Bill Simmons (aka the Sports Guy) article on the Astros loss the other night. As he so often opines - I feel like I just thew up in my mouth...
Weird things happen when you haven't won in a long time; the poor Astros have never even appeared in a World Series. After a while, in that situation, you start expecting to lose. Then one of those seasons rolls around when good things keep happening, and they keep happening, and you wait for the other shoe to drop ... only it never does. Eventually, you reach a point that Houston fans reached Monday night -- you drop your guard, assume everything is different this season, give in to the moment -- and that's when sports can truly crush you. It's happened to me. I didn't want it to happen to them.
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.
And I hate to say it, but teams rarely rally back from that moment. In my "Levels of Losing" column from three years ago, Monday night's nightmare qualifies as a full-fledged Stomach Punch (Level 2, one from the top) for Astros fans -- it only would have been worse if they were one strike from winning the World Series.
Sadly, the rest of the Astros-Cards series seems predictably depressing (unless you're a St. Louis fan). Not only are the Cardinals back at home, not only have they been handed a second life, but out of every sport, baseball hinges on emotion and momentum more than anything else. ... Once you have the momentum, the other team has to take it back. And they can't do that when they're reeling on the road and wondering what the hell just happened. That's why I believe the Astros are finished, just like that '86 Angels team was.
And yes, I hope I'm wrong. Actually, I would love to be wrong. As the e-mails started pouring into my mailbox from Astros fans last night -- some venting incoherently, some wondering what they did to deserve the Pujols homer, others wondering if they were stupid for still thinking the Astros had a chance -- I could feel the despair seeping through my laptop screen. A local named Amar summed it up best: "I was there [at Minute Maid], and the electricity in the air when there were 2 outs until just after [Pujols] unloaded the big guns was just something I can't describe. In fact, I can't type any more. I feel too sick."
Amar, I know the feeling. You could even call me an expert. And according to my research, your team is cooked unless they can create a new Level of Losing for the Cardinals -- the "Reverse Dead Man Walking" Game on either Wednesday or Thursday. ...
Hang in there, Houston. You never know.
Read this too.