John P. Lopez: What prompted Mack’s viral moment — and how Astros players responded

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David J Phillip/AP/Shutterstock (13612605e) Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, foreground, a prolific Texas gambler, and the Houston Astros players gather before a victory parade for the Houston Astros’ World Series baseball championship, in Houston Astros Parade Baseball, Houston, United States – 07 Nov 2022

John P. Lopez: What prompted Mack’s viral moment — and how Astros players responded

By John P. Lopez

We’ve seen the videos and images. We’ve seen the memes.

You’d have to be just another miserable Yankees fan with your head in the sand to have not seen what happened on that chilly Philadelphia night.

It was the first time in his life that Mattress Mack did not want something to be delivered fast, fast, fast. But that’s how quickly and decisively the Phillies delivered a haymaker on the Astros, 7-0.

And just like that, it seemed to many who watched that a knockout blow was not far behind. The Phillies seemed to take control and Philly fans, in prideful fashion, pounced.

By the next morning, images of Mattress Mack cursing out a heckler while leaving Citizens Bank Ballpark – practically challenging the man – had circled the globe. Memes were made. Trolls trolled. Analysts and news anchors, locally and nationally, wondered if this would be a low-point, bad moment for America’s most famous gambler and Astros fan.

“After Game 3,” Mack said, “obviously, my spirits weren’t too high.”

So he succumbed. But what we don’t know is why? What triggered it? And most significantly, did it capture the attention and impact the Astros?

Did it trigger them?

“We saw the videos that next day,” Astros pitcher Hector Neris said. “We all did. It wasn’t something that we focused on going into the next game because it’s something that we couldn’t control.

“But we all felt part of it because he’s there for us. And when we saw that and the manner they treated him and the manner they spoke to him, it made us mad. In every way, it made us want to show up and win. It gave us more hunger and inspired us even more to win.”

Significantly, the next day’s starting pitcher, Christian Javier, used the viral moment to make a promise to his teammates.

“(Javier) felt so committed to the city of Houston and Mack that he told us, ‘tomorrow is mine. Tomorrow, I’ve got it. Tomorrow we’re going to win,’ Neris said. “When I saw Mack the next day, I told him you have to believe today is the day. He gave me (two thumbs up). And then Javier gifted us with a no-hitter and lifted us, and I saw Mack jumping around.”

Javier, confirming Neris’ account, said: “(Mack) is someone who always supports us and always defends us. I think it was very much a help to us. We wanted to give him and Houston what it deserved.”

And how did this entire wild turn of events and flashpoint to a series turnaround start? Some Philly fan opened his big mouth to the wrong person.

A city backed Mack like never before. Mack shrugged and essentially told the world, “I said what I said.” And the Astros noticed – not to the point that it was the inspiration, but certainly added to the motivation.

“That guy started F-bombing me, and that was fine,” Mack said. “But he started saying things about Altuve and the Astros. He was saying, ‘hey, Mattress Mack, if the Astros took off their F’n jerseys, every one of them would have an F’n buzzer. And F’n Altuve is never making the Hall of Fame. He’s the biggest F’n cheater in MLB history. And F you, Mattress Mack.’

“And that was it. That’s all I could take. It put me way over the top. I couldn’t control myself anymore, and I shot back some of those Philadelphia words at him.”

By the next morning, Mack’s phone blew up. Two conversations stood out, one with each of his daughters.

“My one daughter, who is in the mental health business, was petrified at my behavior,” Mack said. “My other daughter, who’s in the restaurant business, said, ‘dad, that’s the best thing you’ve ever done.”

“I was at breakfast with all the crew that went with me to Philadelphia, and they were all mortified at the video. I just said, ‘I don’t care; let them show it.’ It turned out to be a big thing that helped unite Houston a little more.’

It helped unite the Astros a little more, too.

“(Mack) is a person who is very important to this city,” Astros pitcher Luis Garcia said. “He didn’t deserve to be treated like that. We just kept wanting to move forward and give him and this city something good. It was something we all noticed and wanted to turn around. The whole team noticed. The whole team was mad.”

And ten days after that fateful night in Philadelphia, Neris, Javier, Garcia, and Raphael Montero were at Gallery Furniture with Mack, helping him wheel in some of his $75 million in winnings on the Astros, so customers could get their money back from their purchases.

“There’s only one team that wins the World Series,” Neris said. “To do it this year gave us all a lot of happiness and pride. To know (Mack) got to enjoy this after everything that happened just makes it better.”

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  • Best fan ever!!!!

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