The Pain of Fandom

Ideas and Issues
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      Houston           At 4:30 AM in the morning, as we pulled up to my son Chaco’s house, he turned to me and said, “We’re not doing this again!”  He was right.  It was crazy to bolt over, hell for leather, to Houston from New Orleans in time to see the first game of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves.  Ok, maybe that wasn’t crazy, but leaving after the seventh inning when all seemed to be lost when the Astros were down 5 to 1 in what would eventually be a 6-2 drubbing and getting home that late with work that day was perhaps crazy.

We had seen a couple of games in Atlanta earlier in the year when they were hardly .500 and playing the Chicago Cubs, where they won a split verdict.  Houston is my son’s team, because he has been lucky enough to be within easy driving range of a major league baseball team since his youth.  Our family would drive over once a year to catch a game with our friends and comrades.  Museums were always one piece of the trip.  Something for everyone, but the game was important to my son in a way it wasn’t to the rest of us.  Once catching up with the gang in the middle of a road trip, my friend Orell Fitzsimmons, still kids me about falling asleep in the old Astrodome for several innings when I was so exhausted.

I enabled my son’s fandom.  In my youth I would watch Pee Wee Reese, Dizzy Dean and others, once we had a television set, on the Saturday Game of the Week.  Often as not, we absorbed being Yankees fans because they were shown so often, but generally I was ecumenical.  I just liked watching baseball at the time of my life.  Then in 1967, while still in school in Massachusetts, I jumped at the chance with my rabid Red Sox roommates to see the 7th game of the World Series when the St. Louis Cardinals behind the great Bob Gibson, Orlando Cepada and others beat Jim Lonberg and the Sox.  So, when the Astros played the Washington Nationals, Chaco’s Christmas present that year was a ticket to the game, which they then lost 7-2.

Going to see the Astros with 44,000 others, mostly their fans, is an exercise in defiance, and not because they don’t check vaccination status or wear masks, although that also seemed so Houston and so Texas.  They sell t-shirts that say “Houston Against Everyone”.  The newspapers, including in New Orleans, call them cheaters and “the most hated team in baseball.”  It’s like being part of a special gang now, making it wonderful to be in their underworld crowd for a game.

My son though believes we are now jinxing the team.  He says he wouldn’t go back now until they were 3-1 in a series or something like that.  He is a fan of abundance, just as I was a fan of scarcity.  His Astros may be cursed at, but they don’t bear a curse, having played in 68 playoff games since 2017, more than another team, and been in the World Series in 2017, 2019, and now 2021.  He assumes that they will be there again and again.  I always assume my series experiences in 1967 and now this crazy 2021, fifty-four years later, are one-in-a-lifetime deals.

That’s why the trip didn’t seem crazy to me at the time.  I was back at work after the game at 730, tired but wiser though.  He’s right.  It’s too much driving.  He may also be right that we are jinxes, so we should measure our participation, if the chance allows in the future, with more discipline.   That’s the verdict of a real fan, not someone like me, who is always up for a game anywhere with any team as a memory-collector.  I’ll let him call the play in the future.