Thursday, September 14, 2006

Go Braves … And Take The Falcons With You!

That used to be the old joke in Georgia. Two or more sports fans would be sitting around or standing around or something. They'd talk about sports. Mostly college football. UGA always had a decent football team. Sometimes Tech would field a good team. In the 1980s, Georgia Southern had a good football team.

The local high school football team in my hometown had up and down years. But, for a bit, they were winning region. Or subregion.

The area basketball teams would do pretty good. Boys and girls teams.

Of course, all sports talk that lasts for any period of time included baseball. And someone would eventually say "Go Braves" ... then they, or someone else would finish the joke ... "And take the Falcons with you!"

You see, for a long time, the Braves were a joke. Year in and year out, they'd do poorly.

Now, they didn't move to Atlanta until 1966. They were the Milwaukee Braves before that, having moved there in 1953. Before that, they were in Boston.
So, in 1966, the Braves moved to Atlanta. They finished with a winning record (85-77) and 10 games off the pace. They did win the West division in 1969, the first year they had divisions. Got swept by Cincinnati in 3 games in the playoffs. But, apart from that year, and 1982 (89-73, winning the West before getting swept in the playoffs), the Braves struggled.

One year, they finished 40-1/2 games off the pace (1975, 67-94). It wasn't their worst year. That was 1988 (54-106, 39-1/2 games back).

And that's how it was for the Atlanta Braves. Usually out of it pretty early on. The announcing crew became really, really good. Because they had to talk about other stuff, mostly. There was certainly nothing going on with the game! So, Pete, Ernie & Skip made the most of it. They developed a rapport, a friendship it seemed, that made listening to the games fun. Even when the Braves were being blasted by whoever they were playing.

After Ernie retired, and Joe and Don joined the broadcast booth, the Braves announcers were still fun to listen to. Even though the Braves were constantly losing. But some, like me, still followed ... and rooted for the team.

In 1991, when the Braves began their amazing run of division titles, it was something we didn't know how to handle. We knew it wouldn't last. Then, in 1991, they did something they had never done: they won a playoff game.

In fact, they won enough to make it to the World Series. They lost, but just the fact they were there was enough.

Then, they did it again.

And, every year, except for the strike season when nobody won anything, the Braves won their division. The West (which never, ever made sense) ... then the East.

They didn't always win the League title. They won one World Series. And that was plenty of reward for long-suffering Braves fans.

Over the last few years, attendance had dropped. Still, 2-1/2 million ... 5 times that horrible 1975 season. But not as much as it was in the last half of the 1990s.

Fair weather fans are tired of the Braves making the playoffs then getting beat.

Fear not. It likely won't happen this year. They are offically eliminated from the East division title. They're still in the Wild Card hunt, but 11 Braves losses or Padres wins in any combination, and they're out of it. So, frustrated Braves fans won't have to worry about losing in the first round of the playoffs.

But, they're not Braves fans. Not really.

I'm disappointed when the Braves lose in the playoffs. But I'm thrilled when they make the playoffs.

I remember the old days. 106 losses. Finding a way to lose a game.

Listening to the announcers was fun. Listening to the Braves wasn't.

We may be heading back to those days. And the fair-weather fans will drift away. Which is fine. I have no use for them, anyway.

They'll be the one's saying "Go Braves ... and take the Falcons with you!"

Me? I'll just be saying "Go Braves!"


  1. I remember the good ol' days when my father would be given season tickets for the Braves. Behind home plate.

    I remember sitting next to Chief Knockahoma at one game!

  2. Pssst, c'mere! Shhh! It's football season!

  3. As a LA Dodger fan, I distinctly remember that you would automatically post a W when playing the Braves. Two of three automatic, three-game sweep always a possibility.

    In the 90s until this year, that changed. A series against Atlanta was a danger zone. Likely to lose two of three or get swept. Best pitching in baseball.

    Ernie Johnson and Skip Karay were great to listen to. Also enjoy Don Sutton.

    Sports teams run in cycles. LA was a premier team in the 60s and 70s, and won the World Series in 1981 and 1989. Not much since.

  4. Robb: In a city with as many people as Atlanta, tickets should always be hard to get. Unfortunately, Atlanta is not just a city as large as Atlanta, it's actually Atlanta. And that's how most "fans" in Atlanta are.

    RWP: Oh, yeah. I'm ready for some football. But until the final out of the World Series, it's still baseball season.

    JWL: I'm just worried we're getting back to those days of a series with the Braves being something teams look forward to instead of dread. And, with the Dodgers still leading the West (them or San Diego should take it, with the other being the Wild Card), and likely in the playoffs again. So, while I can't cheer my Braves on in the post-season, perhaps I'll get to cheer for some former Catfish instead.

  5. Basil: Well Greg Maddux pitched quite well for LA Friday night. I hope he has enough gas to make it through the playoffs if LA makes it in.

    What do you think overall: A New York "Subway" series? Mets vs. Yankees..yawn!

  6. JWL: That's one World Series I'd have no interest in watching. However, it appears more and more likely as the season concludes.


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