April 11, 2008
So I'm sitting here enjoying the warm, fragrant breezes of a lovely spring day here in Atlanta when this article comes across my desk. Seems Forbes has rated the most miserable sports cities in America, and my beloved ATL tops the list.
Miserable? Us? You can't be serious! I mean, sure, we haven't won as much as we'd like, and sometimes we're not as competitive as we ought to be. But the weather here is beautiful, we can buy a two-acre spread for the same price as an apartment in NYC, the ladies are--
... aw, who am I kidding? We stink! It's true, it's all true! Sure, thanks to the Braves' run of division titles, we've ditched that "Losersville" tag of the 1980s, but, yeah, I gotta admit ... we're pretty miserable around here. Thanks, Forbes. Thanks a pantload.
Before beginning its Saw-esque evisceration of Atlanta, Forbes tries to define sports misery:
There are really two types of misery in sports. There’s the well-chronicled misery that comes with futility, like the New Orleans Saints losing 60 percent of their games and qualifying for just six postseasons (and no Super Bowls) since their birth in 1967.
Then there’s the true misery that comes with repeated heartbreak...[T]he gut-wrenching losses by teams good enough to win makes for an even worse experience than following a perennial loser that can’t get you excited in the first place.
That's an astute analysis, but it doesn't go far enough. I submit to you, dear reader, that there are at least four kinds of misery, which are -- conveniently enough -- embodied in each of Atlanta's four major sports teams.
Let's rip off the scabs, shall we?
Sure, there's the misery that comes from terminal suckitude, and there's the misery that comes from failed expectations. But let's dig a little deeper:
Even When You Win, You Lose Misery. See: the Atlanta Braves. You win, and you win, and you win some more, and you're still a loser. How? Because 1. you only win the big one once, and 2. regular-season winning becomes as routine as waking up in the morning. So as a result, your fanbase gets complacent and stops showing up for early-round playoffs, turning the franchise and the city into a perpetual October punchline for hack sportswriters. (See also: 2006 & 2007 Dallas Cowboys; circa-2000 Sacramento Kings.)
Your Bright, Beautiful Future? Gone In An Instant Misery. See: the Atlanta Falcons. You've got the most dynamic player in the NFL and a new owner who's ready to open the wallet for him and the team. What could possibly go wrong? Surely that future immortal wouldn't do anything to completely torpedo not only the brightest future in the game, but the most exciting team in the NFL, for a decade to come! Surely that wouldn't happen! (See also: Seattle Sonics.)
Every Move You Make Is The Wrong One Misery. See: the Atlanta Hawks. You reach the playoffs year after year, but since you're playing in the eras (and conference) of Bird and Jordan, you don't ever get past the second round. So you decide to blow it all up, figuring things couldn't get worse. And guess what? Nine years later, your fans would love a first-round exit! Oh, and you've got the most dysfunctional ownership group in sports, a coach who's spent more time on the chopping block than any dozen French noblemen, and a fan base who fully expects the team to bolt to Las Vegas any day now. (See also: Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Cardinals, Memphis Grizzlies.)
The Gold-Plated Outhouse Misery. See: the Atlanta Thrashers. You're a brand-new franchise in a hockey-starved town, and you build on your successes year after year, until you finally reach the playoffs ... only to get swept out by one of those damn New York teams. And suddenly, everybody realizes that you still suck after all. It's like having your Christmas presents break on Dec. 27, or finding the woman of your dreams and then having her mother-in-law move in with you. The hopes, the dreams still linger in your short-term memory even as the future looks like one long slog through hell. (See also: Tampa Bay Rays, Charlotte Bobcats.)
Even two sports high points to which Atlanta could theoretically lay claim -- the current Masters tournament and the soon-to-be-national-champion Georgia Bulldogs -- fall under the heading of "Not-Really-Yours Misery" (See also: New Jersey vis-a-vis the Super Bowl champion Giants.)
But it can't be all bad, right? I mean, it's not like the Braves just got swept in Colorado, the Falcons have no idea what to do with their #3 draft pick, the Hawks are doing everything they can to fumble away their first playoff berth this millennium, and the Thrashers got worked over in hockey's weakest division, right?
Oh lord, it never ends, it never ends ...