FALCON POINTS

Disappointing World Series result reminds us how special 2017 really was - and it will likely never happen again

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As the Astros watched the Nationals win the World Series Wednesday night in Game 7 by a 6-2 score, it was hard for Houston fans not to be disappointed, especially how the Astros choked it away. Seeing Washington celebrate its first title on the Astros home field was a tough pill to swallow. It was an exciting time for the Nationals and their fans, however. And it should be a reminder of just how special 2017 was for the city of Houston.

Hard to come by

Unless you are Boston, championships don't come often. In 1995, the Rockets won their second title when Clyde Drexler came home and Rudy T reminded us to never underestimate the heart of a champion. It seemed like it would go on forever.

It didn't. Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen came and went, and the Rockets have been chasing a title ever since. Many of you reading this might not have even been born when it happened.

Special memories

That's why 2017 was so special. It was a rare moment, where a team took a city that was still reeling from Hurricane Harvey and brought it one magic memory after another. They went through three of the legendary franchises - the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers. It was something that could never be repeated.

Those Astros were charming. They were MVP Jose Altuve. World Series MVP George Springer. They were the magical trade for Justin Verlander, who brought Hollywood flash with his wife, Kate Upton. It was pure magic. It brought all of the city together. That is something rare indeed in our society these days.

This is what it meant to me at the time. I am certain many of you felt the same way.

Something to enjoy


It was what makes sports great. The pain of all those years of losing just reminds us how incredible it is when you finally see it happen. That's why this disappointment should remind us of just how excited we were in 2017. Those moments are made even more special when you come up well short, as the Astros did Wednesday night.

Not so lovable

Unlike 2017, outside of Houston, no one liked the 2019 Astros team. Everyone was rooting for the Nationals. They became the lovable first-timers. The thought of Max Scherzer finally getting to hoist a trophy. The annoying Baby Shark. A pesky, gritty lineup. When the capital of political corruption becomes more popular than you, it's time to embrace your inner villain.

The Astros became the bad guys. They added Roberto Osuna, whose domestic violence case brought a stain to the organization, no matter how it played out. Justin Verlander caused a scene with a reporter. Yuli Gurriel was suspended for a racist gesture in the 2017 Series. The antics of Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick might be loved by Houston fans, but they are both players that you hate if they aren't on your team. Then, of course, there was the infamous incident with their former assistant general manager. It was overblown and mishandled on both sides, but it also created a false narrative about "culture" in the national media, who continued to pound the Astros no matter what they did to try to make it right.

Fair or not, this was the national image of the Astros. And with a World Series on the line, they folded, and the rest of America celebrated.

What's next?

The Astros will be good for a few more years, and might even win another title, although it is unlikely. Gerrit Cole is certainly gone, but Lance McCullers should be back, Jose Uquidy looks promising, and someday even Forrest Whitley might show up. Or the Astros will make some off-season moves to boost the rotation. George Springer, Carlos Correa and Michael Brantley are under contract for another year. But there is nothing guaranteed; this year's team should prove that. Getting past Tampa, the Yankees, and even coming back from down 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead was damned near impossible. The Yankees will be better next year, so too will the Red Sox. Not to mention the Dodgers should the Astros get that far.

The bottom line

So 2019 is in the books. A.J. Hinch, who made all the right moves in 2017, mismanaged the pitching staff in Game 7 in an ugly way, and the Astros came up short. He brought in Will Harris, who was overworked, when Cole was there to do the job. It cost them a title.

Still, it was a great ride that ended with them coming up short of the ultimate prize, but it was still fun to get there. An American League championship is nothing to sneeze at. But that's also why the memories created in 2017 were ones that will last a lifetime. As great as Hinch and the Astros were in 2017, they were failures in 2019.

Feel bad for this loss, but enjoy 2017 again, because it is not something to be taken for granted. It is more likely than not it will never happen again.

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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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