It’s been one hell of a week. Though we’re “not dreaming!” — as future Hall of Fame play-by-play man Eric Nadel gushed in his now-historic series-clinching call — it still feels like we are. As unbelievable as it is, the Texas Rangers, our little sad sack perennial local sports afterthought, went and won themselves a damn World Series! With that Game 5 victory last Wednesday, the years of bottom dwelling and that “one strike away” specter looming over our hometown baseball club since 2011’s failed run have been sent packing, and North Texas has finally hit for the cycle in major sports championships. That’s a feat only eight other sports markets can claim. Nine, if you count Pittsburgh’s ABA title, and I probably should, if only to satisfy my blowhard editor’s hometown allegiances.
It’s been so long since this area has celebrated a team reaching the pinnacle of their respective sport, I’d forgotten what it’s like. How incredibly euphoric, how communal, how purely intoxicating it truly is. Friday’s momentous, if somewhat makeshift, championship parade circling Arlington’s entertainment district marked the first such occasion in the 12 years since our beloved hero Dirk Nowitzki led the Dallas Mavericks to that franchise’s first and only ’ship. So starved have sports fans in these parts been for ultimate success, Ranger fever raged across the Metroplex like a *distasteful pandemic joke redacted*, and the bandwagon swelled to previously unknown levels with more than half a million fans flooding the land of sports stadiums and industrial office spaces on the The American Dream City’s northeast side to celebrate. Simply amazing.
A word, by the way, for the bitter baseball gatekeepers trying to poopoo this sudden surge of bandwagoners. I know the grudging feeling of your small, precious, selective thing being suddenly defiled by the leering eyes of the mass populace. I remember seeing Modest Mouse play the tiny pre-pre-pre-remodeled Rubber Gloves in Denton 25 years ago to fewer than 100 arms-folded onlookers. Now, you have to see them play on cruise ships with *shudders* Weezer. I get it.
Baseball, however, is one of those things that is so innately American it exists in the very fiber of our being. Like an insatiable appetite for sodium and calorie-rich foods and a depressing lack of understanding of history, science, and economic and political systems, it’s as American as apple pie or, um, baseball!
Almost every one of us (of a certain age, anyway) played Little League, collected baseball cards, and have a childhood-defining love of The Sandlot. Some of my fondest core memories comprise my grandfather taking me to games at Arlington Stadium to scald my ass on 250-degree metal bleachers in summers. I’m pretty sure I had my first bitter sip of Coors Original offered by my Peepaw while waiting, glove on hand, for fly balls that would never, ever have a chance of reaching us in the highest of the high seats in between trips to wizz in the stadium’s rusty metal pee troughs, a particular amusement to an 8-year-old boy.
These are the types of cherished memories that came riding the waves of nostalgia washing over each of us as our hometown baseball team suddenly became our heroes again. Sure, I haven’t taken in more than a handful of games in any one baseball season in several years, but that DNA is still present. Those latent synapses are always ready to start firing again. Crazy how winning results in more people wanting to pay attention. Sorry, diehard seamheads. You don’t own it. Baseball, more than any other sport, belongs to all of us.
Now that the festivities are dying down and we’re drifting slowly back to Earth, having the sweet taste of victory still on our lips, we are ravenous for it again. Eagerly we shift our eyes toward the other hometown teams, wondering which will have the next opportunity to follow in the Rangers’ winning red shoes.
The Cowboys are fresh off a game that absolutely encapsulates The Cowboy Way by coming up just short of the league’s best competition, largely at the hands of self-inflicted mistakes, falling to their most hated rival in the Eagles 28-23. Who knows where that team truly is. Or where they’re going.
The little Mavericks are off to the second hottest start in franchise history at 6-1 and seem to be primed to take the mantle from the ’Gers as the local plucky rooting favorite. Luka is still Luka, though he seems to have developed some new chemistry with the re-signed Kyrie Irving. With other offseason acquisitions Grant Williams and Derek Lively, the Mavs actually seem to be able to mix in a little defense at just the right times, too.
The team that perhaps has the best chance of championship glory is the Stars. They currently lead the Western Conference with a 7-3-1 record and were several hockey analysts’ offseason pick to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup. Their mix of young stars and gritty vets is intriguing.
I’m still coming out of the fog created by the Rangers’ win and am admittedly slow to transition to sports things happening while I had baseball on the brain. Not even the Cowboys’ loss to the Eagles, an event that would normally send me into a weeklong bout of gloominess, has had much of an impact.
Winning is just so much better than losing. Now that I’ve had a fix, I’m chasing the next one.