My brother, Keith, and I went to a lot of Texas Rangers games back in the day. We’re ten years apart — but still shared a room and slept in bunk beds until I moved off to college — so during the best of those times I was 18 or 19 years old and he was eight or nine. We’d jump in my “metallic blue” Nissan Hardbody, grab a couple of Ultimate Cheeseburgers at the Jack in the Box on Buckner Boulevard, and fly down I-30 to old Arlington Stadium.
Parking was free when you could find a spot behind a warehouse on Randol Mill, a game program was a dollar — those really were the good old days — and the bleacher seats were five dollars each. Keith and I would usually wind up in the aluminum rows in left field.
And there was a lot of room out there. The teams were terrible — the Rangers were still ten years away from their first division title and first playoff appearance — and attendance was worse. A lot of the time it felt like there were only a few dozen of us in those outfield bleachers. But we went faithfully, as often as we could. We cheered on Bobby Witt and Charlie Hough, Pete O’Brien and Steve Boooooo-chele. Keith named himself the president of the Chad Krueter fan club and we killed time in the late innings of blowout losses by chanting his name.
One night the Rangers were actually winning. I can’t remember who they played or what night of the week it was, but I do remember there were only twelve of us in the left field stands. And one guy about twenty rows up from us was very, very, very drunk and very, very, very loud. He was about as obnoxious as you can imagine — sloppy drunk — and giving everybody in the zip code a running commentary on everything that was happening in the stadium.
In between the eighth and ninth innings, they started running the out of town results across the scoreboard: Yankees beat the Angels. Twins over the Mariners. Giants down the Cards. Astros won.
The Astros won. I can’t remember who they were playing — I’m certain it didn’t matter. But this drunk behind us took notice. The Astros had won, his Rangers were winning, and he took that opportunity to bellow his Lone Star pride. In the sloppiest, spittiest, slurriest way possible, he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Texshas Shports!”
He went on and on — now that I’m writing this I’m afraid it’s probably not as funny as I remember — about the Rangers and Astros and how Texas Sports dominate. No shirt, no shoes, this guy was gross. And he was fired up about his rooting interests in his home state. Cowboys and Oilers, Mavericks and Rockets and Spurs, Rangers and Astros. Everybody’s awesome in Texas and all Texas sports are the best in the history of the universe. “Texshas Shports!”
Last night, at 10:45 pm, my phone lit up with a text from Austin. It was Keith. “Texas Sports.”
Yes, I was rooting for the ‘Stros in their World Series against L.A. The Astros have been my second favorite team for the entirety of my life. It’s always been easy to cheer for Houston. They were in the National League, so no threat to my Rangers. And when they do well it makes Texas look good. It was the same way with the Oilers, they were always my second favorite team. I dreamed of an all-Texas Super Bowl between my Cowboys and Bum’s Oilers, an all-Texas World Series between my Rangers and those rainbow Lastros. Honestly, I’ve got a lot in common with that bum in the Arlington Stadium bleachers.
So, I’m wanting the Astros to win this thing last night, but I’ve got mixed feelings about it today. I’m glad a Texas team upset the heavily favored Dodgers. I secretly felt satisfied that Yu Darvish imploded so historically for L.A. These young Houston ballplayers are fun to watch. How can you not like them? But I’m sick that Houston won a World Series before the Rangers did. I’m still suffering from PTSD relating to 2011. And how do you cheer for a team in the Rangers’ division?
I texted Adam Gray, the long-time Astros fan on our church staff, early this morning: “Congratulations. I wish I knew what it felt like to feel like you felt like last night.”
It looks like the Rangers are in for another three or four year stretch of really bad baseball while the Astros appear poised to contend for several more titles. I have only one consolation today. Texas Sports.