MARK POPE: Astronomical Astros, More Than Sports [OPINION]
Astronomical Astros, More Than Sports
The Houston Astros are headed to the World Series by virtue of their Game 7 victory over the New York Yankees this past weekend – Woo Hoo! While there are many Astros fans here in Acadiana, this column is as much about life as it is about sports. Let’s start with the Astros’ run for the championship of Major League Baseball, and what that means to Houstonians. It means a chance for the city, which endured the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, to escape, to cheer, and to have hope that their beloved Astros will reach the summit of MLB Glory. A community of hard-working, civic- and tough-minded individuals, and currently beleaguered citizens, will come together in the hopes that their team will be the best that they can be, and achieve their highest aspirations. Sounds to me like a good plan for life.
But it’s only a game you say . . . what’s the big deal? The game, you see, is part of life. Baseball, football, soccer, and other sports are team activities – just like life. You work together with your teammates, you learn together, you practice together, you foster relationships together, and you support and protect one another. For now, put aside the politics of protests in the NFL – a few boneheads dragging the whole team down – and consider that there are many truly civic-minded, compassionate professional athletes who mentor kids, contribute generously to numerous charities, and who are solid members of the communities in which they live and practice their vocation of professional sports.
Citizens in any community derive great joy and hope when “their team” is doing well and competing for a championship. Back in 2014, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun baseball team was, for most of the college baseball season, atop the national rankings – consistently No. 1 or No. 2. We Cajun fans were quite proud, and maybe a bit boastful at times. A community feels great pride, and strong ownership and identity, when its team is winning at whatever sport.
Remember that first game when the New Orleans Saints returned to the Superdome in 2006 after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, the Dome was rebuilt and renovated, but it was more than just professional football returning to the Superdome. It’s was our New Orleans Saints, and they gave us great hope and joy when they played a stellar game and represented the spirit of the city. Steve Gleason’s blocking the Atlanta Falcons’ punt – and the ensuing touchdown – turned the game around. It was deemed the “Rebirth of New Orleans.” Three years later, the Saints went to their first Super Bowl, and they brought an NFL championship back home to the city, which it can be said, they helped rebuild . . . at least spiritually.
So never underestimate the value of sports, and the temporary escape and joy it can provide to millions of fans nationwide. When things aren’t going so well for your team, you remain faithful because hope springs eternal. A group of people working hard with a common cause to bring hope and joy to their fans – that’s the definition of a great sports team. Houston is a great city, full of great people. The city deserves a championship, but the Astros will have to earn it. We Louisianans have experienced our Great Escape, hope and joy, and emerged with a championship or two in football and baseball. Let’s pull together with our friends in Houston to emerge with a championship. Go Astros!