I was going to post about this, but Bill Simmons took the words right out of my mouth:
Why do I think of these things? Because 1986 and 2003 wiped me out, that's why. You never truly get over it. When the Sox won the Series, I always assumed that the scars from Game 6 and the Grady Little Game would heal. Well, they don't. That's why they're scars. Last winter, about two months after the Red Sox won the title, I stumbled across a replay of Game 6 on ESPN Classic and ended up watching most of it. I couldn't pull myself from the television. That's the thing about scars -- they never go away.
So I was fearing the worst, and I'm not even an Astros fan. Two pitches later, Pujols crushed a hanging slider about 900 feet to give St. Louis the lead, followed by the worst sound in sports -- a sellout crowd shrieking in horror, followed by a prolonged, wailing-like noise, followed by a creepy silence where you only hear the visitors celebrating. When Magic made the famous sky hook against the Celtics in the '87 Finals, we made that sound in the Garden, followed by that same wailing and the same silence, and you could actually hear the Lakers congratulating Magic on their bench. That's how quiet it was. Same for the Angels-Sox game -- Al Michaels finishes the first part of his call ("And it's gone!"), followed by the wailing and the silence.
It's awful. It's an awful, disorienting sound.
Something happened in that stadium when Pujols hit the home run. Part of what has appealed to me about the Astros is that they, and their fans, seem so happy. So cute and charming. How could you not root for a team whose #1 slugger looks like a little leprechaun? Whose fans' fiercest rallying cry has to do with buzzing bumblebees? Who dress their babies up like bees for the game?
Meanwhile, though there are plenty of people who've given plenty of great arguments for rooting Birds, and I respect anyone's choice of which team to root for, I just can't get behind St. Louis here. Generally, I find them a fairly unlikeable team--for explanation, once again, I fall back on Bill Simmons:
Has there ever been a team less excited for a season-saving homer than the St. Louis Cardinals? La Russa didn't even uncross his arms! Thank God this wasn't a sports movie, they would have had to re-film it. Unbelievable. I think La Russa has low levels of carbon dioxide pumped into the St. Louis dugout so nobody disturbs him during the game. Just a deadly boring team. I want to see them win a World Series just to see if they would (A) pour champagne on one another, or (B) shake hands and agree to bring two bottles apiece to their respective homes to celebrate quietly on their own terms.
For my taste, they're just...meh. Their fans are...meh. Their soon-to-be-torn-down Stadium is...meh. I just can't get into them.
Meanwhile, sure, the Astros have had a history of heartbreak, but you get the sense, watching these series, that many of these present-day fans in a heavily football state are there for a good time, happiness, and winning baseball. They heard about this team and, shucks, they just came right on down to the ballpark for some food, folks, fun and a pennant. Maybe it's just my impression, but how many of the people filling up that park are really hard-bitten, grizzled fans who remember '86? It felt to me, instead, like a lot of happy, fresh fans rooting for a spunky, scrappy team got the smile slapped right off their faces last night by a team with all the personality of Lt. Cmdr Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and that seems sad.
Maybe it's the self-absorbed East Coaster in me talking. But Minute Maid Park, and the rooters therein, have charmed the shit out of me. I can't help but be taken with that city and that team. They just seem so happy.
Or, well. They did.