Needless to say, a lot has happened during the week you were gone, too much for us to go into here. Suffice it to say that life for us was, well, different back on Aug. 24 when you left town for that brief, three-game road trip to Los Angeles that never ended. The questions we asked then were different too, and quaint in retrospect: Would you be ready for postseason play? Would you have enough competitive fire? Would you stay healthy?
But then of course the road trip wore on and the days passed, and the city you call home was engulfed and finally swallowed up by catastrophe, and we changed, maybe forever. You should know that before you come back to Minute Maid Park for that New York Mets doubleheader tomorrow. We’re different now, and so are the questions we have. Now, we ask things like this: Can the unlikeliest success story in sports provide aid and comfort to a town beset by the unlikeliest of tragedies? Can the Astros possibly find the strength to carry all the hopes of a weary, storm-tossed city? In short, can you give us something to cheer about again?
At this point, it is customary for sportswriters to offer the caveat that professional athletes’ efforts are of limited value during life’s darker moments. They can’t undo damage or unflood cars or put roofs overhead for the many whose homes have been swept away. All true. But what they can do—and in your case, must do—is give us something to cheer about again. You needn’t win to make us cheer, incidentally. As we’ve learned, winning is rather like surviving a storm, which is to say not under one’s complete control. In any case, we don’t cheer for wins anymore. Now we cheer for those who find a secret strength they didn’t know they had. Now we cheer for those who never give up, just as we have not given up. Now we cheer for those who believe that all the effort will be worth it in the end, all evidence to the contrary. Now we cheer not the winners, but those who by their tenacity and grit and persistence and valor deserve to win.
Those are the things we cheer for now. Show them to us and we will cheer again.