Thursday, April 21, 2011

The 2011 Houston Astros--I watch so you don't have to!

It seems a loss to the Astros by the New York Madoffs is too desultory to even describe. From The New York Daily News, via Deadspin:

Blah blah blah blah rain blah blah blah Niese blah blah Astros blah blah Mets got spanked. Blah blah, 6-1.

This has nothing to do with Tuesday's game, which was played in New York anyway, but the above lead (or lede) reminds me of treatment Houston itself--the city, I mean--receives from the sportswriting world in general. Houstonians will recall the first salvo during the '94 NBA Finals, (Rockets/Knicks) a back-page, off-day space-filler in the New York Post which was apparently written by a spotswriter who had never been south of Perth Amboy. The oh-too-subtle headline, describing Houston: WELCOME TO HELL.

A week-and-a-half after that valentine, all thoughts of city-as-hot-humid-nuthin'-to-do-in hell had receded behind the white Bronco interrupting Game 4 and John Starks's Game 7 awfulness (though I must say, when my date and I went out in the streets of Montrose to celebrate the Rockets' championship, it was breezy and cool). But the stigma stuck.

"WELCOME TO HELL" was not exactly "HEADLESS MAN IN TOPLESS BAR," but clear enough--and, more to the point, the article that set the tone for the countless Houston Sucks articles to follow. There was Bill Simmons, usually more thoughtful than this, writing from Houston after the 2006 NBA All-Star Game:

In the past four years, I made four separate trips to Houston and spent a total of 24 days here . . . And you know what? That's too much freaking time to spend in Houston. My editors just bleeped me, I don't care. Maybe Houston doesn't suck any more or less than 20 other major cities, and maybe the people are friendly and likable, but the fact remains, you would never come here for any reason, other than these three:

(1) For work.
(2) To gain weight.
(3) To get shot.

You just wouldn't. And yet, dating back to the Super Bowl XXXVIII in February 2004, three of the last eight major sporting events were held in Houston. Does this make any sense? There are 30 to 35 American cities that could host the Super Bowl and/or either of the All-Star Games ... and yet Houston pulled off the Ultimate Pro Sports Trifecta in a 24-month span, despite the fact that it's a sprawling city with traffic and safety problems (the three intangibles you always want to avoid for major sporting events). Here's what really frightens me: I have spent so much time here, I actually know my way around. Can I have this information removed from my brain? Is there a pill I can take?

Anyway, I have the following announcement to make: I am never, ever, ever setting foot in Houston again. I don't care if the Red Sox play the Astros in the World Series. I don't care if the Celtics play the Rockets in the NBA Finals. I don't care if my daughter gets engaged to an astronaut and has to have a quickie wedding in Houston hours before he gets launched to Saturn. I'm never coming back to Houston. Twenty-four days were enough. No offense.

To which one might simply reply:
1) Simmons's first love is basketball; clearly he was channeling the Post's account from '94, and
2) Simmons grew up in Boston and lived (and lives) in Los Angeles, so complaining about another city's "traffic and safety problems" is really quite hilarious. Los Angeles, at least, deals with the traffic the way Montanans deal with the snow--as adults. There are two things Angelenos approach with a degree of gravity: traffic and going to the movies. (Try whispering, "Why did he go in the chunnel?" to your companion during a Sunday matinee in Westwood. Twenty-five people will shush you, and ten more will hiss "Shut UP!") As for Boston . . . imagine the cast of Good Will Hunting multiplied by fifty thousand driving in Kenmore Square (with its five-way intersection hard by Fenway Park) on a street laid out 350 years ago for horses and milk wagons. I'll give you traffic.

The idea of Houston-as-craptown was revived once again this year, during the Final Four. Leaving aside that the worst basketball game in history somehow tainted the city. Every sports columnist, thinking himself the soul of wit, wrote on the Sunday off-day for the Monday papers. These guys work in journalism--they didn't know the Crown Royal is stuck south of the Medical Center and toward Fort Bend County, basically the Houston version of the City of Industry? Downtown--with 20 really nice bars and a dozen superb restaurants, Sam Houston Park giving onto Allen's Landing and Buffalo Bayou, plus a Hilton, a Hyatt, a Doubletree--is 20 minutes from Reliant Stadium. Really, is that so hard?

Anyway, just thinkin' out loud.

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