Atlanta Is The Most Mediocre Sports City In America
Atlanta Is The Most Mediocre Sports City In America
Think back to 1995 when Michael Jordan made his return to the National Basketball Association with his iconic message: “I’m back.” The first computer-animated feature film“Toy Story” hit theaters that year too.
Or remember when your favorite rock band Grateful Dead broke up that year? I do not remember any of these moments either.
I, like most Atlanta youth reading this, was not born in 1995.
Before Atlanta United FC’s championship in 2018, the last time an Atlanta team from one of the major professional sports leagues—National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and Women’s National Basketball Association—won a title was in 1995.
The 1995 Braves went 90-54 in a strike-shortened season and defeated the Cleveland Indians, which brought their Atlanta fans its first world championship. The team was managed by Hall of Famer Bobby Cox and led by Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux.
Again, names most of us are not familiar with unless you are baseball fanatics because we were not born yet.
The lack of championship teams is enough to label Atlanta as the most mediocre sports city in America.
Now I’m writing this as a native New Yorker suffering through many failed seasons from all my favorite hometown teams. I know what it is like to watch bad sports teams. But at least I witnessed the New York Giants take down Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the mighty Patriots twice in the Super Bowl in 2008 and 2012. I even got to see Alex Rodriguez get clutch hits that led the New York Yankees to a championship in 2009.
But the 2000s and 2010s have been brutal for Atlanta. The new decade is not off to a great start, and it looks like mediocrity will continue. Here is how Atlanta receives the title for the most mediocre sports town.:
I hate to beat a dead horse, but before bringing up their inevitable collapses the Falcons were coming up short a long time.
Falcons struck gold drafting Deion Sanders in the first round of the 1989 draft. His elite defending and flashy personality brought attention to the Falcons during a time when they were one of the low-profile franchises in the NFL. Two years later, the Falcons drafted another hall of famer. They took Brett Favre in the second round but traded him to the Green Bay Packers after one poor rookie season. The rest is history.
The Falcons played in two super bowls. In the 1998 season, they were defeated 34-19 by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. In 2016, suffered the infamous 34-28 comeback loss against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons have not been too bad to consistently pick top five in the draft or good enough to win a championship for the most part between those two Super Bowl appearances.
They have multiple heartbreaking comeback losses since the Super Bowl debacle. Matt Ryan, their one-time most valuable player, is now 35 years old and nowhere near his upside. Their roster is not terrible but not good enough to compete in the NFC South. At least fans can watch Julio Jones.
Atlanta’s basketball team is probably the most mediocre franchise in the city. The team was in limbo from 2009-2017. They were decent enough to make the playoffs but never posed a real threat. They were not able to select high-end draft prospects each year because they continuously finished in the middle of the pack.
The best chance the Hawks had to win a championship was during their 60-win season in 2015. Their starting lineup were all-stars that year and the team finished atop the Eastern Conference. The Hawks looked worthy of a title shot but got swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hawks turned into one of the worst teams in the league for the past three seasons, which finally allowed them to draft talented college players. They found their cornerstone in the franchise with Trae Young. Big man John Collins is developing into a nice player as well. But they still do not have enough pieces to make noise in the league, even in a weakened Eastern Conference.
The Dream have reached the playoffs eight times in their short 13-year history. They reached the final three times but never sealed the deal during the Angel McCoughtry era.
The Dream can get a pass here because they were not around as long as the other teams in the city.
Atlanta’s soccer team was founded in 2014 and quickly brought in a championship four years later. Fans fill Mercedes-Benz Stadium and cheer louder than their beloved football team on Sundays.
Aside from New York City FC and Los Angeles Galaxy, Atlanta United FC is probably the most popular MLS team in the country.
Atlanta United FC do not fit the city’s mold of sports mediocrity. They are the only ones exempt from that title. They are too new and they still managed to win a championship in their short history.
Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies are two of the most fun players to watch in the major leagues. Marcel Ozuna was great for them this past postseason. But again, they blew a lead like most Atlanta fans are now used to seeing. They were leading 3-1 in the National League Championship Series against eventual champion Los Angeles Dodgers this past postseason.
The Braves were one of the best teams in the late 1990s. They won the championship in 1995 and returned to the World Series the next year but lost to the Yankees in six games. They won at least 95 games from 1996 to 2000 and met the Yankees in the World Series again in 1999. That time they were swept.
After their solid seasons in the late 1990s, they became a one-and-done team in the postseason or missed it altogether. They were respected, but not feared.
The current Braves team has the tools to break out of Atlanta’s mediocrity. They can hit, steal bases, save runs on defense and their pitching is above average.
It makes sense for the Atlanta Braves to be the next team to bring home a championship to the city. But for now they are in the same class as most of Atlanta’s teams.