Falcons can lead way to an Atlanta sports grand slam

Green Bay fans invaded the Georgia Dome last month but learned what we found out: Atlanta now has winners.

Green Bay fans invaded the Georgia Dome last month expecting a Packers win but they learned what we had already found out: Atlanta now has winners. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If this isn’t Shoeless Joe Jackson looking out at some ball field cut into a cornfield and asking, “Is this heaven?” then what is it? Because it’s certainly not Atlanta.

Is it?

The Braves returned to the playoffs in October after four years of personnel miscalculations and an extended viewing of Mike Hampton’s exploding limbs (later to become a Ripley’s exhibit, adjacent to the two-headed goat).

The Hawks appear to be stabilizing under new coach Larry Drew. The presumed-to-be undermanned Thrashers resemble a Swiss Army knife, taking apart the Axis powers with just the corkscrew and the bottle opener.

The Falcons are 12-2, which ties them for the NFL’s best record and makes them two wins better than the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, who visit here Monday night.

Bobby Cox and the Braves celebrated after clincing a playoff berth.

Bobby Cox and the Braves celebrated after clincing a playoff berth.

Put away the paper bags. You won’t need those here in our sudden sports Utopia.

For the first time in Atlanta history, all four pro franchises from the four major sports are on track to make the playoffs in the same season (the Falcons, Hawks and Thrashers following the Braves, or vice-versa).

The only thing that could possibly top this would be if, by some miracle alignment of the stars, Atlanta Spirit owners actually

Dustin Byfuglien (center) has ignited several Thrashers' celebrations.

Dustin Byfuglien (center) has ignited Thrashers' celebrations.

stopped suing each other. Oh wait, that just happened. The courtroom pie fight is over.

What next? Free beer?

“This is something, isn’t it?” said Evander Holyfield, who ranks among the city’s most famous and longest-suffering sports fans. “Of course, I’ve been watching the Braves back since I was in the Boys Club. They weren’t very good, so they’d just give the tickets to us. The place was empty and we got beat all the time, but, shoot, I

The biggest reason to cheer for the Hawks: Al Horford.

The biggest reason to cheer for the Hawks: Al Horford.

didn’t care. It was the only way I could see a game because I didn’t have any money.”

Holyfield actually represents an interesting timeline in this evolution. He worked concessions at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium at Braves and Falcons games, selling Cokes and popcorn. Later, after he turned boxer and won a few fights, he attended Hawks and Atlanta Flames games.

Of course, there seldom has been a sports season without some form of disaster. The city too busy to implode, we’re not.

The Braves went through a stretch where they reached the postseason only once in 21 years and finished last or next to last 14 times. The Falcons mostly were a cartoon under the Smith family. They had a few good seasons but one of the best ended in heartbreak (a 1980 playoff loss to Dallas). This was loserville central and it became the city’s moniker.

The Flames, the NHL’s first incarnation in Atlanta, won the Stanley Cup — but not until after moving to Calgary. Probably in some small, remote Canadian neighborhood north of 285, they celebrated.

The Hawks were a postseason staple for most of two decades (18 out of 22 years, 1977-99) but they always hit a wall. Quoth Holyfield: “I always thought if we could beat Boston, we could beat everybody else. But we couldn’t beat them. They played that slow defense. They were aggravating.”

Aggravating. That word sums up a lot since the 1960s.

Technically, the city’s first pro champion was the 1968 Atlanta Chiefs of the North American Soccer League. That title had such a pronounced effect on the sports world that 10 of the league’s franchises folded after the season.

In 1990, Holyfield dropped James “Buster” Douglas for the world heavyweight title. He now laughs about it. “People would come up to me and said, ‘You’re the first champion that Atlanta has.’ It’s almost like I gave people hope. Then the Braves went worst-to-first [in 1991] and even though they didn’t win the World Series, there was something to cheer for.”

Finally, in 1995, the Braves won a World Series. The following year, they blew a 2-0 Series lead over the New York Yankees and lost four straight games.

Atlanta fans have been crawling through the desert ever since. The city has had three teams make the playoffs in the same year, but not since 1998. That year the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl, losing to Denver. The Braves and Hawks also made the playoffs.

The Falcons are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, seemingly the closest of the four teams to winning a title. Holyfield has been to a few games this year but isn’t sure when he’ll go to the next one.

“I know I can catch them on the tube,” he said. “I figure I might just wait for Dallas until I see them again. They’re going to the Super Bowl so I’ll see them there.”

Suddenly, success is assumed.

322 comments Add your comment

Buck Commander

December 24th, 2010
9:49 am

Another Day, Another FIRST!!

The Grinch

December 24th, 2010
10:00 am

Will this be a sign of the apocalypse?

Larry

December 24th, 2010
10:07 am

Merry Christmas, Jeff!

keith

December 24th, 2010
10:08 am

The Falcons do the things that great teams do, but sometimes go unnoticed.

They play fundamentals well.

Very few turnovers
Few penalties
3rd down conversions
Clutch 4th quarter drives
Defense is opportunistic

GO FALCONS! :)

keith

December 24th, 2010
10:09 am

Oh and a solid running game….

Larry

December 24th, 2010
10:11 am

…and please tell Evander to retire a find a new hobby or cause to support!

Teddy Novak

December 24th, 2010
10:15 am

Yes Jeff, there is a Santa Claus.

Benjamin

December 24th, 2010
10:26 am

Aimin for a solid top ten finish in the comments section, thus keeping me in the hunt for the chase…

On a serious note, I’m really glad to be an Atlanta sports fan [generally speaking] for the first time in my life. I just hope that, with the lawsuit over and their respective teams playing well, the Spirit Group folks come together and make the ownership commitment that is needed to help push the Thrashers over the wall. That’s a promising young hockey team that plays in Philips, but after years of seeing our young stars go elsewhere, I think I’d like to see them actually work to upgrade what is already a good playoff team before the deadline. There’s no reason that, with the young foundation we’ve got on that roster, the Thrashers can’t be Stanley Cup contenders in two seasons with a little support.

