“It’s not so much lifting Houston up — it sends you in a different direction for a while,” said Rabbi Amy Weiss, an unapologetically fair-weather fan who got caught up in Astros-mania and who watched Game 7 at her new home because her old one was wrecked by Harvey. “You can climb into the game, into the television, and you’re not thinking about your flooded house.”
Other wounded cities have used professional sports as large-scale therapy.
The New York Yankees reached the World Series just weeks after terrorists flew planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (They lost the Series, 4-3, to the Arizona Diamondbacks.)
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 damaged the home, then known as the Louisiana Superdome, of the New Orleans Saints, the team’s first game back at the stadium in 2006, a 23-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, seemed to capture New Orleans’s resilience.
In 2012, the Saints unveiled a bronze statue outside the Superdome memorializing the dramatic blocked punt in that game by the Saints safety Steve Gleason. The statue was called “Rebirth.”
In Houston, a sport that is sometimes referred to as a game of inches captivated a city defined by them. Residents measured the personal devastation from the worst rainfall in United States history in inches — the high-water marks that still stain walls and kitchens and cars and spirits.
So the Astros were cheered on by Rabbi Weiss, who had 31 inches of floodwater in her home. And Mr. Doucett, who had roughly 72 inches. And Bob Heyl, who had 15. And Josh and Katie Halburn, who considered themselves lucky with a mere four. And Bob Dunston, who had 180 in his two-story townhome on the San Jacinto River, his third flood in 16 months.
“We think it’s awesome that they keep getting knocked down and keep getting back up,” Mr. Dunston, 58, said of the Astros, whom he watched on Wednesday at his new rental home. “It’s a good distraction, because at the end of the day, after the Series is over, we’re still going to have to go back in and look at that property and it’s just going to be a screwed-up mess. From the garage floor to five feet into the second floor is 180 inches. Fifteen feet. I walked out the door. I had my computer, a bottle of Crown, a bundle of cigars, two changes of clothes and my father’s flag from his funeral.”
That has been the Houston way lately: to blend talk of the Astros with talk of Harvey, so that conversations go from Jose Altuve to Justin Verlander to drywall to FEMA and back again.
Mr. Heyl, 69, recalled the night Harvey seeped into his world. It totaled his family’s two cars. It forced him to make a sudden decision to help keep his quadriplegic 41-year-old son safe, assembling a makeshift wheelchair ramp that he used to push him onto a turned-over cabinet.
A stranger in a canoe who paddled along their street-turned-river offered to help, and the two men carried Mr. Heyl’s son, Rich, to a bed on the second floor.
In recent weeks, the radio chatter of Astros games provided the low-volume soundtrack of their Harvey recovery, as Mr. Heyl and his wife repaired their home in the upper-middle-class neighborhood known as Meyerland.
“You’re going to see people referring to this World Series as uplifting the city for years to come,” Mr. Heyl said. “It’s going to be, ‘Remember the Astros. They did it. We can do it.’”
The Astros’ hometown fans have been loyal, but extraordinarily distracted. Rabbi Weiss followed the team while helping to distribute one million pairs of underwear to storm victims throughout Texas, as part of the mission of the nonprofit group she runs, Undies for Everyone.
Mr. Doucett watched the games at night after repairing dozens of nearby homes, handing out food and clothes to the neighborhood and helping form a group in response to Harvey called S.O.S., or Save Our Selves.
As Mr. Doucett sat on his porch Wednesday watching the game with his fiancée, Samantha Locke, and their friends, there was a brief interruption.
Lake Forest Boulevard, with its stray dogs, curbside debris and homes in various stages of repair, felt haunted by Harvey, even two months later. Volunteers from a community group called West Street Recovery pulled up and announced they had a donation for Mr. Doucett.
It was a typical post-Harvey World Series watch party. Some of the guests set down their beers and helped carry panels of Sheetrock to the driveway, in the middle of the fifth inning.Continue reading the main story