Category Archives: Atlanta

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.”

Larry. Wayne. Jones. Jr.

You know him as Chipper.

I’m going to miss him when he’s gone. But, thus far, he’s making the most of his curtain call. (That said, Braves still don’t appear to be capable of taking a series from the Phillies.)

When Will “The Collapse” Stop?

The brooms were out to get the Braves to end the 2011 season. Looks like they haven't been put away in 2012.

“Epic” was the word used to describe the Braves stepping aside in September and handing their spot in the playoffs to the surging St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe it was meant to happen, people in the organization may have thought. After all, the Cards won the World Series. It’s like finding out that the guy your ex-girlfriend dumped you for ended up marrying her. There’s some minor solace in knowing you were just impeding fate.

Well, what’s happening now? The Cards got their rings. Good for them. But, why aren’t the 2012 Braves winning? Is it because, as opposed to the even-more-epically collapsing Boston Red Sox, they kept their roster largely unaltered? Perhaps. Is it because the New York Mets are playing like a team that’s been written off and has nothing to lose? Could be. Whatever it is, the team’s first half of 2011 Dan Uggla impression needs to end. (Although, through the Mets series, the Braves’ team batting average was .151, whereas Uggla was hitting .173 on July 4, 2011.)

The thing is, while we stayed largely the same, much of our division is improved. (I use “we” because I cut work, dropped 60 bones, and went to opening day at Citi Field to support my team. They rewarded my fandom by scoring zero runs.) The Marlins rep just Miami instead of the entire state of Florida, and added Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle to their roster. The Nationals have Stephen Strasburg back and are bound to get a better year out of Jayson Werth. With the loss of Reyes, the Mets, basically sport a minor league lineup surrounding third baseman David Wright. We shouldn’t be losing series to these guys, much less be getting swept by them.

I know it’s early, but, this means we were swept in the last series of 2011 and the first of 2012. My faith in Fredi Gonzalez, who barely had to interview to be the Braves’ skipper and faced no competition in getting the job, was already shaken. I’ll be looking for his scalp by midseason if we aren’t hitting any better.

The collapse was epic. This coda is unnecessary.

Guest Post: At Least We Went to Playoffs 14 Seasons in a Row


The 1992 National League Championship Series was a high point in a 15-year string of dominance that netted the Atlanta Braves one piddly World Series title.

Excepting those two games played in Japan last week, which no one seemed to notice, I feel confident proclaiming that baseball season is upon us. To mark the occasion, I recruited a very old friend of mine and fellow Braves fan to put together a recap of the greatest decade-plus of sports fandom ever experienced by people who admit to others that they’re from Atlanta. It was also, as you can imagine, one of the most frustrating spells in the history of sports appreciation, as multiple World Series that seemed to be within a tomahawk’s chop of being ours were frittered away (or just stolen).

Below is a quick recap of the period, which we’ll call The Silver Age of Baseball in Atlanta. With that, I’ll turn the reins over:

*Full disclaimer, this blog post was originally written five-plus years ago (on Myspace of all places) on September 25, 2006. Then I deleted it. So, this is somewhat of a reconstruction. I have tried to re-write from memory and maintain as much of the original sentiment as possible.*

The end of the Braves/Mets game last night was an insignificant game in the 2006 season, but was a pretty big milestone in the history of the Atlanta Braves franchise, the MLB, and sports in general. The loss mathematically eliminated the Braves from the postseason, ending a decade and a half of dominance over the rest of the National League and, at times, the entire majors. The Braves won the NL West Division title in 1991 and went on to win another 13 straight division titles. Those 14 years covered the majority of my formative years, and I can usually recall a Braves memory associated with significant parts of my personal life.

After this loss, I thought back on all the seasons and recapped what I remember of the postseason for each division title (yes, postseasons only because outside of a few broken records, fights and mostly lame All-Star games, the postseasons are what really matters). Sadly, it was more lows than highs.

