Accept it, folks: Atlanta has developed quite the reputation of a bad sports town. Detractors tout our low attendance numbers at Braves home playoff games, our fair-weather Falcons following, and the number of fans wearing empty-seat costumes at Hawks and Thrashers games. As a lifelong Atlanta sports fan, this is quite troubling.
As far as excuses go, there are the usual suspects. One common excuse: there are too many transients. If you were to walk down Peachtree (any of the 279 variations) and randomly ask people where they’re from, I guarantee the vast majority would say somewhere other than Atlanta. While the plethora of transients lends credence to the fact that Atlanta is a wonderful city to live in, it also turns the Dome into Heinz Field South for a Falcons-Steelers game. This is why the four sports franchises’ attendance numbers are in the middle of the pack of their respective leagues; they get decent attendance, it’s just not always the kind that roots for the home team.
But there are other reasons; either you or your parents can probably remember when there were no professional sports franchises in Atlanta. The Braves and Falcons were both “born” in 1966; the Hawks arrived soon after in 1968, and the Thrashers came to life just 8 years ago. These franchises are babies compared to many other cities, where their teams have been around for over 100 years, and where the allegiance to them has been passed down from generation to generation.
College football shares some of the same blame as well. If you have ever tried to patronize a business below the Mason-Dixon Line on a fall Saturday, you were probably greeted by numerous “Sorry, We’re Closed” signs. That’s because in the South, all other sports finish a distant second to college football.
Finally, one of the most obvious (yet rarely discussed) reasons is the overall lack of success of the teams. In their relatively short history, the Falcons have racked up 20 double-digit loss seasons (not just 20 losing seasons, but 20 double-digit loss seasons)! The Hawks had the longest playoff drought in the NBA until 3 weeks ago. The Thrashers had the longest playoff drought in the NHL before making the playoffs in 2006-2007 (and getting swept by the Rangers, which was quickly followed up by one of the worst seasons in franchise history this past year). The Braves are in much better shape, given their unprecedented run from 1991-2005, but that followed a horrendous stretch where they were the laughingstock of baseball (and are still derided for their “Buffalo Bills-esque” performance in the postseason).
So who-or what-is to blame? The carpetbaggers at least make our attendance numbers decent. We can’t change how young the franchises are. College football certainly isn’t going anywhere. Therefore, the blame invariably falls on the franchises themselves. Given their collective track record for failure, I don’t see this changing anytime soon.
But hey, at least we’ve got the WNBA’s newest franchise, the Atlanta Dream!! LET’S GO DREAM!! LET’S GO DREAM!! LET’S GO DREAM!! LET’S GO DREAM!!
Fuck…why do I feel like I need to take a shower now?