With some regularity, sports commentators rip the city of Atlanta (my hometown) as a bad sports town. Todaysome lower-tier ESPN writer has published his view that “without question, Atlanta is the worst sports town in America.” (Quite honestly, the piece is uncreative and poorly written, too!) So I offer two responses. The first, a defense of Atlanta by an Atlanta sports fan. The second, in what I imagine they would consider the quintessential Atlanta response, I shrug my shoulders and say, “Who cares?”
First, a defense. There are several salient points to make:
* Atlanta professional sports teams not named “Falcons” labor under ownership situations that range from bad to downright farcical. The Braves have out-of-town corporate owners that don’t care about them beyond a tax write-off (literally). The Hawks (and formerly, the Thrashers) have a loose amalgamation of disparate owners who literally spent years in court suing each other. Nobody cares to build a winner, and fans aren’t inclined to support that kind of owner.
* Most people that populate the metro Atlanta area are not natives. So they are casual observers at best of the local sports scene.
* When most of these commentators talk about “sports” they really mean “PRO sports.” Because Atlanta is filled with sports fans, who on any given Saturday in the fall put 80,000-100,000 people in raucous college football stadiums within 2-3 hours drive in places like Athens, Auburn, Clemson, Columbia, Tuscaloosa, and, a bit further afield Knoxville. And that’s not to mention the thousands packed into high-school stadia the night before.
Now, at the end of the day, I guess I’m an ultimate Atlanta sports fan, because I say “Who cares?” I don’t orient my life and happiness around the success of the local team. The ESPN writer describes New York Giants fans, admiringly, as “living and dying with their team. Football is a part of their lifestyle, it’s who they are.” Yeah that’s not me. Guess I’m not a “fan” (which is short for, you know, “fanatic”). And maybe that’s not my town. But you know, I’m OK with that.
I enjoy sports, but I don’t live for sports.