My story and blog post on visitors feeling the love at Philips sparked a lot of feedback both in the blogosphere and in my inbox. (I’m not trying to take credit for being the first person to raise these issues, just saying these are the reactions to that story.) Since these Atlanta fans know Atlanta fans better than the new guy, here are some highlights:
More than one emailer advanced the transplanted ATLiens theory:
The other day your article in the AJC Sports section, indicated that Atlanta’s professional sports teams bemoan the fact that some players from opposing teams received loud cheers, rather than “boos!”
What these Atlanta players need to realize is: simple demographics. Atlanta, and much of the Southeast and Southwest benefited from demographic changes in the country, basically, receiving transplants from the Northern states, and even California. Three decades ago, there were about one million residents of the Atlanta metro Area. Now, there are over five million! This did not occur through “native propagation!” They came here from L.A.., Philly, Chicago, N.Y., etc. While they are becoming Atlanta fans, is it surprising that they still hold some allegiance to their former “home” team, or specific players? I think not!
Another emailer, who contrasted his childhood love for his hometown teams in Detroit with his transplanted fandom for Atlanta teams, blamed poor marketing by the Hawks and also unmarketable stars in Atlanta:
I think that the owners of the teams should do a better job marketing their teams to the local fans. Please get these players out into the community more and help fans get familiar with these guys. (the Falcons do a good job but the Hawks are a mystery) Put up more billboards around the city showcasing these guys. As a kid I remember my dad driving us downtown and from the Interstate we could see the entire side of a building covered with Barry Sanders’ image sponsored by Nike (now Cleveland does it with Lebron James). People want to identify with their sports teams. Right now, who are the “marquee” names for any of these teams??? Most people outside of Atlanta have no idea. I’m sorry, but Matt Ryan and Joe Johnson make me yawn. Both of them are good players, but not marquee names yet. Since the tragic Michael Vick incident – this city has not had an identity in the eyes of most sports fans. When you say the name of most other sports towns, a player’s name immediately pops into your head. Who is that guy for Atlanta right now? Maybe Matty Ice, or Joe-J, or J-Smoove?? I’m not really sure.
Kris Willis at Soaring Down South backed Woody’s sentiments but offered a sure solution:
(T)o coach Woodson I say good job for going public and sticking up for his team because the certainly deserve it but will offer my advice to him and the team. If you want these guys to stop cheering the other team then the best way to fix that is to win. It worked in the series against Boston. True the Hawks didn’t win the series but by the end of it a lot of the people that went to Phillips to catch a glimpse of the Celtics came away full blown Hawks fans once again. If you want them to stop cheering for LeBron and Kobe, then give them a reason and how about starting tonight?
Coco the “slightly irrational Hawks fan” offers a completely lucid take by noting that of course people come out for the Lakers because they are the Lakers and Kobe is Kobe. She also cites the Hawks charging more for “premium” games (this
It costs more to get into Philips Arena when the Lakers are in town. You can go see teams like the Pistons or Raptors for as little as $10, but the cheapest ticket to get inside when the Lakers are in town is about $35. If you’re a Hawks fan, you are probably thinking you shouldn’t have to pay more to see your favorite team just because Kobe is in town? I don’t blame you if you pass on the opportunity. That means there are more tickets for the people who aren’t really Hawks fans and the organization knows they are willing to pay more. Hell, they may not even know they’re paying more since they only come out when the Lakers are town. If the Hawks are your favorite team, you come to Philips Arena even when they’re playing the worst teams in the NBA, so you don’t really care about missing the Lakers game. You can watch it on tv and save yourself some money in the process.
Over at TrueHoop, Kevin Arnovitz, who says he “practically grew at the Omni,” does a great job breaking down the possible factors contributing to the relative apathy of Atlanta fans. I thought his closing passage put things in the proper perspective:
Does a city need to apologize for its collective apathy toward its sports teams? These franchises aren’t institutions like the school board or law enforcement agencies, or even non-profits like museums or the opera — entities that require civic support to survive. The Atlanta Hawks are an entertainment product whose profits go into the pockets of some very wealthy individuals. Would I like to see my hometown embrace the Hawks the way residents of Salt Lake City and Portland support their teams? Sure. But nowhere else on the commercial landscape do employees bitch about customers not supporting the goods they produce and/or sell. If the foot traffic isn’t coming in off the street, then it’s up to management to figure out smarter ways to entice those potential customers. The Minnesota Timberwolves are figuring that out. So are the Charlotte Bobcats.
I don’t mean to criticize Mike Woodson or any other Hawk who’d prefer that Josh Smith get more applause at Philips Arena tonight than Kobe Bryant. That’s a reasonable wish, but it doesn’t change the fact that, for a bevy of reasons, the organization is up against some tough conditions. Business is business — particularly in an exploding market where there are more ways than ever to spend your money.
– Off topic but very cool . . . Hawksdawgs already had expressed his love for Zaza. I’m pretty sure this is going to only enhance those feelings. My interactions with Zaza lead me to believe he really is a guy who appreciates how lucky he is to make a very nice living playing ball.