’91 – The miracle season capped off by the greatest World Series ever. Even losing the game 7 could not put a dark cloud on the season. We even had a parade for our lovable losers.
’92 – Two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth. Sid Bream comes lumbering around third and barely beats a weak throw by Barry Bonds. The Pirates franchise goes into a tailspin. The Braves continue their run. Another great season, but with more disappointment in the World Series.
’93 – Another disappointment, this time getting beat by a bunch of hoodlums. This year sealed my intense dislike of all things Philadelphia—specifically, when the Braves’ bus was attacked by fans after the clinching game.
’94 – Shortest season in the run = shortest memory
’95 – Finally! The redemption year! What a game six, with Tom Glavine and David Justice both coming up big. And what a call by Skip Caray on the final out, “Yes! Yes! Yes! The Atlanta Braves have given you a championship! Listen to this crowd!”

’96 – The season’s World Series started off memorable: A scrawny 19-year-old kid from the Caribbean belting two home runs in the opening game, and the Braves leaving New York with a 2-0 series lead and home field advantage. Then Denny Neagle and Jim Leyritz struck. The opportunity truly to dominate the ’90s quickly slipped away. We watched the pinstripes win four straight and celebrate their first WS win 18 years. It would be the first of many I’d have to endure.
’97 – Eric Gregg – the man whose appetite was eclipsed only by his strike zone.
’98 – A truly dominant team entering the playoffs that ran into the buzzsaw that was the ’98 Padres. The errors did not help at all, and it continued the disappointment that was Braves’ postseasons in the ’90s.
’99 – Instead of the ’90s being the decade of the Braves, it belonged to the Yankees. Another embarrassing exit, with the salt in the wound being a World Series sweep.
’00 – Another division title, but still no ring to show for it. The “at least we”-excuses begin. Here: At least we did not lose to the Mets.
’01 – The team that was built on pitching was absolutely destroyed by a team with even better pitching. At least we did not lose in the wild-card round.
’02 – Barry Bonds gets his revenge on the Braves. At least we won another division
’03 – A year marked by an explosive offense, only to be completely shut down by superior pitching. At least we made it to the playoffs.
’04 – The only highlight of this short postseason stint was watching Rafael Furcal hit a home run to help win game 2 against the Astros. As soon as the season ended, he was to start a jail sentence for drunk driving. He delayed it by at least 2 days. At least we made it five games.
’05 – The end, though no one knew it yet. The night the Braves lost to the Astros in extras—after being ahead 6-1. At least we had a good run.

ATLiens Love ATL, Hate Hawks

Josh Smith (left, who I hope realizes he's repping Anaheim in this photo) and Dwight Howard love the ATL, but not the hometown bball squad.

Remember that video of Charles Barkley talking up his gig as a Weight Watchers spokesperson? The one where he also slammed the Hawks as “a bunch of nice guys”? There was a little more to that conversation:

Barkley: If I were the Hawks, they’re the team to me, I’d try to do anything to get Dwight Howard. Say, “You could have anybody on our team.”

Reggie Miller: Who, them? He doesn’t want to come here.

Barkley: [Shrugs and makes a face like he’s eating something sour.]

There were some rumblings that the Hawks were interested in ponying up some big names for the NBA’s premier big, with the names Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford all thrown around. There were even some rumors that among the enticements to lure Superman were the opportunity to come home and play with his childhood buddy J-Smoove.

Seems like you’d sooner see Jerry Sandusky in a Penn State facility than Howard in a Hawks uni—and to make matters worse, Smith is dying to trade his in for that of another team. Word is, Smith wants to leave the nest. And that’s despite the fact that, at the moment, he’s the Hawks’ best player.

His gripes: When things go badly, he’s the most popular scapegoat. (Though, regardless of what happens, by salary means alone, the scapegoat should always be the lavishly overpaid Joe Johnson.) He’s been the most “consistent” player on the team this year—as much as a Hawks player can be consistent—and should have been an All-Star. (He was definitely more deserving than Joe Yawnson.) But, the Hawks didn’t appear to put any muscle behind promoting his candidacy. I figured the season was up in flames when Horford tore his titty. But, it was Smitty who shouldered most of the load in keeping the Hawks from crashing into the draft lottery.

Writes Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist Jeff Schultz: “Neither Smith nor Howard have a problem with Atlanta itself. It’s more about perceptions of the franchise and the ownership. As players move on in their career, winning titles becomes more important. Smith wants to play for a franchise more committed to winning a championship — or at least one that leaves the impression it knows what it takes to get there.”

The Hawks, thanks to years of hapless ownership (and, as much as I hate to admit it, ‘Nique’s proto-‘Mello ballhoggery), have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. And with Johnson’s albatross of a contract and a current ownership team that regards getting to the second round of the playoffs as highly as Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger regards having to play-in to the Champions League, things aren’t going to change anytime soon.

