The Healing Power of a Championship

First off, let me get this out of the way: THE HOUSTON ASTROS WON THE WORLD SERIES. Even as I type these words 24 hours and one twitter thread later, I still can’t quite believe it. My ‘Stros are actually champions. We did it. We won.

I could end this post there and it would be sufficient. The sheer fact that we won is powerful. In case you don’t follow baseball, or have been living blind to statistics since the championship, there was a point in time–very recently, I might add–that the Astros were called the “Lastros.” We were legit terrible. A baseball season is 162 games long, and year after year we struggled to win 50. There were consistent 100+-loss seasons; there was the pain of trading away all of our staples like Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence; and there was the bittersweet retirement of others like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. The team was sold to a new owner, and for years we heard “Trust the process.” Yeah right, Jim Crane, like its soooo easy to trust when you’ve never won a championship and you’re the laughing stock of the league.

But then we started winning. We slowly climbed from 50 wins to 60, then 70 and 80, and finally back into the playoffs a few years ago (about 2 years too early according to a popular SI prediction). Then, in 2017, what felt like the impossible happened. We won. We won the whole damn thing. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

2 months ago, my city–yes, I wasn’t born in H-Town, but I’ve lived here almost my whole life and can barely remember anywhere else, so it’s as much mine as anyone else’s–was underwater. I watched the devastation on TV from a crowded hotel room in Livingston, Texas. I watched as people cried for boats to rescue them, as local heroes like Mattress Mack became national icons for their shelters, as floodwaters continued to rise and more and more property in the 4th largest city in America became damaged. I was there, in that hotel room with my mom as we anxiously awaited word from my father after he left to go help rescue my foster brother, who was back in Kingwood watching the waters come closer and closer to our doorstep. I was there when, a few days later, we were able to get back to our town and see the destruction of our neighbors’ homes. People had lost everything and it felt overwhelming. At that moment, looking down my street at houses with waterlines 5 feet high, it felt hopeless. Few had been prepared for this since most people don’t have flood insurance. How were we supposed to heal?

Enter the Astros. Now, the team had been doing pretty well so far–we were in place to get to the playoffs, maybe win a round or two–but the Dodgers were considered the best and the Indians were on a 21-game winning streak (and had beat us pretty soundly earlier in the year). Surely there was no way we could get past both. The team returned to the city a few weeks after Harvey with newly acquired pitcher Justin Verlander and promised us something we had only dared hope for in the 55 years of being a team: A World Series Championship.

Things started to change a bit after their return and promise. #HoustonStrong and #HoUSton started trending on a daily basis. There were constant reports of people helping each other. There was a palpable attitude of hope that pulsated through the streets from the shelter set up at the George R. Brown Convention Center down to the flooded streets of Dickinson and up to the ruined homes in Kingwood. We understood that we were all Houstonians, that we were in this together, and that we were stronger than any storm. Through the next few months we started to clean up, ripping out soaking carpet in houses and taking pictures for FEMA and insurance claims, all the while rallying behind our Astros.

Finally, the playoffs came. We blew by Boston pretty easily, but then ran into trouble starting with New York. The “Baby Bombers”–called that because the average age of their starting lineup was 15 years old, or something like that–managed to dampen the ‘Stros offense that led the league in runs. We weren’t able to score like we did during the regular season and after 2 close games in Houston, and 3 less close games in New York, we came back to Houston down 3-2. Then we managed to blank NY 2-0, after which we headed off to LA for an attempt at that elusive championship the team promised us.

And after a 7-game slugfest with the best team in baseball, they did it. The Astros delivered on their promise to our city. There were times they looked out of it, like in Game 1 when the first pitch by ace Dallas Keuchel was hit for a homer. But, like so many times before, the Astros were #HoustonStrong. They wore it on their jerseys in the form of a patch and it’s clear they believed it in their hearts. When Harvey had beaten us down, had hit us so hard we didn’t know if we could get up, the Astros picked us up and gave us all something to believe in. More than that, they gave us a reward for our belief: they gave us triumph.

Now you may be wondering what the point is; why any of this even matters. We know that this victory doesn’t change much. Homes are still damaged, lives are still lost, we are still recovering. This victory doesn’t magically repair what happened 2 months ago. But weirdly, it kind of feels like it does. By winning, the Astros said, “Look, we triumphed. We overcame deficits and odds. We believed and now we won. You can too.” Sports have a weird way of doing that. They have a way of uniting cities and communities regardless of race, gender, politics, or wealth. They have a way of being a rallying cry, especially in times of need. I love the entertainment of sports, but I will forever be thankful for the way they inspire and bring communities together.

So thank you, Astros. Thank you for believing in yourselves and in #HoustonStrong. Thank you for helping us understand that we can triumph; we can win too. Thank you for bringing the healing power of a championship to our city.

 

 

 

“You can take my picture, you can take my name, but you can never take my city away.”–Patrick Stump, “This City”

 

 

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Note: Sweet baby Jesus, that was a long one…and I didn’t even touch on the whole postseason motto of #EarnHistory. Thanks for sticking with me. We all have our own reactions and feelings surrounding the ‘Stros historic victory, and I’d love to hear yours. Comment below or find me on twitter @BenParva and let me know your reaction and feelings surrounding the Astros World Series Championship!

-BRP

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