Leah Scheitel // Copy Editor
It was with extreme vigour that I jumped onto the Houston Astros’ bandwagon for this World Series, and cheered for them with enthusiasm normally reserved for meeting a Beatle. It’s not just because they have the hottest pitcher in the league, Mr. Kate Upton (if women have to be known for the accomplishments of their husbands, so should men with successful ladies, including all-star Justin Verlander). It was a little more nuanced than one hot pitcher.
I watched game two at a sports bar close to my house and made a slight spectacle of myself as I hid my eyes when the game got tense. The Los Angeles Dodgers kept managing to tie the score, causing extra innings and extra anxiety. Hey, I said I liked watching babeball, but I never said I was good at it.
In reality, the outcome of that game or even this entire series had little impact on my day-to-day life. And yet, I cheered like a drunken cheerleader at her first cheer camp for a team of 30 men that I will never meet. The reason I was so intent on an Astros win comes from socioeconomic roots – after Houston was devastated from Hurricane Harvey, that city could use the morale boost more than LA could. Plus, it was the first time the Astros have ever won a World Series in their 45-year history and everyone loves an underdog.
Sports teams have a huge impact on the economic and moral esteem of a city. When a local team is doing well, people are happier. They are spending more money at local bars and establishments to watch the games and are celebrating the wins with neighbours they might normally detest. It’s one of the wonders of sports and is so embedded into the tapestry of the games that it has become cliché, but sports bring people together. And right now, people in Houston needed to be brought together.
Hurricane Harvey did some major damage to Houston, which is the fourth largest city in the US. While it is still too soon to know the full extent of the damage, at least 30,000 people were displaced from their homes and 88 fatalities were recorded. Insurance claims for damaged homes are in the billions.
The Astros understand what a Pennant win would do for their city. In an interview with the LA Times, Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch addressed what a playoff run would mean to the area. “What does the World Series do to that city?” he said, “Obviously, it gives some hope. It gives appreciation. It gives a smile or two for people going through some hard times. And for that, we’re happy to be a part of it.”
Of course, the champions weren’t without their assholes. Astros’ first baseman Yuli Gurriel will serve a five-game suspension at the beginning of 2018 for his racist gesture towards Dodgers’ pitcher Yu Darvish, who is of Japanese descent. His gesture of slanting his eyes caused quite a stir, with many calling for his immediate suspension, potentially hindering the Astros’ chances in the World Series. (Racism in baseball is alive and well. More on this next time).
Other cities and sports teams have experienced what a championship run can do to a city in distress. The Detroit Red Wings were the only thing bringing the people of Detroit joy when their city experienced extreme economic turmoil due to the downturn in the automotive industry in the early 2000s. And even non-football fans loved it when the New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl in 2010. Sports give people who need to smile a reason to smile. And that’s exactly what the Astros did for Houston this year. And that, in turn, makes me giddy and love the game of babeball even more.