“Next Year is our Year”: The Scourge and Shame of the Atlanta Sports Fan

Scourge (n): : a cause of wide or great affliction

    Now, normally something as fun as sports would be a cause of joy and celebration and moments of levity for a community. They serve as a rallying cry and a sense of pride. In the city of Tuscaloosa, a bunch of college kids for almost 2 years made its citizens forget for a moment about the tornado that had swept through and left destruction in its wake. The performance of the Alabama football, gymnastics, women’s golf and softball teams during the 2011-2012 school year showed the country that “T-Town is never down” and those residents will never forget it.

     And then, there are cities like Atlanta. Where the passion for sports is fleeting or located in other places, but when it builds, it usually crashes and burns in a firery blaze. A few years ago,, Sports Illustrated named the city of Atlanta the WORST SPORTS TOWN in the United States of America. And had ticket revenue and apparel sales and a leaving hockey franchise to back it all up. But, I contend that this is really not the case. We love our sports, we love our sports teams. We’re just a little gun shy with them is all, and here are the reasons why.

1. College Football: Let’s face it, to the chagrin of the NCAA, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and every FBS conference in existence, the best college football in the country is played in the South. The last 7 national champions have been in Southeastern Conference teams, and College Gameday comes to Altanta at least once a season for the BCS Semifinal (AKA “The Southeastern Conference Championship Game”), sometimes, they come twice for  the Kickoff game when a Big Name team (Like this year’s matchup between Alabama and Virginia Tech) is playing. Plans are in place right now to build a new stadium to ensure we keep the SECCG,and the city has hosted NCAA reigonals, and the final 4 as well. But It could be said that the Mecca of college football is Altanta Georgia. Now, if this were such a crappy sports town, would that be the case? Don’t think so.

2. Transient population: Atlanta has a good amount of transfers from other cities so when they come, they bring the love of their home team with them. It’s why there’s lots of Purple and Gold in Phillips when the Lakers play, Cheeseheads when the Packers come. No better example of this is the Falcons/Saints saga. After hurricane Katrina many New Orleans residents made Atlanta their home, and when they did, they brought Who Dat nation with them. I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to see so much black and gold in the Georgia Dome when they come to town (and why I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted the Falcons to go to the Superbowl THIS year-which was being held in New Orleans, but I digress) but as long as we get so many travellers into our city, they bring their team love with them. Which means that in Candlestick Park or Cowboys Stadium or Madison Square Garden, Atlanta will have representation as well.

3. Post-Season Performance (or lack thereof)- This is mainly where the problem lies. Atlanta has great teams. They have winning records, hall of fame athletes and pretty good facilities. But in all that, there is only 1 Major Title for all the years sports have been here; the 1995 World Series Title Won by the Braves. And even THAT was during the decade long run of Division Titles and NL titles. By my count the Braves should have 3 World Series Banners in Turner Field. The Hawks have great regular seasons, then the Eastern Conference Semis roll around and the wheels fall off. And I don’t even want to mention the football team right now. The bottom line is, Atlanta has developed a reputation of the “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” team. They do great in the regular season, maybe even win the division or go sorta far in the playoffs, but when it’s crunch time-championship games, superbowls, Conference Championships- things just kinda go craphouse. And that consistently will make even the most devoted fan weary of cheering for you. You get so close, and then disappointed, closer, and disappointed, and closer STILL and disappointed…AGAIN. Think of it as a woman who keeps waiting and waiting and waiting for a proposal. Eventiually she’ll get tired and move on.

    But, even in the saga that is Atlanta sports, I did see a glimmer of hope. In this recent run to the NFC Championship, Falcons gear was sold out all over the city, the Georgia Dome was packed loud and proud even until the closing seconds. Most of the things I saw on FB and Twitter about the team said things like “Thanks for a great ride, we’ll get there” or “you never gave up. So I’ll still Rise Up” instead of the usual “You guys SUCK” that I’m used to. Bulldog Nation is optimistic about their the new season, and Braves fans are sharpening their tomahawks as we speak. So, in that spirit, I say the slogan that has become a bit of a mantra around here:

   “Wait until next year.”

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