Saturday, October 6, 2012

Insanity = The Atlanta Sports Fan

There is a famous theory that says doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results is defined as insanity. Well, consider me insane. I went to the Braves game last night expecting different results yet the same thing happened. I did get to see the final official game of Chipper Jones' career (picture enclosed). Still it ended the way it always does. I want to thank my friend Eric for coming to the game with me. I enjoyed our discussions of heartbreaks past. Now back to the blog.

Here are the common threads to every Atlanta Braves postseason failure:

1. Defensive Lapses: The Braves made 3 errors last night. If it wasn't for Freddy Freeman's great plays at first base, we would have had at least two more. This was from the team with the highest fielding percentage in the National League. We in Braves country call this Brooks Conrad syndrome. This was the guy Bobby Cox inserted into the lineup in the biggest playoff game of our 2010 season and watched him single-handedly lose a game with us by making 3 errors in the same game including the biggest in the final inning.

2. Controversial Calls: The ball that hit Andrelton Simmons in the head that would have scored 2 runs was instead called an out. According to everyone, that was actually a good call. BUT then the call they'll be talking about in this city for a long time, the infield fly, was a horrible call. It probably cost us at least a run and some momentum. It cost Turner Field a lot of water bottles to pick up in the field. We in Atlanta call this Kent Hrbek syndrome. In the 1991 World Series, he obviously pushed Ron Gant off of 1st base during a casual throw to first and the umps called him out. Also see the Eric Gregg-Florida Marlins game where Gregg obviously had an agenda against the Braves and called balls a foot outside in that game a strike. The Braves lost 1-0.

I know the analysts said that Atlanta fans were classless for littering the field last night. Listen. I'm never in favor of risking injury to anyone and I'm one of the biggest pacifists you'll ever meet but I'm actually proud of our fans. They showed heart and passion; something that we are always told we're lacking. We sold out a 5pm playoff game which everyone around the sports world thought we could not do. We chanted all game long and stood most of that game. We cheered for the legend Chipper Jones even after his error allowed 2 runs and maybe a third to score. We chanted his name after the game ended and our hearts were ripped out. Even down 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th after a disastrous performance, 90% of the attendees at that game were still in the ballpark. That's loyalty. That's fandom. That awesome!

3. Hitting with runners in scoring position: This was a problem all season and it continued last night. We doubled the Cards in hits and still were doubled in runs. We left double-digit runners on the basepaths. It was awful. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out and the pitcher on deck, Andrelton Simmons bunted and Freddie Freeman wasn't coming home. In other words, we didn't put on the squeeze (though Fredi Gonzalez says we actually did) and we took an out, didn't score a run and then brought the pitcher up to strike out. So either Freddie Freeman missed the sign or Gonzalez covered up for his young rookie.

4. Heartfelt storyline - NOT: 2 years ago it was Bobby Cox's swan song and we lost in heartbreaking fashion. Last year, we were cruising and lost one of the biggest leads to miss out on the playoffs. This season, destiny looked like it was on our side. Chipper's last year, Medlen's 23-game winning streak, a home game, a revenge game against the team that knocked us out last year. Welcome to Atlanta where fairy tales do not come true. We lost. Chipper made the big error. The Cardinals advanced.

5. Homefield Disadvantage - our record in playoff elimination games at home is abysmal. I believe we've lost like 6 or 7 in a row. We haven't won a playoff series since 2001, the year before I was married.

There's a myth that says Atlanta fans are poor sports fans because we don't fill up our stadium. Let me explain the reason for that.

1) Mass Transit System - Our mass transit system is terrible. It doesn't even take you to the stadium. I remember being in NY and the subway takes you right to Yankee stadium. MARTA was created before Atlanta developed into a major metropolitan area. Basically we built a skeleton before we knew what the body would be like. We took the skeleton of a skinny twerp and later realized we had a 300 pound offensive lineman.

2) Transient City - Most people that live in Atlanta are from elsewhere so if you're asking someone from NY to come watch the Braves and Marlins, you're probably not going to have much luck.

3) Losertown USA - we have 1 title in 45+ years between 4 teams. Why should we go to games to get our hearts ripped out again and again? That's like going to the doctor when you know he's going to say you have 1 day to live. I'd rather spend that day enjoying myself. The NHL took not 1 but 2 franchises from our city. Our NBA team, the Hawks, have never been to an Eastern Conference Final much less the NBA Finals. The Falcons have been to one Super Bowl where our safety, on the eve of winning an award for character and on the eve of the big game, was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. The Braves have been to the postseason 16 times since 1991 and have 1 title to show for it and have lost 6 straight postseason series. Our WNBA team the Atlanta Dream has been to finals 2 consecutive years and was swept both times.

4) We sell out Georgia Bulldog games every Saturday - 95,000 people. Can people in NY say the same thing about Syracuse or Rutgers games? Absolutely not. We are more of a college sports town. I'm not denying that. We are an amazing sports town. By the way, Georgia hasn't won a title since 1980. Georgia Tech has won one title since 1980 and that was a split national championship with a team that got a phantom 5th down that season, Colorado.

Last night was awful. I love my Braves and so next season I'll go in 110% hoping we can change the results but we'll have the same manager, the same GM, the same ownership and many of the same players. What makes me think the results will change? Oh, that's right. I'm insane.

Have a good one.


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