4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

Gyms, Astros, power rankings, and trial by combat

A lot can go wrong here. Photo by Joshua Jordan

So I was at the gym Tuesday. Not bragging.

I've never been a fan of gyms. I like lifting, but I don't like gyms. I don't like the music (even if I actually like the music), I don't like the culture, I don't like vibe. But I also don't own a squat rack, and unless I can guarantee that my landlord won't take away my deposit for doing deadlifts in the kitchen, it's off to the gym I go.

Even if everything is perfectly fine, I unwittingly go out of my way to find things that annoy me every time. I'm constantly looking for more reasons to dislike gyms, like watching the guy with a sleeveless black button down over his red short-sleeved under armour shirt and cargo pants sitting at the lat pulldown machine for 5 minutes having a conversation through his airpods without attempting a single rep.

Now I'm not gym gatekeeping, I'm not qualified to do so even if I wanted to. I'm just grumpy. I want to be alone but I don't have the option so everything bugs me. My big giant over-the-ear headphones should suggest my preference for solitude.

So Tuesday.

I'm over by the dumbells, near a bench. Nothing of mine is on the bench. I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE BENCH.

I'm about to start a set of 15 reps. I tighten my wrist straps. Deep breath. Let's get it.

I'm facing the mirror and I see a guy approaching from behind, eyeballing that stupid bench. He stops at it and begins to stare at me.

I don't like gyms. I close my eyes to focus on finishing my set. That's when I felt him tap my shoulder.

Now this dude isn't part of the "New Year, New Me," crowd. He's this jacked little guy who has obviously spent enough time in a gym to understand that one of the cardinal sins within the Iron Temple is interrupting a set for anything short of life, limb, or loss of eyesight.

As my eyes summoned the power of a thousand suns to glare through his spaghetti strap "Beast Mode" tank top, I ripped my headphones off and whipped around to find out what was so important.

"Are you using this bench?"

I'll let you imagine what happened next, but it wasn't cordial.

I don't like gyms.

To the Astros Apologists

This advice is coming from someone who has gone to at least 30 games a season for the past four years. I've got excel spreadsheets documenting every game. I've traveled across the country for years just to catch Astros away games, and I've got an Orbit tattoo that's hard to show off in the winter. I've lived and breathed this team as long as I can remember. With that said:

Stop.

After reading reddit comments, tweets, Facebook posts, and even a few radio listener call-ins, there seems to be this idea that Astros fans should "accept being a villian," and adopt an "us against the world" mentality.

This chapter in the Astros franchise ended much like Adam Sandler's latest movie, "Uncut Gems." It ends so abruptly, that in the midst of the whiplash you're caught trying to see if there was something that was missed, and if in fact it's actually over.

It's over. The investigation is over. The Astros unequivocally cheated, and when you wake up tomorrow, they will still have cheated regardless of how mad you are about the whole thing. Adopting some "us against the world" mentality says more about your values than it does your fanhood. So let's ease off that approach and find a different way to cope.

Instead, take it on the chin. I'm not saying abandon your team, but just because it's a thing you love doesn't mean you should blindly defend the indefensible. We all knew that one kid growing up who would get into all kinds of trouble, but was never disciplined because his mom believed he was an angel who could do no wrong. Don't be that mom. Own that they messed up, handle it however you want, but don't defend them.

I'm still not sure how to process the whole thing myself. It's like looking back on fond memories with someone after you learned they cheated on you. I don't think it's enough to end the relationship, but I do need some time to step back and reassess.

World Power Rankings of the Week

#5 James Harden's new 'do

I wasn't sure if the braids were hanging around, but our dude is lookin' slick these days and Reddit's r/Rockets is having a mild meltdown over it.

#4 Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant's twitter beef

Honestly, all twitter beef is gold, but this week offered some solid haymakers from retired big man Kendrick Perkins, and the NBA all-time record holder for feelings per minute, Kevin Durant. Perk called KD a quitter, KD told Perk he was trash, and down the hill we went. I'm a sucker for NBA drama and it rarely disappoints.

#3 Leonardo DiCaprio, Lifesaver

Imagine having fallen off a cruise liner and treading water for roughly 11 hours. The thought of a rescue would begin to seem dim. Now imagine a glistening yacht arriving out of nowhere and plucking you from your impending watery grave. That's already a pretty awesome way to elude death's icy grip. Finding out who this yacht belonged to must have been pretty sweet as well.

