Ready to Rumble

The Astros are on baseball's biggest stage, needing a comeback

Sounds great -- but it gets even better! "It will be the first post-Jackie Robinson World Series without a non-white superstar. That is nearly 60 years!" Cash writes.

And who are the folks at Caste Football cheering for? They stand with you, Astros fan.

"I think the Astros are probably the whitest team in baseball, from what I can see," says Wassall.

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Hi! I'm "Shoeless Joe Jackson," the hand puppet saying funny things in each day's Houston Chronicle! So far I've come up with stuff like "Why don't they close the roof in Chicago like a normal team?" HELP -- the flop sweat is soaking my sock! I can't breathe!
Hi! I'm "Shoeless Joe Jackson," the hand puppet saying funny things in each day's Houston Chronicle! So far I've come up with stuff like "Why don't they close the roof in Chicago like a normal team?" HELP -- the flop sweat is soaking my sock! I can't breathe!

Glad to have you on the bandwagon! Sit in the back of the bus, a-hole.

A 'Stro by Any Other Name

The Astros have battled through 43 seasons without getting to, much less winning, a World Series. The Boston Red Sox have gone to plenty of World Series.

The Sox, before they won it all last year, spawned an entire industry of literary navel-gazing about their plight. Ne'er did Sisyphus, wayward son of Aeolus, futilely push yon rock up the hill without bringing to tortured mind yet again the red-stitched spheroid spinning through noble Bill Buckner's legs, and so on. (And on.)

The Astros, on the other hand, get bupkis from the literary world.

Houston is home to the respected Creative Writing Program at UH. Shouldn't those Coogs be pounding out the Astro-angst novellas?

No. It's just too soon, says English professor James Pipkin. "If you think about the mythology of the Astros, the bronzed, mythological figures of the Astros are still wearing uniforms and still playing -- guys like Bagwell and Biggio," he says.

Houston's whole mind-set is not adapted for the nostalgia so prevalent in the Red Sox kvetching, says Pipkin, who lived in Cambridge while getting his Ph.D. from Harvard. "In Boston, you go to the oldest restaurant in town. In Houston, you're much more likely to go to the newest."

The Astros may never be immortalized in literature, Pipkin says. Not only are today's players more exposed -- and more media-savvy -- but Houston just isn't a baseball town.

"It's a football town," Pipkin says. "You don't mythologize football in New England."

Pipkin is an expert in British romantic poets, which may help explain why he picked the Astros in six. ("That's more of a hope now than a prediction," he admits.)

So what would a British romantic poet have to say about the Astros making the World Series?

He goes with William Wordsworth, writing from the French Revolution. "Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive," Wordsworth wrote, "but to be young was very heaven!"

Only if the bullpen gets its act together, Wordsy.

A Guide to Houston for Sox Fans

Why you can't get a hotel room: There's a quilters convention in town. Really. They were going to throw out the Katrina evacuees if they were still tying up hotel rooms when the quilters came. It's odd to us, too.

Why you can't get a decent pizza: Because this is Houston. And because if a Houstonian tries to imitate his betters in the pizza world, he will aim for the One True Pizza, New York-style, instead of that lasagna-on-crust you guys call a pizza. Really, between that and your salad-bar hot dogs, you need to scale back the mix-and-match stuff.

Why you don't need a hooded parka with two thermal undershirts: Because, again, it is Houston. Nighttime lows in the 50s. Which means it will be the locals wearing the hooded parkas. You guys, on the other hand, will be in Bermudas and wife-beaters.

Why you need a car: Because you're going to get on that light-rail train, look up at the map to see where it will take you, and laugh. Although if you somehow feel the need to go to an empty Reliant Stadium or something called "Smithlands" (even Houstonians don't know what the hell that's all about), you're in luck.

Second reason you need a car: Because Houston is the country's capital of gentlemen's clubs. There is, to be sure, a "three-foot rule" in existence. There is also a college-football rule against pushing a runner into the end zone. In terms of enforcement, consider yourself Reggie Bush.

Why you should get along with Houston fans: Hey, we hate the Cubs, too. And seeing how we were never even aware of the existence of the White Sox until about a week ago, we don't have a lot of ill feelings toward you. Although Crede and Podsednik are doing their best to change that.

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