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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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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