Not only did the Astros clinch their first championship in the franchise's 56-year history, but they also:
- Became the only team in Major League Baseball to win a pennant in both leagues (even though I'm still not a fan of their move to the AL, I think the fact that the Astros can now claim league championships in both leagues is cool).
- Beat the two teams I hate the most, the Red Sox and the Yankees, in order to get there.
- Did it in a seven-game series that will be remembered as one of the best World Series in the history, featuring two of the craziest and most thrilling World Series games ever played (and my girlfriend and I were, rather improbably, in attendance for Game 5 - more about that in an upcoming post).
As a lifelong Astros fan, I gotta say that this really feels a bit surreal (especially since they won it all just a year after I predicted that I would never see the Astros win a World Series in my lifetime). I'm old enough to vaguely remember the 1980 team that twice came within six outs of going to the World Series, only to be topped by the Phillies. I clearly remember watching Kevin Bass strike out against the Mets in the bottom of the 16th inning in game six of the 1986 NLCS (and I clearly remember myself crying like a baby afterward). I saw all those great "Killer Bs" teams of the late 90s and early aughts win NL Central titles and promptly get dispatched by Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs. I saw the Astros finally break through in 2005, only to get swept by the White Sox (my brother and I watched those games over breakfast while I visited him in Japan). I remember this team losing 111 games just four seasons ago (turns out, that was all part of the plan). I remember Nolan Ryan and Alan Ashby and Jose Cruz and Mike Scott and Glenn Davis and Billy Hatcher and Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell and all the other Astro greats who were so good but who never won the whole thing.
This is such a joyous moment, not just for the players, but also for their long-suffering fans like me, or for other lifelong Astros fans (such as my 95-year-old aunt or 76-year-old father, who finally got to see their team "win it all"), or for all those Houstonians in need of a morale boost in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Harvey might have made the Astros a sentimental favorite to win the World Series, but the Astros weren't entitled to a World Series title any more than New York was entitled to a championship after 9/11 (the Yankees lost to the Diamondbacks in the 2001 series). They had to earn it. They did.
Granted: this Astros victory will not pay anybody's rent, or find anybody a job, or magically clean up all the damage from Hurricane Harvey. Therein lies the fundamental absurdity to spectator sports: why do we invest so much of our emotion and so much of our identity in the successes and failures of a bunch of highly-paid athletes, none of whom (save for pitcher Will Harris) are actually from Houston? When those players put on those jerseys that just happen to have the name of our city embroidered upon them, they somehow become "ours." Those players represent us, and they become the guardians of our hopes.
It's weird. It's (quite frankly) illogical. But it's what happens, and it's magical. They won, which means "Houston" won, and it makes us happy and proud and creates a common sense of community. Especially for a city that, Other than the 1994 and 1995 Rockets (and, to be fair, the 2006 and 2007 Dynamo), simply doesn't have a long list of championship teams as compared to some other cities.
The World Series is a tradition that is 114 years old. This year, the Houston Astros finally added their name to that tradition.
And I could not be happier that they finally did.