I apologize in advance for the gratuitous use of a cliché, but the times, they are a changing, specifically when it comes to the sports culture in our state. Texas has always been staunchly a football state. Football (particularly high school football) is often said to be the religion of choice in Texas. Movies and television series have been dedicated to the only slightly exaggerated fervor of our devotees, and while I don’t foresee any mass conversions per se, there are rumblings of a new faith sweeping the state. That “new” faith is baseball, and its temples have for years, largely consisted of nominally attended, dusty diamonds and city parks where youngsters and weekend warriors have practiced their faith in the heat and relative anonymity of our southwestern summers.
Oh sure I realize that both the Rangers and Astros have been keeping the sacramental flame alive for many years, but their influence outside their immediate communities has never been so widespread as it is now. I’ve been a Rangers fan for quite a long time. In the early years I watched mostly as a substitute for the sport I really loved. But as I moved away and my friends moved to the Dallas, our reunions began more and more to take place at the ballpark in Arlington. I found myself joining a much larger community, and not merely the Rangers’ community but the larger one called baseball.
Since my confirmation, the Rangers have had more down years than up, until of course the last few seasons. For me, the outcome of the Rangers’ first World Series appearance mattered less than the opportunity to watch them play in the fall. The importance was truly in the struggle. Last year’s loss to St Louis however was devastating. The possibly of another climb up the mountain seemed overwhelming and incredibly remote. Beyond that, I (and no doubt many others), feared that Texans would lose at least some interest in the sport. Perhaps our enthusiasm had peaked and we would go back to being a state with only one real sports passion. But this past spring, something miraculous happened. I found that my anticipation of the new season had not in fact died with game six. Rather my desire for a Texas pinnate had only grown, and evidently I’m not alone, as attendance at the Ballpark bears out. Whether it’s a result of the mediocrity of the Cowboys’ recent seasons, or the Mavs meteoric rise and subsequent fall, I don’t know, but as fans, we have fully rebounded.
Following an incredible opening streak the rangers have had their ups and downs, while remaining pretty much at or near the top of major league baseball. It remains to be seen whether or not we (yes we), can push through that infamous post all-star game slump. Regardless, the Texas Rangers are in the middle of a golden age and the state is devoted in a way we’ve never been, at least as far as I can remember. So as a state do we have room in our hearts for another passion? Well, football may never be displaced, in our affection, but more and more it seems we’re waking up to find ourselves a baseball state.