game check to three Texans cafeteria ladies who lost a lot in the storm. It doesn’t get any classier than that!

The Broncos, however, began to disappoint me when they caved in to linebacker Von Miller, who, despite being under contract, threatened to hold out last season if the team didn’t meet his demands. The Texans are in a similar situation with lineman Duane Brown, but have the integrity not to negotiate with a player who has two years remaining on his contract. Apparently these guys don’t understand what a contract means. The Texans do and I respect that.

Another problem I have with the Broncos is linebacker Aqib Talib. This thug should be locked in irons, not playing on the gridiron. He has a long history of off-field violence and gunplay. Last year he was shot in the leg outside a Dallas strip club and lied to police about it. It turns out he shot himself. He has been accused to battering a taxi driver, shooting at his sister’s boyfriend and fist fighting with a former teammate.

Last season he really irked me when he ripped a gold necklace off of Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree and didn’t get penalized. This guy is seriously lacking in character and I can’t stand for that. Yet the Broncos continue to parade him as one of their stars.

If this shift in team loyalty isn’t shocking enough, I have to also admit to finding something admirable about the Dallas Cowboys. I respect that they made their statement before the national anthem rather than during it. They, along with owner Jerry Jones, locked arms and took a knee and then stood for the flag and anthem. That was respectful, unified and appropriate. I’m still a Cowboys hater, but with much less malice than before.

Likewise, I’m still a Broncos fan, but now I’m Untied in Orange.

We are Texans!


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