Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones' Goodbye Tainted with Loss, Fan Actions
Friday night saw the end of Chipper Jones' illustrious career as an Atlanta Brave. No two titles are more purely conjoined.
Chipper began his major league career 19 years ago, in Atlanta Braves uniform, and in that uniform his tenure concluded.
Though, no fan would have envisioned, even just weeks ago, that Chipper's last hurrah would seemingly not happen.
After seeing Chipper get greeted with standing ovations, novelties and open arms from over a dozen opposing organizations through the course of his final lap, seeing what happened on Friday night at the ballpark he called home for so many years was nauseating.
Friday night, as the Braves team walked back to the clubhouse following a 6-3 home loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the first ever Wild Card game in playoff history, Braves fans chanted Chipper's name.
And Chipper never walked back out onto the field.
They failed the man that gave his heart to a team, and helped grow a common camaraderie and buzzing culture in a city that had waited years for a reason to shout about its professional sports team.
That was because a series of events on Friday night tampered with the dignity that allowed the aura of hope, pride and transcendent culture to exist over Turner Field and Braves country for the past year.
Friday's wildcard game was one the Braves could not lose. It seemed unfathomable.
Not only did the Braves lose to the Cardinals, but it happened in one of the most tragic ways anything can happen in sports.
In fact, the Braves owned a 2-0 lead until a routine ground ball—something Chipper has handled with ease for 19 years—was mishandled by Chipper and thrown over second baseman Dan Uggla and into shallow center field.
Instead of earning a double-play, Chipper's throwing error opened up what would become a three run inning for the defending World Champions.
That was a lead the Cardinals would not relinquish. Heading into the eighth inning of the contest, Chipper's error lingered and seemed to knife into the hearts of fans as they watched their team trail 6-3.
But who knew what would happen next?
It appeared the Braves, with two men on base and just one out, were about to finally unleash the magic that the baseball gods had left them, when a routine play—this time for the Cardinals—was botched when a fly ball fell to the grass thanks to a miscommunication.
What undoubtedly should have loaded the bases for catcher Brian McCann, and a chance for glory, instead was called as an infield fly.
Blatantly, at that.
The call was so bad (arguably one of the worst all time) that Braves fans began to toss their trash onto the field, delaying the game. Despite the call being so bad, the fact that the fans stooped to clowning antics diluted the integrity of baseball...
...and the existence of Larry Wayne Jones Jr.
For three decades, Atlanta professional sports were seen as a joke. Pro sports culture is still considered infant, insecure and unworthy in Atlanta by the established cities like New York and Boston.
But, the Atlanta Braves at least stabilized the culture, and Chipper was instrumental in that.
Chipper symbolizes Atlanta sports, to this point in history. Other than Bobby Cox and Hank Aaron, who else does?
Yet, at a point when fans knew they might be watching the final frames of their idol's amazing career, the fans chose to return Atlanta to the comical phases of the past.
And the bad call didn't help.
Was it really justified frustration? Or awful judgment? Throwing beer cans on the field when the judgment of an umpire was seemingly just as flawed seemed warranted, except for the fact Chipper Jones' final game (and at bat, which happened to be a broken-bat, infield single) will always be tainted by the fans and the game, itself, getting in the way--almost selfishly.
On a night when destiny seemed more of a mandate than an abstraction, destiny arrived in a dark heap of irony and anticlimactic comedy.
And Chipper still took the fall as he walked out and said goodbye to 19 years of unrivaled sports history.
Yes, there is tragedy in sports, and we saw it Friday night.
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