Due to circumstances beyond my control, I found myself trapped in New Zealand—there is no other word for it—during the Astros’ spellbinding, epic rout of the New York Yankees on Tuesday night. And yes, before you ask, it was the cruelest sort of exile. For diehard, long-suffering fans like yours truly, being far from home on the ’Stros’ night of vindication was nothing less than a hellish injustice, one for which the most beautiful country on earth proved small consolation.
But the Kiwis have TVs, of course, TVs that are often enough tuned to ESPN Australia, which broadcast the game live throughout Oceania. And while it wouldn’t be accurate to say that New Zealand came to a standstill during the events of Tuesday evening—or, as they like to call it, Wednesday afternoon—the Astros’ performance won the team more than a few new fans down under. Among the most impressed, it seemed to me, was Fran Lewis, an Aucklander I shared a beer with at a bar after the game.
“They had such an energy about them,” he said. “So young and fearless. They played with such joy.” I couldn’t help but agree, of course. Then: “Is that the kind of people Houston produces?”
I stared at him a moment, not sure how to answer. Part of me felt obliged to inform the man that not a single player on the Astros roster had been produced in Houston. Indeed, only one of them—Evan Gattis—had even been produced in Texas, the rest having hailed from other states and countries. But the other part of me wondered if Lewis wasn’t on to something, whether the Astros hadn’t somehow morphed into a superb, perfect reflection of the city the team called home.
“Yes,” I replied.
Was I bullshitting? Maybe. Still, some of the parallels are striking. Think about it. As Houstonia recently reported, 25 percent of the residents of this city were born in a foreign country. Of the 34 Astros on the current active roster, eight were born outside the United States (Altuve, Correa, Gomez, Gonzalez, Valbuena, Villar, Perez, Feliz). Also known as 24 percent of them.
Coincidence? Well, okay. But how about this? Remember when Forbes praised us as a “multicultural, zoning-free mashup” of “young professionals”? They might as well have been talking about the youngest team in the majors. Oh, and for those of you still wondering how the Astros (whose salaries total a measly $69 million, the second-lowest in baseball) defeated the mighty Yankees ($214 million, second-highest), the answer is simple: the money goes further here, as all those quality-of-life surveys never tire of pointing out.
“A team of remarkables,” was Lewis’s term for our Astros. From a Kiwi, this counts as high praise. After all, New Zealand has its own Remarkables—The Remarkables mountain range, a stunning succession of steep peaks that hover majestically over lakes on the southernmost of the country’s two islands. They are, according to official description, “places of Atua (gods) and traditionally it was said that supernatural people…lived and roamed over this vast area.”
The same might be said about the Bronx on Tuesday night, when a bunch of upstart kids from flyover country stunned the storied Yankees and put the world—or at least one little corner of Oceania—on notice.