Author Archives: atlswami

Sad Trombone

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Braves come up small in first ever MLB wild card game. The important stats: three errors, four unearned run surrendered, and 12 men left on base.

The worst part: Chipper Jones, in what turned out to be his last game as big leaguer, made the first and most costly error, which led to three Cardinal runs. (Click the photo to see it.)

Not a recipe for a win.

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Savoring the Victory

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Turner the Boner

The Atlanta Falcons sported a sub-.300 winning percentage on Monday Night Football coming into last night’s tilt with the Denver Broncos. Moreover, Matt Ryan, the most successful QB in franchise history was 0-3 in Monday night games. It’s not just the playoffs, people. The Falcons, as well as their Atlanta sports brethren seem to shrink on the big stage. (Why do you think this blog is called “Coming Up Small”?)

The trend ended last night. For three quarters, the Falcons defense buzzed about, confused Peyton Manning, and swarmed the ball as if it were Tippi Hedren in The Birds. The offense was less impressive early on, leaving points on the field during a first quarter in which the Broncos turned the ball over four times. The score should have been 20-0, at least, at that point, but the Falcons, who might still lack a killer instinct, were only up 10.

Still, they gutted out the win, and the season’s first two games have now featured one outstanding turn by the offense and one outstanding turn by the defense. If coordinators Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan ever decide to bring it on the same day, the Falcons would have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.

But, please, can I at least have a second to savor this win?

Michael Turner says, “No.” It took him roughly four hours to go from sealing the game with a first-down run in the last two minutes to getting a DUI 30 miles away from the Georgia Dome. The offense would have killed for that level of efficiency. And I’d guess it takes a substantial amount of moonshine to get a man his size over the legal limit.

What that means for the next few games, I don’t know. But, Jacquizz Rodgers is probably the only football-aware person in (or from) Atlanta who woke up this morning to the news without shaking his or her head.

Add to that my perpetual frustration with the Falcons-related cut downs levied by Sports Guy Bill Simmons. To Mike Lombardi, on last week’s B.S. Report podcast after last week’s crushing of the Chiefs: “You’re not buying the Falcons yet, are you?” And on Twitter after last night’s game, “Atlanta took care of business but left me lukewarm. Night game, up 20-0 at home, get 4 1st half TO’s…and they’re sweating out last 5 mins?”

A win’s a win, Bill. Especially when it comes against probably the best NFL QB of all time, who was 11-3 on Monday Night Football up until last night. Oh, and I’d wager that the Falcons would have been able to handle Kevin Kolb at home, no problem.


Ode to a Politically Incorrect Mascot

In 1986, the Atlanta Braves did away with their longtime mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa. It wasn’t over the fact that a man who lives in a teepee in the outfield and emerges to dance after home runs is offensive to Native Americans. It was over a contract dispute.

The Chief had been a staple of the Braves since their last decade in Milwaukee. Now, Atlanta scuzz rockers the Black Lips have penned the song “Noc-A-Homa” about the once beloved mascot and the possible hard times he’s had over the past 26 years since he’s been out of a job. It’s a fantastically catchy track and, in a way, a bit of a redemption story (at least in the video). And, of course, it’s a nostalgia trip for longtime Braves fans.

Oddly enough, it debuts a mere four days before the 29th anniversary of the Braves temporarily pulling Chief Noc-A-Homa out of his left field perch in 1983 to make room for more seats for fans. The Braves promptly lost 19 of their next 21 games, and the mascot along with his teepee was restored.


A Night to Remember

I just got back from the sports bar, where I watched the Braves claw back from a 9-0 deficit to Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals. I don’t know what to say. But, that was phenomenal.

It’s a wonderful day to be a sports fan. Even an Atlanta sports fan.


Happy Independence Day!

Na na na na. Na na na na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye! Later sk8ters.

It’s July 4th, the day that each year our nation celebrates its independence from British rule. This year, I’m dedicating this holiday to the newly minted general manager of the National Basketball Association team from my hometown. This one’s for you, Danny Ferry—for authoring a declaration of independence from toxic contracts that threatened to mire the Atlanta Hawks in mediocrity for the foreseeable future. I’ve decided to give you a pass on your Duke bona fides and anoint you the title of “possible savior,” which I reserve the right to either shorten to “savior” or pull from you entirely at any time.

Ferry worked not one, but two miracles on July 2nd—at the tail end of his first week on the job. He traded the inflated contract of team star Joe Johnson to the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets, who were desperate for star power, for a fleet “who gives a shit?” that will all be off the books in a year’s time. That positions the Hawks to make a run at some simply delectable possible free agents, including Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Andrew Bynum. It also just offers the Hawks some flexibility and allows them to build around a younger nucleus starring Josh Smith and/or Al Horford.

