The State of Atlanta Sports Address
Another playoff loss.
As Matt Ryan rolled left and tossed a pick-six to Tramon Williams with no time left in the first half, I had flashbacks to a three error game by Brooks Conrad against the Giants and a blown coverage by Keith Brooking in Arizona. All of which were costly plays on the way to disappointing playoff losses. None of these players deserve all the blame for the horrible way each season ended, but all three plays are a microcosm of how poor Atlanta plays when the games matter most.
For as long as I have followed sports (which is a short time compared to some Atlanta veteran sports fans) I've caught on to the system. I know how this movie goes. We are better than anyone at taking a team from the bottom of a division and making them relevant on a national scene.
The Braves set the tone for worst-to-first flips in 1991 when they took a 65-97 record the year before and turned into a 94-68 NL West Championship.
The 1994-95 Hawks won only 13 games and slowly built a Eastern Conference contender with three straight playoff appearances.
Mike Vick and Bobby Petrino left the 2007 Falcons with a train wreck 4-12 record that Mike Smith was able to turn into a 11-5 playoff team in 2008.
Which Atlanta sports franchise is most likely to win a championship first?
While no town is more accustomed to quick turnarounds, Atlanta also knows more than anyone that the struggle of going from good to great is much harder than bringing a bad team to relevance. Time and time again we have brought our franchises to the edge of greatness—piling up regular season wins, division titles, and playoff appearances, but all for naught when it comes to championships.
With the exception of one World Series Championship in 1995, Atlanta has shown no ability to put together postseason wins capable of titles. At some point it doesn't matter how many division titles or regular season records you set; championships are what you are remembered for.
Is Atlanta going to become the new Cleveland? A bit of a stretch considering they haven't won a major sports championship since 1964, but the question is valid. Are we at the start of a Curse of the Bambino? (The myth that left the Red Sox 86 years between championships and 0-4 in World Series appearances during that time.)
I'm not screaming "MAYDAY" and saying our hometown teams are disintegrated into mediocrity and I'm not saying Atlanta is the new "Loserville" of the NFL, NBA, or MLB. The Falcons, Hawks, and Braves are good teams! That's the problem though. Will they ever reach more than good?
We've seen countless examples of how poor our teams play in the postseason
The Hawks are 11-18 in the last three seasons in the playoffs with no big series wins to hang their hat on. They are 69-113 after regular season play since moving to Atlanta in 1968.
In the "Golden Days" of Braves baseball from 1991 to the present they are 64-65 in the playoffs. This led them to five World Series appearances in which they went 11-18 with only one Championship. Recently they have five straight exits in the divisional round going 8-15 during that time.
Finally the Falcons are 6-10 in their postseason history with the last win coming in 2004 against an 8-8 St. Louis Rams team. Interestingly, they have surrendered 40 turnovers in those 16 games. Only the Browns, Bengals, and Chiefs have worse records in the playoffs.
The Atlanta Falcons seemed to be the best candidate to break this trend of playoff blunders with one of the most complete teams from ownership, management, coaching, and personnel that this town has seen. We all thought this was the year with a 13-3 regular season record and a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The good news here is that the Falcons aren't the one-and-done franchises that waste all their money on one year free agents. The Birds are built for success from the top down and they have all the pieces to maintain the spot atop the NFC next year and compete for championships.
In reality the focus is still on the process as Mike Smith always says. The Falcons were dramatically better than last year and have shown they can win any game in the regular season when they step on the field. Big picture questions have to wait another year to see if the Falcons can take the next step on the playoffs.
So is there a curse.
Who put a curse on Atlanta? Someone come on' and 'fess up!
While there is no Bambino or billy goat involved, I feel Atlanta natives need something on which to cast blame. Thirty years from now will Brooks Conrad's name be an unspeakable profanity at Braves games if we do not win a playoff series by then? Am I always going to feel that sick feeling in my stomach when I see Aaron Rodgers and his title belt celebration?
I hope for all our sake we are not in the early stages of a very long championship drought. It's been 15 years so far and only the the Braves have made it back to the championship round of the postseason since then.
All this speculation could mean nothing as all three major sports teams are on the verge of greatness. The Hawks have shown they are one or two players away from competing with the Celtics, Magic, and Heat. The Braves were an error or two away from contending for a World Series appearance this year. Finally, the Falcons are on the rise and showed they are capable of putting themselves in a position to make a run for a championship.
Stay strong as a fan.
Atlanta has a proud history as a sports town. Dominique Wilkins brought the Hawks to the national spotlight and wowed audiences all over the country. Bobby Cox brought this town a championship mentality in baseball and dominated the division for 14 straight years. "Prime Time" Deion Sanders was a walking highlight reel in his time here captivating a town and building an excitement about football in Atlanta.
The future is as bright as it's ever been for Atlanta. I'm looking forward to seeing the Hawks in the postseason and I'm as excited as ever to watch the Braves build on the success of last year. The Falcons had a great season and I can't wait to be in the Dome when the Packers come down here next year.
GO HAWKS - GO BRAVES - GO FALCONS
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