This World Series has been one for the ages. The emotional rollercoaster has been something to behold for all of us, of course, but for me, the combination of competition and timing has added some really interesting wrinkles. See, I'm a lifelong Houston Astros fan who lives in Los Angeles.
Once the Los Angeles Dodgers punched their ticket to the World Series, I immediately began thinking of logistics. The secondary ticket market made physically attending a game a pipe dream for me, but I still knew I was going to have to do better than to sit on my couch and watch these games. There were some problems with that, though: First, I live in the heart of Dodgers territory, just four miles from the entrance to Dodger Stadium. Second, I had to fly to New York on business in the middle of the series.
So it happened that I ended up watching five games in four different time zones, including all of the principal players in this compelling drama.
For game one, here in Los Angeles, I had made the decision to watch the game with other Astros fans. I've never done that. I've literally never watched an Astros game with more than, say, six other Astros fans scattered nearby. I grew up in Ohio. Every time I've seen the team play, it was as the road team. So I found a group on Facebook, and they mentioned that they were seeing the game at a place in North Hollywood called El Tejano, right up the street from my office.
I got to the bar right around first pitch. It was my first time there, so I headed to the bar to get my bearings. I ordered a beer - "Yes, I would like that 'Texas-sized' for just two dollars more, thank you" - and some food off of the happy hour menu. There were a lot of blue jerseys. After the first inning or two, more Astros fans had wandered in and set up shop on one half of the bar. I joined them, and we watched the game together, trading cheers with the healthy Dodger contingent that had chosen that bar out of all of the thousands of places to watch the game in the greater Los Angeles area.
As you know, it was a quick game, but still enough to drink a few more Texas-sized beers and to bond with some of the other Astros fans present, though admittedly I was already beginning to tire of the typical icebreaker: "What part of Houston are you from?" Even I think my Astros fandom story is boring. I hate having to subject a dozen more people to it.
The next morning, I was on a plane to New York. I was excited for game two, because I had found a list of the top thirteen Astros bars in the country. Twelve were in Houston, and one was in the East Village, about six blocks from where I was staying.
On the way from my hotel to the bar (Avenida Cantina, on Avenue B off of Houston Street), I stopped for a slice of pie. The guys working at the pizza place were diehard Yankees fans. "There's something on your hat," they sneered at my orange cap with mock disgust.
"Oh yeah," I retorted. "I'm not surprised you don't recognize it; it's called victory."
It's interesting to note how differently New York and Los Angeles handle big sporting events. The Astros had just knocked the Yankees out of the postseason, and most of the New Yorkers I ran across had something to say about it. They live for their teams. I'm not even sure most Angelenos knew who the Dodgers were even playing at the beginning of the series. I could walk around with Astros gear on and not even get a sideways glance. Angelenos are more casual about their sports. They just like associating themselves with winners.
Avenida Cantina turned out to be exactly what I had hoped El Tejano would be. Astros fans stood, shoulder to shoulder in their navy and orange, craning their necks to see the television. Erupting with joy and with frustration. Batting stats back and forth at one another. They were engaged in a way that the L.A. crowd just hadn't been. In fairness to them, it was a much more-exciting game, but I also really think the feeling of it being "our turf" - free from Dodgers fans - helped it along more than anything else.
I tended to my business on the first travel day of the series, and then I was back in the air on Friday. It so happened that I had a layover that coincided perfectly with most of game three. And that layover was in Houston.
So Center Bar in the George Bush Intercontinental Airport became the venue for game three. Crowded around a television set with a few dozen strangers - some of them Astros fans, but most of them just passing through - I watched Chase Utley pop out to third base to end the Dodgers' rally in the top of the sixth inning. I didn't know it as I boarded the plane, but once I was able to log onto Wi-Fi, I learned that that would conclude the scoring for game three. Astros win.
I spent all of Saturday in Anaheim. The vibe in Anaheim was interesting. Unlike in Los Angeles, people seemed to know that the Astros were playing the Dodgers. But unlike in New York, they didn't seem to have any animosity. In fact, for being the only city on my adventure in which an actual division rival played, they were surprisingly the most welcoming. I watched the game on my cell phone while the Anaheim Halloween Parade rolled by. The signal was often spotty, so I missed the entire ninth inning entirely. To my eyes, it was a tense 1-1 game, some Shriners went by, and then the Astros had lost, 6-2. It saved me from the gut-punch feeling that I'm sure many had watching the game live, but now I can never again stand the sight of a man in a fez on a tiny car.
After so much traveling, I decided I needed to watch game five on my couch, which I think worked out pretty well for everyone except for my downstairs neighbors, who no doubt thought that there was some awful event happening in my apartment, with all of the cursing and throwing of things. I considered the possibility that they were Dodgers fans, but let's be honest. People are only really Dodgers fans when other people are looking.
And there you have it. Five games, three time zones, and a whole lot of baseball. Game six (no game seven, please) will happen, at least partly, while I'm on a train. So while there's bound to be at least one more wrinkle to this interestingly-timed World Series, I for one am really glad to have the day off to recover from baseball.