It’s not that Johnson was bad. He was the team’s best player and a regular All-Star. But, he tended to disappear in the playoffs and didn’t endear himself to the fanbase (or whatever was left of it since its peak in the early-1990s). But, he had the richest contract in the game and was, at best, a third tier star. The math didn’t work, and with him on board, the Hawks were destined to be the fourth or fifth seed in the playoffs yearly, crashing out in the first or second round.

That’s not it, though. He also evicted another albatross who was unjustly flying with the Hawks: Marvin Williams. It wasn’t so much that Marvin Williams was terrible. Were he a mid-first round pick who materialized into a reliable rotation player, he’d have been much appreciated. But, he was picked 2nd overall, ahead of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Andrew Bynum, and Danny Granger. This, despite the fact that he never started a game during his only year at UNC. He was dealt to the Utah Jazz straight up for Devin Harris, who is also entering a contract year.

Look, the result of these moves is the Hawks grab one of the last tickets to the playoffs and crash out in Round 1, probably getting swept by the Heat. But, the future—beyond next year—is looking bright.


Oh My God, the Hawks (Still) Blow!

I suppose the Hawks loss last night could be explained if the players were standing around checking the elastic in their waistbands (rather than playing, you know, basketball).

I should send a couple of my friends a fruit basket for scheduling a rock show last night. A trip to the Mercury Lounge precluded me from watching whatever the Hawks were doing last night when they should have been playing basketball.

There’s something about Atlanta sports teams and the playoffs—be it three straight no-shows by the Falcons upon reaching the promised land, the Braves epic redistribution of their virtually assured trip last year, or the Hawks seemingly perennial first round nail-biter followed by prompt second round exit (if the nail-biting doesn’t get them initially). I’d say it’s like Lebron’s fear of the clutch or the Buffalo’s fear of the Vince Lombardi trophy, but I think you can make a case that Atlanta’s anxiety come playoff-time is unparalleled.

This year, the tenants of The Highlight Factory, a team that’s so obviously flawed but remarkably competent at times, have pushed themselves to the precipice of defeat where just a week ago they sat in what any casual basketball viewer would call The Catbird Seat.

Having attempted to surrender a 19-point lead in Game 1, the Hawks caught a lucky break when a questionable call caused Celtics point guard/best player/dicey piece to build around Rajon Rondo to chest bump an unsuspecting ref. Game to Hawks. Game 2 would be Rondo-less. No matter, let’s exhume Paul Pierce in his prime and let the spectre snatch a Hawks defeat from the jaws of victory. Following a reasonable loss in OT without the services of the mercurial (but recently consistent) Josh Smith, the Hawks seemed poised to have a shot at evening the series at 2s with the return of arguably their best player, Al Horford, after a four-month absence necessitated by a torn pectoral muscle.

Shame on you, Larry Drew, for having poor, out of playing shape Horford contribute to the odious display of Washington Generals-style basketball last night. The Hawks trailed by almost 40 points at certain moments of last night’s “contest”—which I gather, thankfully, from others’ eyewitness accounts of the goings-on. (Lowlights below.)

This team wins, when it does, in spite of itself. It needs to be blown up. Keep Horford. Everyone else is expendable. Well, except for Joe Johnson. We’re stuck with that third tier All Star for the remainder of the contract Lebron should have signed with the Cavs. Do you think JJ texts Rashard Lewis and Eddie Curry weekly to thank them for keeping him from being an NBA punchline? Maybe he just keeps Marvin Williams close, since the former Tar Heel is an even better of example of a “what the hell was your GM thinking?”-type move.

Basketball, I hate you for giving me this sad sack of also-rans to root for. This is a franchise that in the last decade has one claim to fame: Tumbling into the 2008 playoffs as an 8 seed with a .451 winning percentage and then taking the 1 seed and eventual champion Celtics to seven games. Interestingly, every game the Hawks lost in that series was by 19 or more points. The Hawks specialize in laying playoff eggs.

Can Chipper ball?


Chipper Eviscerates Moyer

Colorado Rockies starting pitcher and animated baseball fossil Jamie Moyer accused Larry Wayne of stealing signs when he was on second base in top of the fifth inning of Saturday’s game in Denver. The Braves would end up winning 13-9—though that seemed to provide Chipper with little comfort when he was confronted by the press with Moyer’s accusations.

My favorite line: “I tell you what, the next time we face them I’ll stand with my back to him, and see what he says then. What’s his excuse going to be when he gives it up then? I mean, dude, we don’t need signs, especially for him. I mean, my goodness, every pitch is 78 [mph]. Come on.”