God love Carlos Correa. Just when you figured America had so much other rotting food on its plate this year, he somehow decided in his fevered brainbox that beating the historically playoff-inert Minnesota Twins was enough to pick at the Let’s-Hate-The-Houston-Astros scab.
Correa assumed people still found time in their busy lives to hate the Astros, a remarkably narcissistic turn by any definition, by saying in a postgame interview, “I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here. But what are they going to say now?” What they’ll probably say is, “Oh yeah. I forgot about them.”
Evidently Correa was just using our post-debate despair trying to rekindle our ability to communally hate things. When he reminded us that the Astros are cartoonishly despised for their 2017 through 2019 seasons and claimed to be fueled and inspired by that hatred, let’s call it a public service, and thank him for bringing back the happy memories of simpler times.
The Astros had been the recipients of much active disgust, right up until the moment that the NBA shut down the store because of Rudy Gobert. At that point, sports changed, and the debate on MLB Network over the correct number of Astros employees who should be put to death ended. The rage that could have subsided when the Washington Nationals beat them four times IN HOUSTON, for Christ’s sake, to win the 2019 World Series, subsided because we became 330 million petri dishes. There was also the much less savory heel turn when since-defrocked functionary Brandon Taubman tried to bully Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein over her coverage of the Roberto Osuna signing after Osuna had been suspended for domestic violence, meaning that the Astros fired their general manager, manager, and a seemingly up-and-coming executive at the best time in their history. But as is typical here in Short Attention Span Theater, the majority of the enduring outrage was about them not apologizing satisfactorily for sign-stealing.
And there they sat, an overtold joke that faded into insignificance because we all decided we had more important things to hate, including in many cases each other. Nobody was talking about the Astros any more, as they got hurt, scuffed around the season and finished two games under .500 yet with a playoff berth they would not have otherwise had. They were essentially invisible, and therefore not worth hating.
It is here that we remind you that the people who actually made them hateable were owner Jim Crane, who petulantly declined multiple opportunities to take even titular responsibility for a cheating scandal approved and defended by his porridge-faced and largely underprincipled general manager Jeff Luhnow, and Rob Manfred for cutting the standard political prosecutor’s deal that immunized the players and allowed them to be largely unrepentant. As we are apology junkies as a culture, those non-apologies didn’t play well, but we’d all moved on because we are easily distracted by collapsing economies, raging pestilence, and a political dynamic that would actually offend Vince McMahon. We had taken our general despair and gone on to other things.
And it is here that we remind you that athletes have fallen in love with the idea of manufacturing motivation from the disdain of others. Correa’s go-ahead-and-hate-us rallying cry is an extension of the old nobody-respected-us dodge that wore out its value about a decade ago. But it’s not really a rallying cry as much as it is a stock thing for athletes to say to express their general dismissiveness of the proles outside the informal but very real athletic bubble.
And so came Correa choosing to relitigate a debate we’d all wearied of, no doubt because he saw that we are a nation in need of a cause behind which we can all rally. Sports rarely offers that because my favorite team can do no wrong and your favorite team should be shot into the sun, and we think we have the right to moan about it endlessly even to people who didn’t bring up the subject at all and just want to be left alone. The Trash Bin Astros were one of those rare moments and events behind which the nation had decided to coalesce, and Correa gave of himself after the extraordinary accomplishment of beating the Twins in two postseason games to remind us what unites rather than divides us.
As the Astros wait for the result of White Sox-A’s today to see when their next opportunity will be to dredge up their past for our amusement, we should thank and honor Carlos Correa for reminding us than even in our current hyper-Balkan state, we can still be collectively inspired.