When Bruce Springsteen wrote "I was bruised and battered, I couldn't tell what I felt," in the song Streets of Philadelphia, I'm not sure he had smashing store windows and ripping down light poles in mind. But had The Boss been in the insane post-Super Bowl crowd that swallowed up much of downtown Philly Sunday night, it may have been a literal statement.
In fact, it was clear from the ultimately overwhelmed police presence in Philly, the city expected a riot and that is basically what they got. There were Christmas trees (yes, in February) lit on fire, cars overturned, people jumping from light poles (actually, they jumped off of almost anything they could find from cars to hotel awnings), naked people standing on top of moving cars or stripping in the streets. There was widespread looting across much of downtown. There were even people literally eating horse dung from mounted police horses. Monday morning, the traffic lights and street poles were gone from around city hall.
For all of the knocks Houston sports fans take, we weren't stealing police horses or starting fires after the Astros won their first-ever championship last fall. Former Astros writer and current MLB reporter Alyson Footer summed it up in one tweet:
Pretty sure the most raucous episode after the Astros won the World Series occurred when a couple of fans climbed trees at City Hall waiting for the parade rally to start. H-town does things right.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) February 5, 2018
No one is going to confuse sports enthusiasts in Houston for the intense white-hot passionate fans in Philly or Boston or New York. There are times when that is downright disappointing. See how late people show up to games (and how early they sometimes leave) at the Toyota Center, particularly in the expensive seats. And, yes, when the Astros were losing 100-plus games a year, Minute Maid Park was downright empty. But, I'll take the relatively cool dispassion of Houston if it means we don't get something akin to a zombie apocalypse in the aftermath of a big win or loss.
After the Rockets brought the first title of any kind to Houston in 1993, many fans (yours truly included) gathered on Richmond Avenue near the Summit (you guys now refer to it as Lakewood Church). Complete strangers were hugging and high-fiving each other. A few guys jumped in the back of my truck, blaring music from a boom box and dancing. In the middle of one intersection, two guys, one sans shirt, were literally locked, arm-in-arm, dancing in a circle. It was crazy, but it was joyous and it wasn't violent.
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And it isn't like you can blame what happened in Philadelphia on drinking. Not entirely anyway. Plenty of people get their drink on just fine down here. The difference is they don't generally start fist fights or break into stores chanting "everything is free" in the process — at least not when they are happy and, in truth, pretty much never.
That certainly doesn't make Texas better than Pennsylvania (we can hear a drunken Philly fan challenging us right now, "You think you're better than me?!"). Believe me, Texas (and Houston) has more than its share of flaws. A complete breakdown in the fabric of society after a sporting event just doesn't happen to be one of them.
So, sure, we blindly praise our teams even when they suck. We skip out on games sometimes. We even see our interest ebb and flow with the quality of play. In many ways, we are like a polite dinner party that ends by 10 p.m. and everyone Ubers home. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is an out-of-control frat-house kegger where naked people get arrested, a kid ends up in the hospital and someone's car is found hanging from a tree in the quad.
But, give me the bland Houston sports fan celebrations over what happened in Philly Sunday night. As one person tweeted, "Imagine if they had lost."