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Houston Fans Worry World Series Losses Mark Return Of 'Choke City' Nickname


I feel like I heard you calling me the enemy earlier.

MICHAEL HAGERTY, BYLINE: (Laughter). Oh, no. Oh, no. You heard that? Sorry.

CORNISH: That's Michael Hagerty. He's covering the World Series for Houston Public Media.

If it makes you feel better, I'm from Boston so I literally don't care...

HAGERTY: (Laughter).

CORNISH: ...Who wins this World Series. (Laughter) 'Cause it ain't the Red Sox.

HAGERTY: Not caring is the best approach.

CORNISH: I'm just sayin'. I got to be honest. We are now at an age where we have to reveal our biases, and that is mine.

HAGERTY: My first bias is the Cubs.

CORNISH: Great. Great. Now we're all out in the open.

HAGERTY: (Laughter).

CORNISH: Houston's in a hole, down two games to none to the Washington Nationals. He says Astros fans are worried.

HAGERTY: For so many years, Houston had a real rough history with professional sports. No team had won a major championship for so many years until the Rockets won a couple in the '90s.

CORNISH: Right. But that's Houston Rockets, basketball.

HAGERTY: Right. And so - but other than that, the team, you know, the city hadn't won a major championship. So still often this feeling of we can't quite get over the hump or the wheels are going to come off. And maybe that changed some in 2017, although I think when the Astros won that World Series, I think maybe some of that was lingering still in people's minds up until the moment when they upset the Dodgers and won that thing.

CORNISH: I think of baseball fans as being somewhat superstitious.

HAGERTY: (Laughter).

CORNISH: Can you talk about how people are dealing with the stress of it all?

HAGERTY: I remember I went to my doctor's appointment and my doctor was saying, we don't have a chance, that, you know, Choke City was coming back in. Like, it's all over. We're going to lose this thing. But you see some superstitions. Like, there's a shop here that sells these Astros prayer candles. I actually bought one for my mother-in-law as a gift a while back, and she will be dutifully lighting that Jose Altuve candle before the game.

CORNISH: Beyond the Choke City fears, can you just talk about the fans? How are they going into this game?

HAGERTY: Well, you may have seen on social media a lot of people pointing out the similarity between the W logo on the Nationals caps and how it looks like the W in the Walgreens logo. A Walgreens in North Houston suburb actually covered up the W in the sign with an Astros flag, and the owner is saying, for now, just call it Algreen's.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

HAGERTY: We've all seen funny church signs on social media. There's this church just north of Houston, in Porter, that says, God shows no favorites, but the sign lady does - go Astros.

CORNISH: (Laughter). Now, we're objective journalists, of course. But is there anything you're doing to ensure an Astros win tonight?

HAGERTY: There are some times when I hate to admit it. I'll cross my fingers. That's not very exciting. But, you know, sometimes you think, I was sitting in that seat when they scored those runs or they hit that homer. Maybe I need to go back over there. Course, do you think it has anything at all to do with you? And of course, it probably doesn't.

CORNISH: None of us are immune, though. Michael Hagerty with Houston Public Media.

Thanks for your time.

HAGERTY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Hagerty