More than anything, Irtiza Hasan wants to see his team play in the World Series. After years of heartbreak and waiting, he finally has his chance.
But now he can’t risk it.
Hasan, 38, is a senior human resources manager in Houston. His father has been taking him to see the Astros play since he was 9 years old. He and his father didn’t always see eye-to-eye when he was growing up, but they had sports and those baseball games. Now, Hasan’s wife and their kids join him and his father when they can.
It’s that kind of love of a team -- built on family relationships and memories -- that is familiar to fans everywhere.
While baseball is a famously superstitious sport, Hasan never considered himself superstitious. That is, until he did the math this post-season. The Astros were a hot, 101-win team in the regular season, but in the games he had attended at Minute Maid Park, they were 9-7, barely above .500. So when it came down to the do-or-die sixth game of the American League Championship Series, Hasan realized a great sacrifice was needed.
He put on his Astros socks and jersey and disconnected from the world. He told his father he was welcome to take his grandsons to their regular seats behind home plate, but he wouldn’t be joining them. He turned off his phone, refused to read or watch the news or even talk to his friends, who were bound to discuss the game. He wanted to distance his beloved team from any whiff of the jinx he could be carrying.
“This was incredibly hard for me,” he said.
His mother told him that whether the Astros won or lost was up to God.
“Yup,” he agreed. “And God wants me to stay away.”
The night of that decisive game, he prayed fervently, took an Ambien and went to bed. He could tell from the looks on his sons’ faces the next morning that there was going to be a game 7.
Hasan kept his unused game tickets in his pocket, and told his boys to bring home a win. His father was ticked that his son’s ticket was going to waste.
Hasan’s wife jokes that he became an exceptionally devoted husband during this brief baseball hiatus. They were at a restaurant for a dinner party when a friend approached him and said, “Congratulations, bro, your team is going to the World Series.”
Hasan let out an unrestrained scream and hugged his daughter. He says his eyes may have filled with tears. When he turned on his phone, he saw he had 1,100 unread messages in WhatsApp from his friends and more than 100 texts.
Later that night, he watched a replay of the win on YouTube. He has no regrets that his father and sons went to the game without him. Each night, he keeps his unused ticket in his pocket.
“I wanted to feel like I was there,” he said. “It’s weird. Makes no sense,” he admits.
Of course it’s irrational, the way we wish we could affect things that we have no control over.
But maybe there’s also a special thing about fathers and baseball magic. My own dad has always been a huge sports fan. But he worked too many hours when we were growing up to actually go watch a baseball game. Plus, tickets for a family of six kids would have cost a small fortune, even at the Astrodome. I was shocked when I found out recently he had never made it to a game.
I took my 74-year-old dad to his first baseball game this summer in Houston. I bought my first non-Cardinals T-shirt for that game, where my dad was surrounded by his kids and grandkids.
The Astros lost that night, but it still felt like baseball magic in the air.
Just like Hasan believes his playoff game sacrifice paid off, I’m convinced my dad and I helped charm this season for the ‘Stros, too.
Hasan didn’t watch the first game of the series, when Houston lost. He says he’s making the decision one game at a time. Since I’ve experienced the thrill of World Series wins in St. Louis, I felt his self-denial into this final stretch was too extreme.
If it goes to game 7, I feel like you have to watch it, I said to him.
“Sheesh,” he said, a little exasperated that I would say something so jinxy. “Let’s get there.”