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Looking to the stars from the sea: a perspective on the Houston Astros

mariners fandom from thousands of miles away

MLB: OCT 13 ALDS Mariners at Astros Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I inherited Astros fandom. Being from South Texas, we were more of Astros fans than Rangers fans. Even so, I came to baseball relatively late in life. There were three moments, however, that all combined to make me into a baseball fan.

One of the earliest baseball memories I have was in summer 2017, when I caught a cold on a road trip. We arrived in Memphis and I was laid out on the pullout couch in the hotel room. While recovering, an Astros game was on, and I got to see a real life grand slam.

That autumn, the gulf coast of Texas was obliterated by Hurricane Harvey. My hometown of Rockport received some of the strongest wins. The destruction was devastating, unimaginable, and inhuman. Whereever one looked, there were destroyed buildings, fallen power cables, and debris. Next to the highway just outside of town relief workers piled all the debris they could to get it out of the way. In “Mount Harvey” one could see mattresses, dining chairs, children's toys; so many pieces of so many lives.

San Antonio Express-News

While Rockport got the wind, Houston got the rain. While Rockport did flood somewhat, Harvey moved north and slowed down, sitting on Houston and dumping rain for days. The flooding was unreal. So I felt a certain bond with the Astros, connected through the devastation. When they won the World Series that year, it felt perfect. A transcendent moment.

My third baseball memory came in October 2019. I had just entered college and decided that I would start taking sports seriously. One night some friends and I went to a sushi bar, and they had the ALCS on. For some reason I was drawn to it, feeling the tension ratchet up as the game entered the ninth inning. And then, boom. Altuve walk-off home run. You know the one.

So you’ll forgive me for saying that was the moment I fell in love with baseball. And then, that winter, it fell apart.

It took a long time for me to sort out my emotions when news of the cheating scandal broke. I mean, I had just gotten into baseball, and now this team, the team that made me think that life could be poetically perfect, turned out to be total frauds. Betrayal was the word that came to mind. I mean hell, the ‘Stros sent two pitchers to my school to give us a pep talk after Harvey. And then to find out how fake it all was? It stung.

(Note: I still wasn’t hugely into baseball yet, and wasn’t following baseball news that closely, so I was unaware of Brandon Taubman’s comments and the controversy over the Astros acquiring Roberto Osuna, which would have pissed me off then as much as it does now.)

But then I thought about it. Cheating by banging on a trash can? That’s objectively hilarious. Like, they set up this high tech camera system that’s patched directly into the dugout and the clubhouse to give them a real-time, high-definition feed of the catcher. And then, they decided the best way to relay the information to the batter was “I dunno. Hit a trash can really hard with a bat.”

I stopped being mad at the team, and instead I started laughing at them. The kind of good-natured poking fun that fans do of things they like. It was a silly scheme and it blew up in their faces. It’s okay as fans to laugh at them. I thought other Astros fans would feel the same way.

I was wrong. The toxicity in Astros fandom was needlessly vitriolic and repulsive. As someone new to the sport and the community, it was almost enough to turn me off baseball entirely.

I don’t mean to tar all Astros fans with the same brush. Most that I know in real life are normal people who do laugh about the cheating scandal. I’m mostly talking about the online freaks who decide to spend their finite mortal lives typing up emails like this one.

This shit is not okay. This is why people hate not just the Astros team and organization, but also the fans.

So, when the Dorktown Mariners documentary came out shortly after the cheating news broke, I simply decided to become a Mariners fan. Time will tell if that was a mistake or not, but here I am.

I watched yesterday’s game in a sports bar here in Austin, sitting next to some Seattle transplants. The food and M’s fans were great, but the game was miserable. And the smug, self-satisfied grins from the Astros fans as they stared at me after the game were interminable.

They seemed like enemies of fun itself. One older gentleman asked why a Seattle fan on the broadcast was putting his shoe on his head. I explained the Rally Shoe story from the wild card game and he looked at me and said, without a hint of irony in his voice, “only in Seattle.” As if the unofficial motto of this city weren’t “Keep Austin Weird.”

This behavior, as well as the misery of the last two games have truly made me, and may my ancestors curse my student apartment for saying this, loathe the Astros.

It’s not the cheating; I don’t care about that. At least, not anymore. I understand if you’re still angry (and you have every right to be!), but it’s not the most important thing. The Mariners have also cheated in some hilariously stupid ways.

It’s not the denial, although acceptance and good humor would go a long way.

But it’s the way their fans and the organization itself has taken “turning heel” to just mean becoming spiteful and vindictive.

So to Astros fans I say: do better. Be better. Police your communities and start telling each other that acting like a toxic fungus is not the Southern manners your mammas tried to teach you.

And to my fellow Mariners fans I say that this season is not yet over.

Falling behind only makes the comeback better.