BEAN ANGST

Fred Faour: Really, we are going to war with Chicago over a freaking bean?

Chicago had its bean first. Getty Images

Initially, I put this article on my personal blog, freddysworldblog.blogspot.com. But since several people convinced me that this had become a competition and big story nationwide, I should post it on SportsMap. So here we go:

For some reason, with any controversy these days, we slap a “gate” on the end. And lo and behold, Houston finds itself mired in just such a national quarrel.

Call it “Beangate.” 

OK, let’s not. “Gate” is overused and a copycat term, and since the city is basically being accused of doing just that, let’s use something different. In fact, the impetus of all this is a structure called Cloud Gate.

So maybe we will go with something more simple: “Bean angst?”

It all started when Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts got a new statue, a work by British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor entitled “Cloud Column.” The structure is similar to a work he did for Chicago, “Cloud Gate,” better known as the famous Bean. Chicago’s structure is awesome and a tourist draw. Houston is obviously hoping for some of the same.

(Plus, who doesn’t want a structure from a “Sir?” It adds class and dignity. And who would not want to have Sir in front of their name? Sir Fred Faour. See? It’s a game changer.)

Suddenly at odds

The problem is our good friends in the Windy City are somewhat upset over Houston getting the new work of art, albeit it a vertical version of the Bean. In particular, a reporter named Kim Janssen of the Chicago Tribune is particularly bothered. Janssen did his best to troll the good people of Houston. 

Said Janssen: “If being surrounded by a cultureless abyss insufficiently communicates to confused tourists that they are in Houston, the bean’s verticality will therefore act as an additional reminder of their poor life choices.”

Let’s toss in the headline for good measure: “Unoriginal 4th place Houston gets its own bean sculpture... whatever

And, of course, now Houstonians are in an uproar over being called a “cultureless abyss.”

That qualifies as trash talk? That gets our city up in arms?

City on city crime

I would love to bash Chicago and come to our defense. But in truth, we brought it on ourselves. The headline on the story linked above in Houston? “Move over, Chicago, Houston has a bean now, too.” Yes, one could see why that would be considered “unoriginal.”  

Janssen seems more upset that Houston is going to pass Chicago as the third largest city sometime in the next decade. He writes, “the (Houston) metro area gained 94,417 residents in 2017, while the Chicago metro area lost 13,286 residents. If that trend continues, Houston could eclipse Chicago as the nation’s third largest city in the next 10 years.” Bad news, Kim, that trend has been going on for quite some time...Whatever.

I would love to list all the reasons why Houston is not a “cultureless abyss,” but if you live here, you already know them all. (And you won’t find an actual “abyss” in Houston other than the potholes). And I would also love to bash Chicago. But the reality is it’s a great city. I have spent a lot of time there, especially in the past two years. Sure, it has its negatives -- if you fly in via Midway, there is a *67.5 percent chance you will be murdered on the Uber ride to downtown. (*-based on watching episodes of Chicago P.D.). But it’s not like we don’t have our own questionable areas (“Gunspoint,” anyone?)

Millenium Park, home of the original Bean, is awesome and we have nothing like it here. Chicago’s downtown is loaded with excellent restaurants, bars and amazing architecture. It remains the cultural center of the Midwest. The craft beer scene is fantastic. Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and Gino’s pizza are personally responsible for at least 10 of my pounds. 

Of the art we have collected for our home, everything is from Houston except two works, both purchased from a Chicago artist. I have Blackhawks gear I like to wear. So I would be hypocritical to bash the city. And I get the angst. Chicago has always been third fiddle in terms of culture behind New York and Los Angeles, and now some upstart is about to pass them for third largest city. Go cry in your multiple sports titles (see, there is your sports angle) and terrific beer and food scene, Chicago. And, oh, by the way, you still have a lot of unique structures that no one will ever be able to match. 

We should all grow up (me too)

And I will not give Houston a pass for the “move over, Chicago” bit. Our fine city has long had an inferiority complex. “Dallas gets a TV show. Wah. Austin gets to be the cool place. Wah. We didn’t get a space shuttle. Wah.”

“We get a bean, too, and can be just like Chicago!”
Whatever.

It would also be wrong to make fun of the writer who trolled Houston. That’s what trolls want, right? For you to come after them? Why would I take that bait? After all, his name is Kim. Unless you are Korean or a talented Canadian rocker or actor (Kim Mitchell, Kim Coates), your parents are dooming you to mediocrity at birth. I would never make fun of that. 

And there is no way I would mention that a reporter for a major newspaper has less than 4,000 Twitter followers. What has he been covering? Bake sales? Dog walks? Only someone from a cultural abyss would go there. So I won’t.

And there is no way I would bring up that newspapers in general are so desperate for relevance and survival they resort to trolling. That would be unoriginal of me. 

Can't we all get along?

So yes, Houston now has a bean. Should the brilliant work of a famous artist not be displayed because it is similar to something he did elsewhere? Should it just be locked away somewhere? There was a time when imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. Where someone would say, “hey look, they want to be like us. Cool! Thank you!” Instead, we resort to insults. 

Then again, maybe you guys are the copycats; trying to steal our inferiority complex. So...Cool! Thank you!

Whatever.

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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