Houstonians are facing a vital question this weekend, and it must be proposed aloud. Would you watch a World Series game in public? More specifically, would you watch the Astros play a World Series game in public?
Some backstory here: I remember the first time I witnessed a sporting event outside. I couldn't remember the particular sport or which specific teams were playing, but I remember the people watching. Their eyes weren't bloodshot, but they were staring intently at every action. They cheered at every positive play and cursed loudly at every negative one. Soon before it was over, people began leaving, swearing that the inevitable would occur. Of course, one of the teams would lose and grown men who had been pacing back and forth for hours swearing and pleading at a TV like a spectator in the Roman Colosseum were left motionless. It wasn't even that big of a game, if memory serves. But it was big enough that not even alcohol could console that man. He was hurt.
As I got older and became more and more engrossed in the torture chamber that is being a Houston sports fan, I swore up and down that I would never watch a game in public. The only time I would ever venture outside of my house to take a sporting event? To attend the game. I saw the Rockets throttle the Lakers by 39 last December; before then, I saw Jeremy Lin airball a potential game-winner against the Miami Heat in 2012. It was perhaps, the funniest Rockets loss I had ever seen, and this is coming from a Rockets fan who wants Pete Chillcut and Carl Herrera's throwback jerseys. So watching a sporting event while actually at the game is OK because you know you're either leaving happy or sad. There's no in-between.
But in public? Like a sports bar? Or Biggio's? Or any place where someone has a TV tuned to the game? God, no. It is the single most terrifying thing in existence. Worse than roaches, who apparently can swim and survive a nuclear warhead but flinch when they feel Raid on them. Worse than a public marriage proposal. Worse than having to go to a company outing with people you don't like. All of that.
In a recent poll I conducted via Twitter, more than 20 people voted on whether or not they'd watch the Astros in public during this World Series. A small enough sample size but still, 20 brave souls decided to be honest about this. 65 percent of them said "No" rather emphatically. Only 35 percent decided on "Yes." I then prayed for them and told them they were the scariest, healthiest individuals ever to walk God's green Earth.
But merely conducting a Twitter poll wasn't enough. I had to breathe it in. I had to see it for myself. During Game 1 of the World Series, I stood across the street from Little Woodrow's in East Downtown, a bar packed with cursing Astros fans around the time Justin Turner lifted a ball into the thin L.A. heat that probably landed somewhere near the parking lot. Those brave souls had figured all the delirium and joy from watching Game 7 of the American League Championship Series would carry over into the World Series. It was if they needed a small talisman and baseball superstition to sustain them until the series was over and the trophy, that golden ring of flagpoles, was effectively ours. One involves a blindfold, believe it or not. Want another one? How about not buying any gear during a series out of fear of a jinx. Now imagine at least 100 people near you all revealing similar anxieties about their baseball team. Hell no. Keep it.
By now you know the events of Wednesday night in Los Angeles. You know how Justin Verlander pitched another gem and yet because of baseball shit, it didn't sound like one. You recall how the ninth, tenth and eleventh innings all had home runs, first by Marwin Gonzales to tie the game at three and then finally by the Dodgers' Charlie Culberson, who stretched his arms out as if he were trying to hug 50,000 people at once. But the Astros won, by some damn miracle that usually occurs against us. And hundreds of people were hunkered down near Minute Maid Park and inside of Minute Maid Park who endured the entire roller coaster.
They were at Lucky's, the famed watering hole off of St. Emanuel and Rusk. They were at Little Woodrow's again, peeking out for a glimmer of hope after Corey Seager's shot off of Verlander in the sixth made it 3-1 Dodgers. It felt like impending doom was set to arrive. The Dodgers bullpen was ready to march in and continue their (now dead and buried) 28-scoreless-inning streak this postseason. Down by Lucky's, a canyon had been set up with various food carts and fans who decided to watch the game on the city's most prominent television screen not connected to NRG Stadium or Toyota Center. A security guard asked me if I was going to make my way inside. I relented. There was no damn way I was going to put myself inside of a pressure cooker of people watching a baseball game through their fingers.
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I left and drove around, listening to the radio broadcast because it felt like the safest and most cowardly thing to do. After Marwin's home run tied the game in the ninth, the giant video board that could be seen while I was sitting on 59 overlooking East Downtown glowed. It looked as if the smiles of all those soon-to-be drunk and happy Astros fans would be rewarded by Ken Giles shutting things down in the 10th inning. Oh, how wrong I was.
The game eventually ended after Yasiel Puig didn't make sweet love to his bat and struck out on a Chris Devenski changeup, his fifth straight, following George Springer's two-run homer in the top of the eleventh. It was then and there I said to myself, "I'm never watching an Astros game in public. Just listening to it and watching it at home is stressful enough."
The faithful will be out in droves on Friday, packing downtown for three nights in ways not seen since the Rockets' parades of 1994 or 1995. I'll be far, far away from all of them except for Sunday night. Should the Astros be up 19-1 in Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead, and it happens to be the ninth inning? Maybe I'll poke my head out. But given that we're talking about the Astros here, it'll be the most stressful time of any of our lifetimes rooting for one chance to break through. So the answer to our question is easy: No, you probably shouldn't watch an Astros World Series game in public. Unless you're certain they're going to win, and you can be merrily drunk afterward. That is the only rule, and I care not for what your fandom theories attempt to argue.
Just know this — if another game like Game 2 occurs at any point in this series, list the Astros as my cause of death.