The Point: Atlanta, Georgia is Choke City USA
The Argument, Abridged: Modern Atlanta sports franchises never fail to create hope for fans during the regular season, only to collapse splendidly in the playoffs.
The Evidence, Abridged: The ‘07-‘12 Hawks seasons, the ‘08,‘10,‘11 Falcons seasons, the ‘10 Braves, that one season when the Thrashers made the playoffs and got swept by the Rangers in the first round.
The Argument, Expanded: First, let me just say outright that I support all of Atlanta’s sports teams. I own a Braves cap that is many years old, several pieces of Hawks memorabilia and (I don’t wear football jerseys. I’m too thin.) I cheer hard for the Falcons these (post-Vick the Dick) days. Shit, I even own an Atlanta Thrashers beanie. Although I am a transplant to this city, having moved here for the first time in January of ‘02, I have long-since considered this place my home. One of my favorite shirts is an ‘I <3 ATL’ shirt. In short, I like to represent the city in which I live.
Here’s the bad news, though: Atlanta is a nationwide joke when it comes to sports.
But, that’s just what other people say, right? We shouldn’t listen to outside influences when it comes to admiring our own athletes. Or should we? The articles linked above each mention Atlanta’s fanbase as a major reason for the low national opinion of the city as a sports center. And when the media says the same thing repeatedly, the average person tends to believe it. I even bought that excuse for a while, allowing the blame for the failures of our franchises to rest partially on my own shoulders.
You know what, though? Fuck that bullshit.
It’s not my fault!(Or yours!) It’s the goddamn teams.
The Evidence, Expanded: Okay, we’re going to get a bit technical here. Bear with me as I examine the recent postseason performances by our teams.
The Braves: The only recent postseason appearance by the Atlanta Braves was the 2010 season in which the Braves narrowly captured the Wild Card spot in the National League. The season was notable as it was long-time manager Bobby Cox’s final season. The late regular season push by the Bravos electrified fans who wanted to see something special go down in the beloved Cox’s last year at the helm. When we landed the Wild Card spot, Braves fans surged in support of their team. The end result was the Braves lost in four games at the hands of the San Francisco Giants. Lame.
It should also be noted, when discussing Atlanta sports history, that the Braves hold the only championship for any team based in Atlanta. It came in the 1995 season when the Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians in six games to win the World Series title. This win, however, stands in stark contrast to the fact that those same Braves made the playoffs eight times in the nineties (including an insane five World Series appearances) and only came out with a single win.
Still, thanks Braves. Without you, we’d literally have nothing.
The Falcons: Several years back, the Atlanta Falcons stood on the shoulders of a giant. Michael Vick was supposedly the best thing since canned dog food and his tandem running/passing game was supposed to revolutionize our offense and carry the Falcons in a new millennium. (See what I did there?)
Then came the infamous dog torture revelations. The Falcons quickly parted ways with the criminal known as Vick. A good decision, to be sure. In the wake of the disastrous rupture, the Falcons drafted a sought-after Boston College QB. Ryan, although young and untested, showed Atlanta fans the meaning of Great White Hope, putting together four winning seasons in a row.
This, coupled with a fresh strategic direction under the supervision of new head coach Mike Smith, promised to allow the Falcons to soar. So far, though, things haven’t quite worked out for the boys in red and black. Despite his other-worldly early success of the Ryan/Smith duo, the spark simply never ignited into post-season success.
The dreams of Falcons fans, made vivid and seemingly reachable by four impressive seasons in a row, turned into three playoff appearances and three playoff defeats.
Ryan and Smith have now gone 0-3 in the postseason, having yet to put together even a marginally acceptable performance in that span. We lost to the underdog Cardinals in ‘08, failed to make the playoffs in ‘09, got the shit kicked out of us by the Packers in ‘10 and then finished the ‘11 season with one of the most embarrassing losses of all-time at the hands of the New York Giants.
The Thrashers: Honestly, not even worth discussing. Let’s all try to just communally forget that they even existed. Wait…you already did? Okay then.
The Hawks: Even in the glory days of the legendary Dominique Wilkins, the Atlanta Hawks proved unable to capture championship gold. In fact, this article is really about the Hawks. I went to game two of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals this season and watched as our Hawks took an eleven point lead in the third, only to collapse and lose by seven. It was really an illustration of the overall attitude that Atlanta teams seem to have in the postseason.
But this isn’t the first time the Hawks made me pop a boner only to leave me with (red and) blue balls. The Hawks have made the playoffs the last five season in a row, not once advancing past the second round.
In fact, the Hawks have made the playoffs an unbelievable twenty-eight times since moving to Atlanta without once coming home with some shiny new rings.
Is that even actually possible???
The Conclusion: Some of Atlanta’s recent postseason woes are understandable. For example, all three of the Falcons’ flops have come against teams that went on to either play in or win the Super Bowl. The Braves’ close loss to the Giants was disappointing, but the Giants went on to win their first World Series title in half a century.
But that’s cold comfort, is it not? I’m simply not satisfied with teams that do nothing more that act as a stepping stone for other teams’ advancement into greatness. I mean, are you?
They call Atlanta a poor sports city, but I have to disagree. Atlanta is a great sports city – one of the best – until the regular season ends.
As I write this, our Atlanta Braves are currently off to one of the best starts in recent history. They seem to have all of the tools to make a stab at the World Series.
But it’s all too familiar.
I’m rooting for the Braves hard, let me assure you, but that specter of amassed failures lurks in my mind, making it difficult to have any real faith. And you know what? That makes me fucking sad.
So, where does it end?
Well, one of two places.
We’re either going to finally ride the Matt Ryan/Josh Smith/Jason Heyward rockets to the Moon or (as they’ve all shown the tendency to do) we’re going to continue to explode shortly after launch leading us to another dismal period of “franchise rebuilding” like the one that took place from 2000-2007.
If the latter occurs, I predict that the Falcons fan attire in five years will include a paper bag over the old shame-filled noggin.
Wait…you’re telling me that even that ‘Aints won a Super Bowl?!?
God. Fucking. Damn. It.