Thursday, June 14, 2012

Houston Sports Futility

Yesterday night I got home from the gym after hooping with a couple friends.  I turned on the TV.  The first thing I saw was the Houston Astros losing to the San Francisco Giants 10-0 in the top of the 6th inning.  I turned off the TV.

Here’s the thing about being a fan of the Astros.  Even though they aren’t that good (AKA “rebuilding”), I still watch the games if they’re on and keep up with what’s going on with the team.  The most exciting thing about the season so far has been the emergence of shortstop Jed Lowrie, who has a legitimate argument for being the best shortstop in the National League right now, and the fact that the Astros are currently 26-36 -- which is on pace for 68 wins on the year -- and my futures bet of over 63.5 wins is lookin’ mighty fine.

Something, be it fate, curiosity, or habit, compelled me to turn the TV back on, and I did so just in time to see Jordan Schafer hit a liner towards the gap in deep center field, nicknamed “Triples Alley.”  Just as I was on the verge of thinking that Schafer’s speed might give him a real shot at an inside-the-park home run, Giants rookie Gregor Blanco makes a diving-towards-the-wall-over-the-shoulder-Jim-Edmonds-like catch. 

I was impressed, for sure, but the crowd was beside itself and gave Blanco a roaring standing ovation.  That’s when I thought something might be up.  So he made a great catch in a blowout game; what’s the big deal?

Then I see the scoreboard, and the Astros have all 0’s.  0 hits, 0 runs.  No-hitter through 6 ⅓ innings!  I put my Masters in Accounting and CPA license to use and calculate that Matt Cain only needs 8 more outs to complete the game.  Then it hits me that Jordan Schafer is our leadoff batter, and Matt Cain is not only in the midst of a no-hitter, but he is pitching a perfect game.  Then I go wide-eyed.

I spend those last 8 outs wondering what my mindset should be.  One part of me wanted to witness greatness with the 22nd perfect game in MLB history.  The other part of me, of course, did not want it to happen against my hometown team.  I finally justified it by reasoning that if you’re gonna get blown out, you might as well get blown out in the worst way possible.  Does that make any sense?

Matt Cain ends up completing the perfect game, and I’m happy for the kid.  But it’s got me wondering where this game ranks in terms of Houston futility.  As a guy born and raised in Clutch City, I’d have to say that this does not even come anywhere close to my worst three moments in Houston sports history.  (Before unveiling my list, I should preface by saying that I was born in 1984 and was not alive for the North Carolina State upset over Phi Slamma Jamma in the 1983 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  Furthermore, I was not yet a football fanatic in 1993 when the Houston Oilers fell victim to the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs in the greatest comeback in NFL history.  I should also warn that the following may be painful to read/watch.  I’m not sure why I had to bring all this up, but I gotta get this negative energy out before football season.)

3. John Stockton Hits “The Shot”

I was still convincing myself that trading Robert Horry and my favorite player Sam Cassell for Charles Barkley was worth it, but the Rockets were up 7 with under 2 minutes to go in game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals.  Winning this game would force a game 7 back in Utah, so we had a shot at returning to the NBA Finals for the 3rd time in 4 years.  Hope was alive.

But that comfortable 7-point lead was soon a tie ballgame with 2.8 seconds left.  The ball is inbounded to John Stockton.  Clyde Drexler is unable to free himself from a Karl Malone bear hug.  Charles Barkley is late to rotate over.  Stockton buries the three.  This one hurt.

2. Brad Lidge Loses his Mojo

It was game 5 of the 2005 NLCS.  The Astros were leading 4-2 and were 1 out away from the World Series.  Brad Lidge is on the mound.  David Eckstein singles.  I start to get antsy.  Jim Edmonds walks.  I start to get worried.  Albert Pujols blasts a 3-run home run that lands on the train tracks.  The whole stadium goes silent.  Brad Lidge was broken.  This one hurt a lot.  (Yes, the Astros went on to win game 6 in St. Louis anyway, but that one-game delay stopped our momentum and tragically altered our pitching lineup for the World Series.  

1. Jazz Beat the Rockets in Game 7

I had driven back to Houston from Austin for this game.  We were down early, but I never thought we would lose the game.  The below video is still hard to watch, but all I remember is Yao Ming getting destroyed by Carlos Boozer all game (to the tune of 35/14/5) and Yao Ming failing to grab three defensive boards that cost us 5 points in a game we ended up losing by 4.  This one hurt the most.

But hey, you know what they say... at least we’re not Cleveland.

Photo and videos courtesy of Jason O. Watson/Getty Images and YouTube


What about Superbowl 34 when Dyson is stopped 1 yard short of the game winning touchdown? oh wait...

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