So, Josh, take flight. Leave home. This is not the place to get your ring.

So This Is What Misery Feels Like …

The Braves epic September 2011 swoon helped propel Atlanta to the top if Forbes' Most Miserable Sports Cities

This is a blog that basks in the misery that underachieving sports franchises inflict on their respective fan bases, from the rabid, rust-belted Dawg Pound inhabitants of Cleveland to the new moneyed, good ol’ boy transients who fein to support Atlanta teams. The authors, which include a Seattle native still so distraught at losing the Sonics to OKC that he’s yet to post anything, are constantly quibbling about which of their hometowns is in fact the sorriest of sports cities.

On Leap Day 2012, it is I who can claim the title, as an independent arbiter, Forbes magazine has declared that the loss of the NHL Thrashers (honestly, no one cares) and the epic September collapse of the Braves (don’t really want to talk about it) makes Atlanta more pitiable than Sonics-less Seattle. Yay! (I guess.)

Here’s how the Coming Up Small team took the news:

ATLSwami: CAME up small!

ValmiCLE: You can have it. Totally impossible to take that list remotely seriously. Puts Denver ahead of Cleveland. DENVER! With this: “A great run from 1996 to 2001 (four titles) doesn’t quite mitigate a long bridesmaid history for the Mile High City.” Four fucking titles in the last 15 years gets less weight than 0 for 45? Blech. Worst one of these lists I’ve ever seen. Buffalo? Seattle? No problem. But putting Phoenix and Denver up there?

ATLS: Phoenix? They had the one Dbacks series. Anything else?

VCLE: Years and years of the Suns being good. Went to a Super Bowl. Dbags more recent than Atlanta’s.

ATLS: So, y’all have been to multiple World Series and an NBA Finals.

VCLE: This is a zero sum game. Been to 3 championship rounds in my lifetime and lost each in a horrible way. Can’t argue with zero titles in over 40 years. Who cares if the hockey team leaves Atlanta? No one in Atlanta clearly. Let’s not go over what happened when Cleveland lost its most popular team. In that time, ATL’s been to a Super Bowl and as many World Series [5, actually, to the Indians’ 2] and managed to win one. Winning matters. No comparison. Winning before 1964 doesn’t matter unless you’re old enough to remember it. And even then.

ATLS: It’s not about you, dude. It’s about the city.

VCLE: Shut your word hole

ATLS: Cleveland was there before you, and, this might be a stretch, it will outlast you.

GreggySEA (in his first appearance on the blog): Damn, swiped first place from us.

ATLS: If it makes you feel better, I don’t value the loss of the Thrashers as even being in the same ballpark as the loss of the Sonics.

GSEA: It does make me feel better.  And we just lost out next best hope with Sacramento staying put.

ATLS: Did KJ ever frustrate you back in the day? Cause he’s certainly doing it from Sacto’s mayor’s office.

GSEA: Yeah, fuck that guy.

VCLE: Drafted by the Cavs and traded for Larry Nance, if I recall.

Has the Hawks Tailspin Begun?


Have J-Smoove and the Horford-less Hawks hit their ceiling?

In journalism, there’s a rule for writing stories about emerging patterns: 1, 2, trend. If that holds in basketball, then the Atlanta Hawks are well on their way turning their playoff-caliber record into an invite to the draft lottery. Hate to say I told you so.

The Hawks have dropped three games in a row. It gets worse: All three games were at home. And none of them occurred on consecutive nights. They were down 20-plus points in all three games. None of the teams that defeated the Hawks (the Grizzlies, Sixers, nor Suns) had a better record coming into the games.

The wheels are coming off of the clown car full of dwarves (at least when judged by NBA standards). Horford is out. His understudy, Jason Collins, who basically hacks other teams’ centers for his dinner, is out, as well. Things don’t look good.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz says not to panic just yet. Too late. I’m panicking, realizing that the Hawks will not be able to once again properly illustrate the dictionary definition of mediocrity for another year. Instead, they’re speeding toward just shit.

Says Schultz: “The Hawks are a fragile team even when they’re at full strength. Now they’re fragile and teetering on the edge of the top shelf.”

Allow me to be the first to say, “Look out below!!”