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Monardo: A title for Atlanta (Sept. 28)

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome to Atlanta where the players play.

It’s a greeting that is as widely recognized as any, although it is most normally recited to a beat that some might call a little ludicrous. As an Atlanta native, I find the line to be a source of excitement and pride, a celebration of the place that I will always call home. But I do have one request: can we please change the lyrics?

Maybe it could be “welcome to Atlanta, where the champions play,” or “welcome to Atlanta, where the players win.” Basically, any phrasing that could place some importance on winning. A championship. Now.

In the music video to “Welcome to Atlanta,” Ludacis and Jermaine Dupri dance in front of Philips Arena, home to the Hawks of the NBA and, until recently, the Thrashers of the NHL.

Luda dons an Atlanta Flames jersey, the first hockey team to have failed in Georgia’s capital, while Jermaine wears a throwback Falcons jersey. It is great to see such civic pride from two rap icons, but for fans of Atlanta sports teams, cheering for the home team isn’t always so easy.

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to celebrate in Atlanta sports. The Hawks, the Falcons and the Braves all have been playoff teams in recent years, and compared to some other cities, Atlanta may look like a successful, flourishing sports metropolis. While this is probably true, it’s just not enough.

I hear adults speak of Atlanta in the 1990’s when “Atlanta had a love affair with the Braves,” etc. etc., and it makes me supremely jealous. After earning the worst record in all of baseball in 1990, the Braves captured the National League Division Title in 1991, beginning what would be a string of 14 straight NL East titles, highlighted by the 1995 World Series. But I was born in 1991, and by the time I was old enough to really appreciate sports, the Braves’ reign of dominance was over.

But where has it gone? Some might think that the former success of sports in the A-town has returned, or even risen to its highest level ever. With three winning sports teams, how could an Atlanta native complain?

Well, I’ll tell you.

To start with, for the second consecutive year I have been fed predictions about how the

Falcons are going to win the Super Bowl. With Matt Ryan at the helm of an offense boasting multiple weapons, the Dirty Birds look to be one of the best offenses in the league. And the defense, although young, will benefit from the addition of defensive end Ray Edwards. I wish that I could believe in this team, I really do. But I can’t, mainly because I haven’t been able to count on the Falcons my whole life. Certainly, the team’s future looks bright and I am excited by the possibilities, but to be the champions of Super Bowl XLVI? I wouldn’t bet on it.

As for the Hawks, sigh … Assuming the NBA resumes play sometime in the next five years, we will have a not quite superstar in Joe Johnson, a fantastic young player in Al Horford, and will probably finish 5th or 6th in the East before being bounced from the playoffs no later than the second round. Exciting, huh?

Now for the saddest part: the Braves. Much more so than the Falcons or Hawks, the Braves are my team. Just a month ago, I was beginning to get excited about playoff baseball. The

Braves were comfortably situated in the NL Wild Card standings, only kept out of the NL East race by the (grrr…) Phillies. But as of Tuesday, the Braves clung to a one-game lead over the Cardinals for the final NL playoff spot. And that one-game lead looks extra feeble.

I’ve often spoken with my friends, most often as we sit in the stands of Turner Field watching a mid-July baseball game, about how exciting it would be to feel a part of a magical team, a championship team. The only Atlanta championship during my lifetime came when I was barely four years old, hardly old enough to say “baseball,” much less to appreciate it.

Now, it seems as though we’ve been relegated to the outskirts of greatness. Atlanta has no problem supporting a very good team, even multiple good teams simultaneously, but has consistently fallen short of the ultimate goal.

Hopefully, I will get the chance to celebrate a championship in my city soon. Maybe the Braves will tomahawk chop their way to the 2011 World Series. Perhaps the Falcons will rise up and become the Super Bowl Champions. And the Hawks, well, maybe they will finish fourth in the East next season.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Joseph Monardo at [email protected].