#2 Anything Derrick Henry does in January

Anyone watching the playoffs next to me during any Titans game has since become tired of me reminding everyone that his nickname is "Tractorsito." He's throwing touchdowns, he's stiff arm spinning opponents and pushing them into their own teammates. He's also more than doubling his quarterback's passing yards (160) with his rushing yards (377) throughout the playoffs.

#1 Trial by combat

I'm down for it anytime, anywhere. As a spectator. Especially when you're requesting it from a judge toward your ex and her attorney during a custody battle so that you can "rend their souls" from their bodies. Not sure I'd want that on record, but ok.



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Yordan Alvarez came up big in Game 5. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros can win the pennant Friday night. Can't dangle the carrot any closer in front of the face than that. Taking the last two games at Fenway Park has the Astros in excellent position, but any notion that a third American League championship in five years is now inevitable, is silly. The Astros are probably 80 percent or better to advance, but of course the Red Sox could win games six and seven at Minute Maid Park à la the Nationals in the World Series two years ago. The Astros had all the momentum after winning three straight in D.C., came home for the coronation, and pfffft. You have momentum...until you don't. It's nothing to bank on. The Red Sox had all the "mo" after clobbering the Astros in games two and three of this AL championship series. Then Jose Altuve crushed the eighth inning tying home run in game four, ahead of the seven run volcanic eruption of a ninth inning. Nine more Astro runs later in game five, and here we are.

One key distinction that makes the Astros hand look stronger up 3-2 now than vs. the Nats, the Red Sox don't have Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer ready to pitch. Like Framber Valdez vs. Chris Sale in game five, game six is another starting pitching rematch. Alvin native Nathan Eovaldi grossly outpitched Luis Garcia in game two. We'll see if Sox manager Alex Cora winds up regretting even more using Eovaldi to start the fateful game four ninth inning. Eovaldi only threw 24 pitches, but three nights later we'll see what and how much he has in the tank.

After pitching horribly against the White Sox and then the Red Sox, and then citing a sore knee, Luis Garcia is his own huge question mark. So was Valdez before Wednesday spinning one of the great postseason pitching performances in Astros' history. Framber was awful in each of his first two postseason starts, absolutely magnificent in cruising through eight innings in game five. Should the Sox force Game Seven, Valdez certainly is a relief option on two days rest. Jose Urquidy would start, opposite Eduardo Rodriguez in a game three rematch.

Valdez and the Astros hope his next outing is Tuesday night in game one of the World Series. Ideally, at Minute Maid Park against the Atlanta Braves. Alas, the defending champion Dodgers remain alive and kicking, having won their fourth do or die game already in this postseason to send the National League Championship Series back to Atlanta. Now, if somehow we knew as fact that the Astros are going to win the World Series, I'd estimate approximately 99 percent of Astros' fans would prefer to beat L.A. Since we don't know that the Astros are going to win it all, getting the Braves would be more favorable for the Astros, if for no other reason than the Astros would get home-field advantage. Should the Braves make it, among other factoids Charlie Morton would be in his third World Series with three different teams in the last five seasons (Astros in 2017, Rays last year, Braves this). If the Braves can close out the Dodgers Saturday, Morton is Atlanta's likely game one starter at MMP. Provided the Astros are the AL Champs of course.

Watt a matchup for the Texans

The Texans play at Arizona Sunday. Yeah, and? You imagine that J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins find the two team's current situations amusing? The Texans are a 1-5 stink bomb that will keep on stinking. The Cardinals are 6-0 and an emerging Super Bowl contender. While Deshaun Watson continues collecting about 600 thousand dollars per week to do nothing (and waiting to become a Miami Dolphin?), Kyler Murray has made the leap to upper echelon NFL quarterback.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Decisions, decisions. Astros-Red Sox game 6 or Rockets home opener vs. Thunder. Tough call?

2. The Rockets will regularly be overmatched and probably lose 55 games or more again this season. At least they have young talent to offer some hope. The Texans presently have near nothing.

3. Best 2021 Astros' postseason journey signature food: Bronze-Atlanta/Los Angeles, anything? Silver-Chicago, deep dish pizza Gold-Boston, lobster roll

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