He can't help it, he's a Texan, a native of Houston. And though he married my Utah native daughter, his passion for the Rockets, Astros, and yes, even the Texans, knows no bounds.

He even stayed loyal when the Texans blasphemed by passing on native son Sir Vincent Young, and he's standing by the Rockets, although their fuel tanks are unquestionably all but fizzled.

Aaron Bales, I love him, even in his Rocket mourning.

My wife left for Houston Wednesday to see Aaron's offspring, my grandkids. This gave me a perfect opportunity to call and peek inside the mind of a die-hard Rockets fan, see what's ticking, how bad it's hurting. Just how close to a meltdown are folks in Houston on this day of Game 3 with the Jazz, up 2-0 and back in their hornets nest of a bailiwick?

Aaron agreed to bleed. And let me examine the drip.

Now, don't castigate Aaron for speaking his mind — it was my dime. Just accept him as a nameless blank-faced Rockets fan, willing to open up.

You have to understand, Rockets fans seriously dislike the Jazz. Even before John Stockton's bomb snatched the 1997 playoff series, the Houston contempt for Utah knows no bounds.


After Utah's win in Game 1 in Houston, radio and TV talking heads reflected back on the 1994 playoff game between Utah and Houston in Salt Lake City. About 13 seconds remained in the game, Utah had an inbounds pass to try and tie it or take the lead, and seven to eight seconds ticked off without the clock starting.

"People brought it up, not to say the official working the clock had made a mistake, they brought it up to say, 'See, this is how the Jazz people cheat, this is what we have to face next week,"' said Bales.

Aaron provided a Youtube link to the incident and a Houston TV sportscast reviewing it again this week. It is found here on the Internet, or if you do a search, it's titles, "The Utah Jazz home-court 'advantage'" on the famous cyberspace video site.

If you review the broadcast, you get the flavor of Houston hatred for the Utah Jazz.

While Aaron's little family lived with me this past year as he finished his degree, one day I put a Karl Malone jersey on my pixie-faced, 3-year-old grandson, Jackson. Aaron came home, took one look at his first-born son and I might as well have placed the kid in a scalding bathtub. He immediately got on eBay and ordered a Yao Ming jersey, banned Jackson from ever donning Jazz colors again, and began indoctrination parrot sessions for the kid to say, "The Jazz stink. Goooooo, Rockets."

Aaron attended Games 1 and 2 in the Toyota Center. It was a scab removed, salt applied.

"The thing is, the Rockets can play better. Those were winnable games, even in making 10 less free throws a game and missing a lot of threes, which they'd been doing leading up to the playoffs," said Aaron.

"Realistic Rockets fans didn't expect Houston would advance in the playoffs; it's been tough losing two starters. But still, it's frustrating, Houston has the potential to win.

"Everyone here is still talking about Andrei Kirilenko's flop at the end of the game the other night. We call him AKA Floppy 7. While Houston could have done more to win that game throughout the game, that play, that flop cost them a chance to win the game, no question in my mind."

Tracy McGrady is getting the brunt of criticism in Houston on radio talk shows, aside from officiating and general hatred for the Jazz.

"He's played good for three quarters and then just disappeared, and people wonder why," said Aaron.

As for the Jazz, Aaron declared, "Everyone in the NBA believes Jazz fans are the most obnoxious in the league. It's all over. Other fans hate Utah because of the style of play. They use tactics Jerry Sloan is known for clear back when he played. It's their strategy to get the refs caught up in antics, like flopping, and it's like they become officials from the WWE out there."


"Matt Harpring drives in the lane and he gets a little bump and it's like he got Tasered or something, throwing up his arms, yelling. It's a tactic. The Jazz aren't the only ones known for it; San Antonio is good at it. Most times (Manu) Ginobili drives the lane, he acts up and ends up going to the line nine out of 10 times. Everyone is sick of it, and Utah leads the way."

Bottom line?

Aaron accepts Utah should prevail. Hates it, is frustrated by it, but smells it. He'll bite the bullet, swallow the pill. Utah is playing better right now, and his Rockets are hurting. He's no dummy.

Still, just below the surface, the deep contempt in Texas for the Jazz percolates, bubbles and will continue to fester in Houston.

And my young kin continue to be served Houston Kool-Aid.

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com