The season ended last night as the Braves played their best game of the entire series and suffocated the Astros’ hopes of another championship. As a fan, I watched 9 innings of an offense that seemed to lose all sense of direction at the plate during the worst possible moment. I saw pitching that was good until it very suddenly wasn’t, which placed the team in a hole that it would never climb out of. I watched my favorite set of guys lose the World Series last night.
And I couldn’t be prouder.
Of course I wish it were different. I wish that I was happily scrolling through the team store and justifying spending $500 on clothing and knick knacks to celebrate the win. I wish that I was sending taunting text messages to my friends instead of receiving them. I wish that the Astros had not lost a couple of winnable games in Atlanta and doomed themselves in six games. I wish they had won it all.
But, at the end of the day, that’s not why I watch.
This team has meant so much to me since I was a child. Ever since my father took me to the Astrodome to watch them play the Cubs back in 1985. I remember names like Bagwell, Biggio, Alou, Berkman, Ausmus, and Oswalt. I remember watching this team going on a run of excellence in the late 90’s into the early 00’s, where it always seemed to be in the mix for October, even it if fell short. I remember a team that has been a part of the fabric of my life for decades now.
And the last 7 years have been glorious for that team. Since 2015 we have had the privilege of watching a team that rebuilt itself from the ashes of nothingness to consistently compete on the world’s largest baseball stage. This team has built a dynasty of greatness that ensured that the road to the World Series ran through Houston for five straight seasons. I understand that the ending has been of the terrible kind for four of those five seasons, but god damn, what a ride.
That’s what it comes down to for me: the ride. While you always want to see your team win it all, that’s never been the only reason for me to care. The soothing sound of a game humming in the background on a lazy summer day, the feeling of excitement when Pressly is on the mound with a one-run lead, or Altuve is at bat in the bottom of the ninth during a tie game. That’s why I watch and, really, it doesn’t matter if this game takes place in April or October.
So I will not despair that the Astros missed out on another championship or allow it to tarnish all they’ve accomplished this season. This team has bound itself to their city and fan base in a way that almost no other team has. Through adversity and near-constant jeering from other fans over the cheating scandal, the Astros pushed back and proved themselves an elite, superior team. In spite of all the noise, they gave their fans something to root for when it would have been easy to label them “cheaters” and move on.
And now the team heads into an uncertain future. While a lot of the pieces will still be there next season, it’s likely that Correa is gone to greener pastures this offseason. The rotation will also churn a little with Greinke leaving and (hopefully) some new signings this winter. We may not see a Houston Astros teams as good as the 2021 one for a long time but, at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter.
I’ll be back next season. If the Astros don’t make the playoffs I’ll still watch every game that I am able to. I’ll still have my Sunday afternoons where I sit on my porch and sip my beer in the sun while annoying my neighbors with the radio broadcast. I’ll still wear my Astros gear and say “right back at you, buddy” when fans of other teams call me a cheater. I’ll clap my hands loudly and yell profanities at the umpires next season regardless of who plays shortstop and which flags are raised at Minute Maid Park.
Because, for me, this team isn’t about championships. It isn’t about pennants and jerseys with World Series patches on them. It’s not about sticking it to other fans or proving that my team is the best no matter what. That’s all gravy.
For me, this team is about a little boy going to a game in the 8th Wonder of the World with his father. A little boy who, for the first time, truly understood the excitement that the crack a bat hitting a ball can elicit. A little boy who, for good or for ill, will never stop rooting for the team that he loves.