PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 14, 2013

Coleman column: Astros actions create off-field dismay

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — What power does one person have?



I ask this because of the situation swirling around the  Houston Astros since last night. KHOU television  in Houston ran a story about the disbanding of the Astros Wives Organization and, thus, the cancellation of that group’s annual Black Ties and Baseball Caps gala.



That gala supported the Houston Area Women’s Center, a group that supports battered and abused women from all over Houston. The event had been supporting the HAWC since 1989, but the Astros decided in January to end the arrangement.



Many excuses were given, from the charity eating up too much money without donating enough, to the Astros changing their charitable focus to inner-city and at-risk youth baseball programs, to there not being enough wives to support an Astros Wives’ Organization.



The story broke around 10:30 p.m. Monday night and immediately caused an uproar. Astros blogs around the web, like The Crawfish Boxes, Astros County, Astros Daily and What the Heck, Bobby?, banded together and decided to go “dark” on Tuesday, not publishing any information about the Astros for one day as a form of protest.



One of the writers at The Crawfish Boxes, Tim De Block, wrote about his feelings on the issue Tuesday morning, talking about how the Astros' loss of integrity made him question why he does what he does on this site.



He also mentioned why he's a fan of the Astros in the first place.



But, what are the Astros? Are they an abstract concept? Are they a business? Are they a collection of men who wear the same laundry?



Most times, they're an amalgamation of all three. The Astros Tim cares about are more than just a business, they're a concept of a team he came to respect. They're leadership and integrity and all sorts of human emotions that we project onto an organization.



They're also a team of men, bound by nothing more than the shirts on their backs that look the same. There may be friendships in the clubhouse, but they're all paid to play for this team, not because they live here, not because they chose to go to school here, but because they were given a job here.



That's because the Astros are ultimately a business. Fans root for a corporation every bit as interested in making a profit as Proctor & Gamble or Microsoft.



And yet, we connect with the people running the baseball side, because at heart, every one of you readers is a baseball fan first. You like watching the game. You like reading about it and talking about it. The players may change, but how much you enjoy the game does not.



But, I get back to my first question: how much power do you have as a fan?



I think about this because of the events of the past 24 hours. The Astros seemingly have canceled one charitable event to focus on another. Whether they did it last month or in January matters, but only slightly. They could have made this decision better and more timely, to give the charity in question time to deal with the budgetary shifts.



We can be upset by this as fans, but what can we do?



At TCB and on other Astros sites around the web, the decision was made to go dark for the day.



Does that really impact the team? Does it hurt their business?



Probably not.



It did manage to stir up conversation on Twitter and other places. I heard that some of the sports talk radio stations in Houston also picked up on the story. It also appears that our publicity may have driven a story about it this morning by the Houston Chronicle.



All that is great, but will it change anything?



That's what we should be aiming for. We shouldn't be just angry about a bad decision by a business. We should strive to be agents of change, especially when it's for a good cause.



If you're upset about the Astros and how they've run their business, act on it.



The next time you plan on going to Minute Maid Park, stay home instead. Donate that money to the HAWC or to any charity of your choice. Take that time and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or a literacy group or the food bank of Houston.



You won't be making a difference with the decisions of the Astros' business, but you can make a difference in your community.



Fans have been trying to change a team's mind for years. They've staged walkouts of baseball games, they've protested teams. But, all they do is garner publicity.



We do not want that to be the only outcome of today's blackout.



We want to make a difference. You can help with that. Don't let the team's business side define you, though. You're a fan of baseball, after all. A children's game. A great game. If we don't take that anger, that indignity of today and turn it into something useful, then we've accomplished nothing today.



I think we can accomplish much, much more.



David Coleman is a sports writer for the Port Arthur News. He is also the managing editor of Crawfish Boxes. He can be emailed at dcoleman@panews.com and found on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.