City Needed More Time To Heal Following Devastation Caused By Hurricane Harvey

By Ernie Palladino
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Let’s put one thing out there right away.

The Astros playing a game against the Mets a day after the rains stopped in Houston is in no way reminiscent of Pete Rozelle’s decision to play football the Sunday after John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination in Dallas.

The circumstances are just different, that’s all. Kennedy was a world leader mourned as an entire country struggled to make sense out of the situation. It put our country in peril on political, military and moral levels, and ordering that games go on like nothing happened proved the NFL commissioner’s greatest mistake of a long tenure.

Astros return to Houston after Hurricane Harvey

The Astros’ George Springer (4) is congratulated by Jose Altuve and Tony Kemp (18) after hitting a home run in the second inning against the Mets in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Minute Maid Park on Sept. 2, 2017, in Houston. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Hurricane Harvey, which killed more than 50 people and created nearly $100 billion worth of damage, was ultimately a localized tragedy triggered by natural disaster.

And yet, it seemed so unwise of the city fathers to allow Minute Maid Park to open for Saturday’s doubleheader. Not sinfully unwise like Rozelle’s decision. But a little more tact could have been used, if only to show respect for Harvey’s thousands of victims.

Cities move on from tragedies of all types in time. It’s called returning to normalcy. But most wait a respectable time before getting back to regular business, especially if said business involves the fantasy world of pro sports. Houston would have done well to take a beat — or two, or even three — before reopening a stadium situated just blocks from where a reported 10,000 storm-displaced citizens were holed up in the convention center.

The original thought was that the Astros would play the Mets series in Tampa, a Florida city untouched by the deluge that dumped 50 inches of rain on those Texas coastal cities. That would have been appropriate, especially since the team executives had no intention of opening Minute Maid’s gates free to displaced survivors. In fact, they ran the doubleheader as a day-night deal, the better to recoup gate receipts from Friday’s postponement.

A lot of seats were empty, understandably. A flood like that generally keeps the citizenry occupied with cleanup far different than that power hitter in the No. 4 hole. Which is why the team should have stayed away another week or so. Let the minds settle. Let the waters recede and the fires burn themselves out.

And then get back to regular business.

Give them credit, though. However they reintroduced baseball, they did it the right way. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 1, surrounded by cops and first responders. Manager A.J. Hinch urged those who did come — 30,000 was the announced but overstated attendance for the opener — to “stay strong, be strong.” The players wore a special patch. And nightcap starter Joe Musgrove wore a special pair of white spikes signed by evacuated children and volunteer workers.

It was all very nice, the attempt at a return to normalcy. But it was just too soon. Even in an area relatively unscathed by the rains and winds, normal did not come to Minute Maid Park on Saturday.

Again, the decision to play was more a question of taste. There was no assassination, no 9/11-type attack that rocked an entire nation and shut down the NFL for a week.

They just could have taken a bit more time to move baseball back into the area.

They could have swept the Mets elsewhere just as easily.

And tastefully.

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino

Comments (6)
  1. Ellis Scott says:

    So I guess the Houston players were just supposed to not worry about their friends, family, and homes and just focus on playing out what would become a 21 day road trip. New York logic right there. These players are humans too. Their families were dealing with the hurricane. I’m sure you can understand how someone could be worried about their loved ones. Right? Terrible article lacking empathy and common sense.

  2. (part 4/4)

    Fourth, the Astros (like many of the other professional sports teams both in Houston and across the country), have played an active role in contributing to relief and cleanup efforts in Houston and the surrounding areas. By returning to Houston, they provided local fans who may have been more fortunate than their neighbors an opportunity to not only show their love and support for their city, but also to give back. A canned food drive and donation center was set up by the players wives at the games, and all proceeds from the 50/50 raffle are being donated for the remainder of the season to Harvey relief funds.

    The Astros return to Houston this past weekend was the opposite of distasteful. It gave the city of Houston the opportunity to celebrate one of the many great things the city has to offer (a winning baseball team!) as well as the opportunity to recognize the strength, resiliency, love, and support that the community of Houston is about. It was done tastefully, and everyone associated with the Astros organization made certain that it was.

    A lifelong Houstonian and Astros fan.

  3. sounds like whining that you got beat

  4. No Houstonian feels this way…

  5. this concept of “too soon” is really weird. I live in Houston in nobody in his right mind thinking that this Saturday’s game is too early to be played here or something like that. No idea how/where writer found inspiration for this article.

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