Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Atlanta Has a Basketball Team?

Fans of Atlanta pro sports are usually a pathetic lot. Honestly, most true fans of Atlanta sports don't even live in the metro area. It seems to me that a higher percentage of true fans of the Falcons and Braves reside in the rural areas and smaller cities elsewhere in the state. Everyone in the countryside is a Braves fan. Relatively few people care about NFL teams other than the Falcons. In the city, it's a crap shoot unless the team is winning. The city and its suburbs are full of transplants and the offspring of transplants. Many of the locals have a healthy disdain for the South and don't really take ownership of their city like old-school towns like Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia. Of course, the local teams haven't done much to win the transplants' love. Sure, the Braves were the team in the NL for more than a decade, but they've returned to the mediocrity of my childhood in the last few years.

As for the other pro sports in Atlanta, well, let's just say that it ain't been pretty. The Falcons have been in the NFL since the '60s and they have never managed to put together consecutive winning seasons. The quarterback who was supposed to save the franchise turned out to be a bit of a flop on the field and stupid enough to think that running a dog-fighting and gambling ring was a good idea. He's now a bench warmer in Philadelphia after spending the last couple of years in prison. The team's one visit to the Super Bowl was a disaster. There were hookers involved and the team collapsed and was blown out of the game. The Georgia Dome is almost always sold out, but there are always way too many visiting jerseys in the stands.

Hockey almost isn't worth mentioning, even though I dearly love the Atlanta Thrashers. The city's first team only managed to stick around for eight seasons and was appropriately named after Sherman's burning of the city during the Civil War because that's basically what the northern hockey teams did to the Flames before they moved to Calgary. Actually, the team wasn't that bad. I just don't think any of the locals knew what hockey was back then. They might as well have been getting destroyed. The Thrashers came in about a decade after the Flames left and are still around. They even had an opportunity to be shut out in an opening round of the playoffs in the 2006-2007 season, but only one visit to the playoffs in ten seasons is pretty crappy. I have hopes that this year will at least feature a winning record, but we're still too early in the season to tell. They finished strong last spring and continued the above .500 play when the new season began this fall, but that means nothing yet. Atlanta fans can never really afford hope. Even more than than at the Georgia Dome, visiting jerseys are far too common at Philips Arena.

Despite all of this futility, the Hawks are perhaps the worst. I actually know other Thrashers fans, although ironically they're all in the metro area. I actually see people randomly wearing Thrashers jerseys around the city. I have never seen anyone with any Hawks gear. The NBA is popular and I frequently see people wearing jerseys, but it's always for teams in other cities. The Hawks have even had a tendency to market their own games as a chance to see other teams or other players. Seriously, I've rarely seen an ad that basically didn't just say something along the lines of "Come watch Kobe or Lebron destroy the home team." The sad part of this is that the Hawks have been the best thing in Atlanta pro sports the past three seasons. In 2007-2008, the team had its first visit to the playoffs in nine years and they took the Celtics, the team that won the championship that year, to the full seven games in the opening round series. They lost in the first round, but they put up more fight than the Lakers did in the finals. Last season, the Hawks easily beat Miami in the first round and lost to Cleveland in the second round. This year, the Hawks may be even better. They've only played 10 games so far, but they're currently number one on ESPN's Power Rankings and are the fifth-best offense in the league, second best in their conference by less than half a point. Their last game featured a come from behind push against a good team in which they had to grind out an overtime win. Josh Smith is dominant in the paint, Mike Bibby is a good court general, and Joe Johnson is the best player you've never heard of (unless you are a hardcore NBA fan). I may even try to make myself watch a few basketball games this year. It's as good a time as any.


Chris said...

Yes, for some reason, it is very hard to care about the NBA. There's just too much focus on the fouling/free throw strategy for it to be fun to watch.

Julie said...

I enjoyed basketball when I got to shoot it from the under the goal. Watching it from TV or the nosebleed? Not so much.

courtney said...

OMG, I hate basketball, both pro and college. I also couldn't give a rat's ass about the Falcons or Thrashers.

But I'm a loyal Braves fan -- always have been, always will be.

Jacob said...

So Courtney, you're saying that you like the only sport that sucks?

courtney said...

Baseball doesn't suck. You suck.