It wasn’t enough that they’d screamed their lungs out for four hours, that they’d cheered themselves hoarse, that their ears were still ringing from the incessant, collective beating of tens of thousands of Thunderstixx. The chants kept coming even as Sunday’s rabid, delirious crowd poured from the bleachers, descended the escalators and swept through the Minute Maid doors, “HOU-ston, AS-tros”-ing themselves all the way down Crawford Street and beyond. And who can blame them? They were 42,674 damn lucky people—lucky to be there when The Remarkables smashed the winningest team in the American League, yes, but it was more than that. They’d just witnessed one of the greatest alchemies in all of sport: October baseball’s wizardly knack for making you fall in love with your city all over again.
For all its pastoral, Field of Dreams mythology, baseball has always played an urban game, its diamonds surrounded by concrete, not cornfields. As for Houston, well, we’ve always played a suburban game, so the argument goes, although our increasing disaffection with that game—the endless lawns, endless commutes, and few Friday Night Lights compensations—is making the Astros’ rise seem like more than a coincidence. If ever you’ve worried whether a dense urban core was something to be championed, you had only to listen to the whoops and hollers on Sunday afternoon, to watch the buzz and thrum of strangers navigating crowded sidewalks, to see the city strolling and biking and skateboarding its way into the night. It felt like some crazy wedding reception for a team and a town that had just been joined as one, both of them on the cusp of a bright, exciting future.
But these are thoughts for another day—obviously—not this one, not a day when the Astros could well clinch a spot in the American League Championship Series, not a day when the scrappiest, most irrepressible group of guys to ever pick up a bat is playing THE BIGGEST GAME YOU’LL NEVER SEE BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO WORK TODAY. Today at 12:07 p.m., to be exact, when, Orbit’s efforts notwithstanding, most of The Remarkables’ fan base will find itself chained to desks, trapped behind counters, and otherwise plagued by workaday tasks as the Astros take on the Kansas City Royals in Game Four. They will click on live feeds when the boss isn’t looking and high-five each other in silence. Radios will crackle in places you’ve never heard them before—at boutiques in malls and under teachers’ desks at school. Phones will go unanswered, bosses will be begged for TV time, and mysterious afternoon absences will never be explained.
Why will all of this happen? Because October baseball has cast its spell, because a city has fallen in love with its team, and because love makes people do crazy things.