Don't be that guy

Down in front! Stand up and cheer for the Astros, sure, but the whole game?

Excited crowds cheer an Astros win. But Hoffman's rule of thumb is: If you're the only one standing ... sit down. Elsa/Getty Images

For more of Ken Hoffman, check out Culture Map, where this story initially appeared.

I got lucky Friday night – a ticket in the second row, field level, down the left field line at the Astros-Yankees playoff game at Minute Maid Park. That’s as close to the action as you can get without coaching third and waving Jose Altuve around to score. It’s also prime foul ball territory, a fantastic seat all around. I should have brought my baseball glove.

I arrived at Minute Maid Park early at 5 pm, soon as they opened the gates. Found a parking lot charging only five times more than usual. Bought a chicken fingers basket and souvenir cup Diet Coke  and found my seat.

When the game started, my luck turned lousy. Three bozos, beers in both hands, found their seats in the front row, in front of me. Unfortunately, they didn’t use their seats. They chose to stand most of the game. The cheese may stand alone, but not them. Now everybody behind them had to stand,, too, because of the idiots in front of them.

I know this is a thin-ice topic because fans are allowed to stand, the scoreboard encourages fans to get loud and bold. There’s no rule or etiquette policy against standing at a baseball game. It’s just rude and inconsiderate to stand the whole time, though.

I had no problem asking/telling them to sit down. And they had no problem telling me to mind my own business. In fact, how come I wasn’t standing? They were “real fans.” If I didn’t like them standing, I should have stayed home and watched the game on TV on my couch.

The thing is, if anybody in the ballpark didn’t need to stand, it was them. They were in the front row.

Fortified by two-fisted beers and a Puddy-like approach to fandom (“Gotta support the team”), they laughed off pleas of “down in front.”

I can understand standing when it’s a full count with the bases loaded, or Carlos Correa is batting with runners in scoring position, or Keuchel is twisting Aaron Judge into a pretzel with 85-mph sliders. But post-season games, especially in the American League, can last four hours. Baseball is a slow, thoughtful game with intermittent peaks of excitement. There’s no need to stand all the time. 

The Houston Rockets have the right idea. They have a group of fans called the Red Rowdies, who bang drums, stand and scream their heads off the whole game. The Rockets designate a special section for the Rowdies, where they can go crazy all they want, without ruining the fan experience for others. Win-win.

The Houston Dynamo has several “Supporters Groups” of fans who stand and chant and play musical instruments the whole game, too. That’s tradition in soccer. The groups have names like El Batallon, Brickwall Firm and Texian Army. The Dynamo allots a few sections with discount tickets prices in the north end of BBVA Compass Stadium for these groups. Everybody’s happy.

Standing at a baseball game is like singing along with the performer at a concert. No rule against it. Just don’t do it. Nobody wants to hear you sing. That goes for you, too, Jimmy Fallon. 

Saturday afternoon, I bumped into some friends who also attended the Astros game Friday night. Jimmy, John, Jenny and Zoe all said they had a similar experience with people standing in front of them, blocking their view of the action.

Rule of thumb: If you're the only one standing ... sit down.

This has been the most fun Astros season probably ever. The team is thrilling. Playoff games are important. They’re winning! There’s a delicate balance between encouraging fans to “scream for the team” and keeping the game fun and enjoyable for kids and everybody who can’t see over fans who stand. The seating in Minute Maid Park isn’t very steep, certainly not steep enough where fans sitting in Row 10 can see over fans standing in Row 9.

I don’t have a solution, but something needs to be done. Maybe an announcement before the game asking fans to be considerate of people behind them? It’s too late to scramble and separate season ticket standers and sitters. Fans have every right to stand the whole game, even if it ruins the experience for people behind them. Just don't do it.

Stronger, really?

I did have a clear view of the advertising board at Minute Maid Park and saw one sign promoting CenterPoint Energy, with the slogan “We are stronger together.”

I thought CenterPoint's slogan is “Always there.” I called CenterPoint for an explanation. A spokesperson said "Our slogan is still "Always there," but "stronger together is specific to Hurricane Harvey and reflects our commitment to Houston after the hurricane."  

Did CenterPoint think “Stronger together” through? Where have we heard that before?

That’s right, it was Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan for president last year. Whenever she spoke, there was a big banner behind her, “Stronger Together.” She even wrote a book, Stronger Together.

CenterPoint, an electricity and natural gas company based in downtown Houston, serves millions of customers in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota and Oklahoma - 83 percent of those states went for Donald Trump over Clinton. Minnesota was blue, especially after the votes were counted.

Just thinking good business, maybe CenterPoint should consider the slogan, “Making energy great again.”

Do I have to come up with all the good ideas around here?

Random thoughts

Because the Houston Texans beat the hapless (zero hap) Cleveland Browns, all Texas Fuddruckers are offering a free milkshake, hand-spun the old-fashioned way, with purchase of any combo meal Monday — and every Monday after a Texans victory. 

Tickets for Weird Al Yankovic’s “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour” stop at Stafford Centre, April 24, 2018, go on sale 10 a.m. Thursday at staffordcentre.com. Tickets for normal people will be $45-$60. True Weird Al fans can purchase VIP tickets for $279, which include: a seat in the first 15 rows, meet and greet with their hero, an autograph, photo (with your camera), custom-framed setlist, souvenir VIP laminate, crowd-free merch shopping and limited-edition Weird Al watch with moving limbs as hour and minute hands.

Why is Anthony Bourdain’s CNN travel show called Parts Unknown when, so far among his 80 episodes, he’s visited Los Angeles, Tokyo, Detroit, Las Vegas, Mexico City, Moscow, Madrid, Shanghai, Miami, Budapest, Houston and London? These “parts” are hardly “unknown.” OK, he’s done New Jersey, which qualifies.

And why is Channel 26 calling its nightly 10 pm news show Isiah Factor: Uncensored? Until I hear host Isiah Carey drop an F-bomb, there's an FCC-imposed gag order. 

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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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