Atlanta fans: pride or false hope?

by Leo Narrison, Campus Carrier Graphics Editor

Little Leo (resized).jpg

Leo and his dad, Mitch, geared up for Leo’s first Braves game in 1998. Leo was almost three when he attended his first game, and continues to support the Braves team today.

It takes a strong-willed person to be a loyal sports fan within the city of Atlanta. Year after year, the professional sports teams of Atlanta show signs of hope that lead their fans to believe that the city will have another championship at the end of the season. Year after year, these same fans are left with an emptiness that usually culminates in the early rounds of the playoffs (depending on whether or not the team actually made it to the playoffs that year.) Atlanta has been an infamous arena of professional sports since the Falcons and Braves played their first seasons in the city in 1966. In the 50 years that major professional sports have been played in Atlanta, the city brought home one lonesome championship. The Atlanta Braves gave the city its only trophy after winning the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. 

Atlanta is home to four professional sports teams: the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball, the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League, the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association and the Atlanta United Football Club of Major League Soccer. Ignoring the young Atlanta United team which has yet to play their first match, it is difficult to comprehend how three professional sports teams, each of which usually remain somewhat competitive in their respective fields, have only been able to muster up one championship season between the lot of them since they have played in Atlanta. 

The harsh reality is that professional sports in Atlanta are simply unpredictable. This makes being an avid fan stressful and frustrating at times. Atlanta has never been home to a storied championship franchise like the New York Yankees or the Boston Celtics or the Pittsburgh Steelers. Atlanta does not have teams that are odds-on favorites to win year after year.

Take the 1991 Atlanta Braves for example. In the previous season, the team posted the worst record in all of major league baseball at sixty-five wins and ninety-seven losses. The Braves went on to compete in the 1991 World Series against the Minnesota Twins where they, in true Atlanta fashion, lost in Game Seven by a score of 1-0 in the bottom of the 10th inning. The Braves won 14 consecutive Divisional titles from 1991 to 2005 showing promise of multiple pennants along the way; however, only one season saw this dream turn to reality. 

The Atlanta Falcons have faced far worse throughout their history in Atlanta. The franchise did not produce consecutive winning seasons until 2010 when the team finished with a 9-7 record. In recent years, Atlanta’s football team has fought to make the playoffs and has only reached the conference championship a mere four times. In the 1998 season, the Falcons won the conference championship and advanced to their only Super Bowl appearance (until now) where they ultimately lost to the Denver Broncos.  From elation to heartbreak, the Atlanta Falcons have followed the trend within Atlanta’s professional sports scene that entails a roller coaster of emotion for its fans. 

That roller coaster is currently approaching a new peak. This past Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons flew past the visiting Green Bay Packers in a 44-21 victory in the NFC Championship. This means that for only the second time in their history, the Atlanta Falcons will be going to the Super Bowl. 

Led by MVP-candidate Matt Ryan, the Falcons find themselves in a position to bring a new championship to the city that has remained loyal to them through the good times and the bad. The Falcons will face off against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI which will be held in Houston, Texas on Sunday, Feb. 5. 

Atlanta sports fanatics can only hope that the high spirits of the Conference Championship and the regular season will carry over into the Super Bowl. Decades of heartbreak and anticipation can be overshadowed by just one more win for the Falcons in their 2016-2017 campaign. 

The proud city of Atlanta can once again have a professional sports team of historical proportions. The Falcons just need to do what Falcons do: Rise up. 

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