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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Jeremy Pena could have some big shoes to fill. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images.

MLB and the MLBPA are embroiled in yet another labor dispute. The owners and players have both dug in their heels and refuse to budge. No end is in site for the lockout as Spring Training is drawing more and more near each passing day. So what does that mean for our 2022 Astros' season?

One sigh of relief came when Justin Verlander signed his new deal. Two years for $50 million dollars isn't bad at all. Factor in he's closer to my age than my son (coming off Tommy John surgery), and some may worry. Not me. He's the closest thing to Tom Brady MLB has seen since Nolan Ryan. Jim Crane and James Click did a great job bringing him back. His spot as the ace with the rest of the staff they have should help shore up the bullpen if one or two starters can make that transition. I know I said I didn't want him back a few months ago, but time has passed, and wounds have been healed.

When it comes to Carlos Correa, I'm growing more and more comfortable with the thought that he may not be back. I talked about his potential replacement months ago. Maybe the reason being is that the club loves Jeremy Peña at that same position, and Pedro Leon could also factor in. Plus, Peña is tearing the cover off the ball in the winter leagues.

At 24 years old, turning 25 in September, he'll be under team control for the foreseeable future. That truly depends on the new labor agreement. So does Correa's new contract. His contract will be largely based on the parameters set in the new labor agreement, since he didn't sign before the lockout took place. And now we know that contact will be negotiated by Correa's new agent, Scott Boras.

I'm all for the doom and gloom when it comes to an MLB labor issue because they've historically screwed over fans. The most notable and egregious was the '94 World Series being canceled. However, there's way too much money at stake right now. More money than ever to be exact. That said, it's precisely why there's a dispute. That, and the fact that the owners have always gotten over on fans and players, and the players are poised to get their just due.

When the season starts, the Astros should be contenders yet again. Don't look for them to come out the gate firing on all cylinders as this team may look a bit different. Guys may not be fully ready after a lockout and there will be some roster turnover. The bulk of the core will be here, ready, and healthy. Whether Correa is a part of that group remains to be seen. Am I concerned? Hell no! This team has enough to fill that void at least partially and will have either guy under team control for a while. Think about this upcoming season as the time you fixed up your older car. New tires, headlights restored, rims polished, inside made over, and a fresh coat of paint after the transmission rebuild. It still has over 150,000 miles on it, but you wouldn't trade it in for anything because it still runs well and has sentimental value. You know one day it'll give out and need to be put out to pasture, but you're holding on and riding until the wheels fall off. Enjoy Astro fans, because the ride will be over one day. Hopefully much later than sooner.

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