Last night, sitting in Dallas, blacked out from watching the Astros game, I was instead watching the Toronto Blue Jays and the Detroit Tigers battle back and forth for the lead. The first three innings were quite exciting to watch as the Jays started out up by four runs, only to be chased down in the second inning and passed by the Tigers before battling back again. It was a true contest of baseball.
Sometime in the fifth inning I read about Homer Bailey throwing a perfect game in Cincinnati, so I began the familiar flip-flopping of channels, keeping up with the Tigers/Jays game, but also keeping an eye on Bailey, the Reds and what would, of course turn from a perfect game into a no-hitter, Bailey’s second in 10 months.
It was exciting and fun to watch. It was everything that baseball should be. On one channel, a fierce competition for the lead and on the other, a fierce competition to win against oneself — Bailey trying to again be as good as he was 10 months ago.
When all was said and done, Bailey was doused with Gatorade for throwing a no-hitter on one channel while the Tigers managed to eke out a win by one run over the Blue Jays. My hometown Houston Astros? Well, I was following them on the MLB At Bat application as the shut out hole they were digging against the Tampa Bay Rays got bigger and bigger.
I was in the car on the way to get ice cream when it dawned on me – I was really happy about baseball again. I was thrilled by a game that always has my heart, but didn't always hold my interest. Why did it suddenly capture my attention again on that particular night?
I wasn't watching the Astros.
That’s a harsh reality and statement for me to make as someone who is as big a fan as I am. I have always cheered for the Astros and have always prioritized their games over everyone else’s.
At the same time, over the last two years I've chided fans who turned their backs on the Astros. Fans who said, "I’ll come watch when they can win again," have been viewed as traitors in my eyes … until last night. I get it now.
As I watched Joey Votto throw out Gregor Blanco on a fielder’s choice rather than nabbing Buster Posey at first, I got it. Would the Astros have made that play? Would they have thought to preserve the no-hitter rather than get the out? Would they even be in this situation?
Fans of the Astros spend their time playing defense, explaining the long and difficult process of building a successful ball club from the ground up. They explain the patience required to watch the major league team, and that the reward is coming when, in two or three more years, the Houston Astros are a baseball club that makes us smile and want to celebrate victories with ice cream rather than a team that makes us groan, shake our heads and throw things at the TV.
It gets tiring defending the process, explaining the plan, standing up for the weakest in the room. We do it though, while still tossing insults and judgments. Astros fans are sort of like my older brother — he can insult me all he wants, but don’t you dare insult me or he’ll have a few things to say. We all hate the nasty comments by the national media and hang onto every forward-thinking piece that gives our city hope. Yes, Houston fans, I get it. I've been frustrated right along with you.
But just because I get it doesn't mean I’ll walk away. After all, I’m in this. I've watched the strip-mining of this team and I want to watch it rise from the ashes as well. I’m not going anywhere, but I will tell you this — when I sit down to watch baseball the rest of this season, I’m going to make sure I watch that other baseball as well, you know, the games that still take my breath away.