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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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

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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