Houston Astros World Series Video Review: Can-Do Team for a Can-Do City

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As a longtime Houstonian, I’ve had my share of suffering with our sports teams. In fact, I’ve had more than my share when it comes to the Astros, who ended one recent 100-plus-loss season on a 15-game losing streak, and who’d come agonizingly close to glory in the years before that.

Yet for many reasons, the team named for our astronaut neighbors at NASA has always been closest to my heart. And when the Astros finally won a World Series on Nov. 1, I did what many people did.

I cried.

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I take pride in it. I cared that much. And my tears of joy made me no different than the team’s soon-to-retire veteran, Carlos Beltran, or Astros President Reid Ryan. They knew what it meant, too.

Since that wonderful night, I’ve clung to such emotions by rewatching some of the games and postgames. I’ve read everything I could find about the team and the experience. I’ve savored photos of the triumph and caught every appearance by Astros players as guests on TV.

And now, I’m watching a preview copy of Major League Baseball’s official World Series video, available Tuesday, Dec. 5, from Shout! Factory on Blu-ray and DVD. (Also due that day is an eight-disc Collector’s Edition box set with all seven World Series games and Game 7 of the ALCS.)

MLB’s 90-minute 2017 World Series Film does the usual solid job of presenting the series, game by game, with a stately sense of the dramatic. And what material MLB had with which to work.

The Astros’ battle with former NL West Division rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers has been called by many an epic World Series, and rightly so. Games 2 and 5, in particular, were classics — both involving late lead changes, extra innings and one-run victory margins.

And both won by the Astros.

But for sheer emotion and the grand payoff that the Astros and their fans are due after a 56-year wait, you have to get to the end — to the bottom half of the ninth inning of Game 7 in LA.

That’s when MLB’s film shifts from its even-handed tone extolling both teams to a fitting approach of “to the winner go the spoils” — an approach that’s always, maddeningly, missing on live TV telecasts.

You’ve seen it hundreds of times, and it goes like this:

On live TV, edits work the same way, every time, for every sport, on every network, regardless.  The winning team celebrates in mad, jumping jubilation. But then the editor in the control truck cuts to the losers — standing or sitting there, unmoving, stone-faced, nothing happening here — while the boisterous winners are ignored for long seconds.

Back and forth it goes. Winners — yes! Losers — again? Why must we keep seeing the losers?

Look, we know the losers are unhappy. Showing them in rigid silence isn’t needed, especially when it detracts from the winners’ eventful, joyous celebrations elsewhere on the field.

But for MLB’s film, at least, we get no such edit. We get the winners.

When the Dodgers’ last batter is thrown out at first base, that is the last we see of them. Instead, we get a full focus on the winners, as it should be. Winners jumping for joy. Winners celebrating a hard-earned triumph. Winners getting their due.

That last out gets the historic respect it deserves. As moving music plays, Astros Manager A.J. Hinch sets it up, detailing how he’d placed his players in the shift (but oddly saying Jose Altuve was in “deep” instead of shallow right field). “We just needed one out.”

Then journeyman pitcher Charlie Morton, of all people, hurls the last pitch of his heroic four innings on the mound. Grounder to Altuve, who catches and throws to first. And the Astros are World Champions.

That’s followed by Astros-only reactions: ecstatic on-field bonding by the players, staff and their families, intercut with recent sit-down interviews done for this video.

Astros President Reid Ryan says he and his wife and daughter cried at that final out. In fact, “I couldn’t stop crying that night, because it was for every guy who’d ever put on an Astros jersey” and for “the fans who’d had their hearts broken so many times.”

Beltran also sheds happy tears on the field, ending his Hall of Fame-bound career with a title. Players hug each other, declare their love for each other and shout for joy. Champagne spews in the locker room. Mission accomplished.

A recap of the massive victory parade in Houston follows, and then — stay put for the end credits. They include some awesome anecdotes to the tune of “Yes, Sports Illustrated predicted this in 2014, but they couldn’t also know that . . .”

For one thing, they couldn’t know that this incredible story also would have shortstop Carlos Correa proposing to his girlfriend on the field after Game 7. Or that Altuve fell down dugout stairs after Game 5, suffering an awful bruise (but, thankfully, not worse). Or that Morton, in his first relief appearance in nine years, would be the one to throw that final pitch. Or that George Springer, on that 2014 SI cover, would be MVP of the 2017 World Series.

So many things made this such a magical ride that what we really need isn’t a World Series recap so much as a full-season recap, involving the personalities and gloriously human stories.

But we do get a bit of that in this disc’s bonus features, including a five-minute “Regular Season” summary and a three-minute “How They Got There,” as well as 13 minutes of “Clinching Moments” (for the AL West, the ALDS and the ALCS).

Another bonus feature is a four-minute “Houston Strong.” It assesses the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, the team’s resolve to help the city rebuild and the Astros’ dedication to winning a championship for Houston.

Here, Mayor Sylvester Turner sums up Houston’s spirit best when he says “We are a can-do city.”

Hell, yeah. We put a man on the moon. What you got?

In fact, Turner underscores what MLB’s writer missed. The offscreen narrator’s last line as the World Series fades to black calls the Astros’ World Series title “the perfect gift for a city looking for hope, faith, distraction and a glimmer of pure joy, any way they could get it.”

Hope and faith? Houstonians always have had that. Energy Capital of the world. Home of the world’s largest medical center. Home of America’s manned space program. The most diverse city in the nation. We are not millions of people looking for hope and faith. We’ve already got it. And we were already kicking Harvey’s ass even before the Astros got back to town in its aftermath.

Yes, we are a can-do city, just as this resilient group of Astros rose from the ashes of a massive rebuild to become a can-do team for the ages. But it was the Astros who caught up with their bold, brash hometown, not the other way around.

Also, winning the World Series was no mere “distraction,” like a favorite TV show, to bring “a glimmer of pure joy.” Instead, it was Houston Strong off the baseball field finally hitting a zenith on the field thanks to a remarkable group of close-knit players whom Houstonians had grown to love.

That love is why the Astros winning the World Series was such a personal thing, while also a Houston thing. It felt so right, so fitting. A scrappy team for a scrappy city, reaching for the stars — and getting there.

Yes, the Astros are World Champions, and that feels awesome. Yet Houston already was a world class city, and this championship is icing on the cake.

But damn, that icing tastes good. In fact, I want some more. After all, the Houston Rockets repeated as champions. The Houston Dynamo repeated as champions. The Houston Comets won four in a row. Now it’s the Astros’ turn to defend a title.

That’s why I made an impudent exclamation to my wife on victory night. Might as well  dream big, right?

“Threepeat!”

— Bruce Westbrook

 

 

 

 

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