I’m a cynical person. Not constantly, but a decent chunk of the time. I get by on sarcasm and pithiness and expecting the worst. To put it succinctly, I’m a New Englander. This has worked out so far, mostly because it’s important to find a balance between a full-on cynical world view and appreciating the beautiful, uplifting, and happy parts of life.
But when it comes to sports, cynicism usually wins out. It’s easier that way, and not to bring Boston sports too much into this, but its pre-2001 history is definitely a part of why watching games with one eye on the negative is such a habit. Let’s make jokes and prepare for bad things to happen and neg our own players a little bit rather than earnestly watch a sporting event.
That’s not to say I don’t get excited about sports and there are of course individual games that give me nothing but warm fuzzy feelings, because I’m not a completely heartless sports fan. But most of the time I tend to fall into a cynical routine that has worked so far.
Watching the 2017 Astros has been the exact opposite of that.
I definitely realized it in the regular season, but watching the Astros for four games straight in the postseason drove the feeling home — this is a team that is so fun and joyful to watch that it makes me wish I could watch all sports this way.
It of course helped that the Astros were playing (and shellacking) my hometown team, the Red Sox, since it let me view the games through two at-odds perspectives depending on which half-inning we were in at any given time. The difference between my attitude watching the Red Sox (which could easily also be my attitude watching the Cubs or the Dodgers or the Indians) and my attitude watching the Astros is like night and day.
With the Astros, instead of expecting them to (or hoping for them to) succeed, there’s this sense of supporting each player and wanting them to succeed at all times. The team collectively emanates a feeling of “if you root for us, it will be wonderful even if we don’t win,” and I’m more than happy to oblige.
There’s Jose Altuve, who is a grinning, energetic bundle of “HECK YES” almost every time he sets foot on a field. There’s George Springer, who has always been a beacon of positivity but has really grown into his role as a leader on the team and has seen his profile rise this year. There’s Alex Bregman, who sometimes seems pleasantly surprised at his own accomplishments from game to game.
And that’s leaving out people like Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran, Yulieski Gurriel, Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and many more.
Every time a new young player does something awesome or unexpected (or is named Brad Peacock), it only makes me love them more and hope they achieve all of their dreams.
This isn’t the first team that’s made me more positive when I watch sports — last year’s Mississippi State women’s basketball team or Nashville Predators squad, to name a few recent ones — but it’s a reminder of the way that I wish I could watch sports all the time.
It’s freeing, watching baseball from this viewpoint.
This Astros team makes me wish my brain were wired differently, that my penchant for sarcastic jokes could completely disappear when I’m watching every sport, and that I were the type of person who took nothing but goodhearted fun away from each game. To live a life where snarky thoughts about a team aren’t the first thing to come to mind when I turn a game on, that would be nice.
It’s probably not going to happen. I’m set in my ways and for the most part I do enjoy watching sports this way. It’s still fun, and without taking the piss out of the game every now and then, it gets to be too much of the same. I can only muster so much energy for sincerity and earnestness.
But watching the Astros — who could very well go all the way this year — has opened a door to another universe where that’s not the case and watching sports is a completely pleasant activity where I don’t even have the urge to yell something sarcastic at the TV.
A world where the way I root for the Astros, uninhibited and without cynicism, is the way I consume all sports. It’s a great feeling.