Ice House

We May Have Lost the World Series, But We’ve Got a Lot to Celebrate

When there’s so much reason for hope, why wallow in the agony of defeat?

By Jeff Balke December 1, 2019 Published in the December 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Cheers to José Altuve for a great season.

Image: Marco Torres

There are plenty of Houstonians who haven’t been here long enough to understand the particular dull ache the Astros’ World Series loss caused some of us. We’re not talking about the immediate sting or the next-day hangover. We mean that nervous twitch, that invasive thought that’s always there, whispering that the loss was inevitable, that the future holds only loss upon loss, for any team playing here.

The feeling is all too familiar to those of us who have lived here long enough to remember a time before victory parades and perpetual championship contention. For years fans wore bags on their heads to NFL games and referred to their own baseball team as the Lastros. Season after season, teams strenuously labored to reach the postseason, only to see their aspirations ground into dust.

We are, after all, the city of the Lorenzo Charles dunk, the at-the-buzzer score that broke our collective heart when it propelled North Carolina State to a 54-52 win over the Cougars in 1983. We’re the home of the Comeback, which took place a decade later, when the Buffalo Bills staged the largest comeback in NFL history, beating the Oilers in overtime, 41-38, after we’d been up by 32 points. No wonder we once referred to our own town as Choke City.

Maybe that’s a place you don’t recognize. Maybe that’s because you’re too young or you just haven’t lived here long enough. If so, consider yourself fortunate, because today, even after the disheartening end to World Series game seven, there is much to celebrate when it comes to Houston sports.

Of course, old-school Houstonians will inform you that we’re once again doomed to lives of frustration and mediocrity. They will tell you that the Nationals’ winning every game of the series at Minute Maid Park was inevitable, plain and simple. It was our curse catching up to us, never mind that we’d won the whole thing just two years prior. That was a blip, they’ll say. An anomaly.

Don’t believe them.

Never have we been home to this much talent and depth of experience as at right this very moment. The list of players—from James Harden and Deshaun Watson, to Alex Bregman and José Altuve—is longer than at any other time in Houston history. It’s remarkable to have such an assemblage of talent in one place at the same time. And when there’s so much reason for hope, why wallow in the agony of defeat?

It cannot be a coincidence that Houston itself has become a more confident city as our teams have risen from obscurity. For years we deferred to other cities not only because they were prettier or glitzier or more progressive, but also because they were better sports towns.

Just as the Astros and the Rockets and (sometimes) the Texans now demand respect, so does H-Town. We Houstonians love this place, and if others don’t, well, we don’t care. Nor should we. We are now one of the biggest cities in America, with its own thriving culture and unrivaled diversity. The days of self-deprecation are over.

It’s Houston’s time now, on the field and off.

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