In this uproarious clip that multiple friends sent me last week, Charles Barkley unknowingly unburdens himself during a TNT broadcast of the Hawks’ pitiful, triple-overtime loss to what was essentially a developmental league team fielded by the Miami Heat. During a break in the action, Sir Charles discusses his success on the Weight Watchers plan and then moves on to panning the Hawks, characterizing them as just a “bunch of nice guys.”
Barkley’s comments cut not just to one of the main facets behind the Hawks’ enduring mediocrity—the other being the franchise tying all its money up in second tier, aging “star” Joe Johnson—but it might also explain a pervasive issue with all Atlanta franchises. I am not sure I’ve felt a sense of urgency with an Atlanta team aside from the 1991 Braves and the 1998 Falcons, two teams that ended up in their respective league’s championship games against what was written in everyone’s script (including their own). There’s a lack of fire that seems to infect all Atlanta teams and all its players.
The last, truly intense, seemingly unhinged competitor I can recall was Jesse Tuggle, the standout Falcons linebacker who did it all on the field and made me feel like he might not be the nicest person in the world off it. (His eyes were pretty close together, so he always looked like he was glaring.) I’m not saying we need a Ray Lewis (he allegedly murdered someone, by the way), a Ndamukong Suh, or a James Harrison—but someone with an unmistakeable competitive fire burning in them would be nice.
Maybe a Patrick Willis-type? Or an Osi Umenyiora? A Pujols? Or even a smug fuck like Kobe?