Get out there and watch the Thrashers if you know or like anything about hockey, Atlanta fans.

romebuzz

December 24th, 2010
10:29 am

just win baby

Steve

December 24th, 2010
10:29 am

Jeff, Merry Christmas. Probably one of your best articles yet. Good work and Go Falcons!

Hillbilly Deluxe

December 24th, 2010
10:32 am

I’d settle for just one of them going all the way.

Kane337

December 24th, 2010
10:35 am

Go Falcons!!!!

ATLFalcons4Eva

December 24th, 2010
10:37 am

Go Falcons!
Go Hawks!
Go Thrashers!
Go Braves!
And a very special Geaux Saints Fans. . . BACK TO THE SWAMP!

Steve

December 24th, 2010
10:39 am

Falcons win Super Bowl
Braves take the Wild Card again in 2011
Thrashers make the playoffs
UGA rebounds and goes 10-2 before a bowl and wins the SEC
Tech and the Hawks though, who cares?

NCBravesFan

December 24th, 2010
10:48 am

The Mayan calendar suggests the world will end in late 2012. Perhaps now we know why!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lee Rochester. Lee Rochester said: RT @EricDye: Falcons can lead way to an Atlanta sports grand slam http://t.co/qMUe9ZN #nfl #nba #nhl #mlb [...]

norman

December 24th, 2010
10:57 am

Just think Schultz, you are probably going to cover the Falcons in a nice cozy, warm dome this Monday night. Or you could be covering them in an outside arena in uncomfortable conditions, like what Blanks wants. Which do you prefer?

Dr. Warren

December 24th, 2010
10:57 am

I’m currently in Japan. Everybody here I talk to knows about Atlanta, especially because of the Olympics and Coke, and in several cases, the Braves. One middle aged guy recalled when Hank Aaron came here in ‘74 to battle the Japanese home run king.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Randy Osborn. Randy Osborn said: Do work #atl RT @JeffSchultzAJC Falcons can lead way to an Atlanta sports grand slam http://bit.ly/ei7RTw [...]

Erik the Elf

December 24th, 2010
11:02 am

Great job as usual, Jeff!! Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Who dat? Falcons! Beat dem Saints? Falcons!! RISE UP DIRTY BIRDS!!

1eyedJack

December 24th, 2010
11:02 am

Football was invented as an outdoor sport.

Lou Holtz is a stammering,slurring moron

December 24th, 2010
11:16 am

Like I said in an earlier blog…. for Christmas I hope Falcons get a LATE first round draft pick. Very late.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

December 24th, 2010
11:17 am

that would be sweet if the Falcons can win it all. I’m born & raised here and have suffered to much over the years.

urm...

December 24th, 2010
11:19 am

Jack,

Actually all these sports were invented outdoors ;)

D Man

December 24th, 2010
11:23 am

Is it too much to wish for a superbowl win this year after 44 years of suffering?

Falcons are the best team in the NFL no matter what anyone else thinks. “you are what your record says you are”. 12 and 2 baby…

Steve

December 24th, 2010
11:24 am

D Man, I love the Falcons more then anyone, but the Pats scare me. I would say the Falcons are the second best.

D Man

December 24th, 2010
11:30 am

Nope, Steve you are wrong. The falcons are better because they allow less points on defense and are similar on offense. Pats are ranked first on scoring offense and 28 th on scoring defense. Falcons are forth on offense and defense and when you put the two together, the falcons are best in the NFL. Go look up the stats that espn is not talking about. Plus our record shows that.

Mike "CON" Vick

December 24th, 2010
11:38 am

Steve, before the season started, I thought the Falcons were a year or two away. Hoped for the wild-card (I thought the Aints would run away with the division) and maybe a first round win. Now, they have real chance to go to the SB.

I’m just gonna enjoy it until it ends. If they fall short of becomming the SB champs, it will be a little bit disappointing, but it will be ok because I am confident that this franchise will compete next season, and the next… We never had that!

collegeballfan

December 24th, 2010
11:40 am

OK on all this pro stuff, but I have problems with the Jackets, Volunteers and Bulldogs. Can we borrow Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy
or whatever the pros are using this year?

And then GSU losses to Delaware. Delaware! Ain’t that the place where witches still run for office?

And a Merry Christmas to all!

MWC

December 24th, 2010
11:41 am

Great work Jeff.
Happy Holidays to you and your family.

D Man

December 24th, 2010
11:42 am

Think about it. Besides wins and losses, what is .the most important stats on offense and defense? ESPN thinks total yards is the most important stat and basis there top offense and defense rankings on yards allowed and gained. Yards don’t win games, points do. Falcons are the best overall team in the NFL when you look at points scoring average and points allowed average. Atlanta is Much better than new England, Philly, Chicago, New Orleans or any team. Embrace it Atlanta, the Falcons are the best team in the NFL.

"Chef" Tim Dix

December 24th, 2010
11:43 am

Pass the bottle Jeff.

Mike "CON" Vick

December 24th, 2010
11:44 am

D Man, If we destroy the Aints Monday, I may believe that, too. Lets kick their butts!

Steve

December 24th, 2010
11:45 am

Not trying to argue, just stating my opinion. Go Falcons!

Who Dat Nation

December 24th, 2010
11:49 am

The pigeons will lose the first game of the playoffs, the saints will win it all again

D Man

December 24th, 2010
11:51 am

Steve, not arguing either, I love spreading the word that the falcons are the best team in the NFL. I’m going to keep saying it as long as they keep winning because I don’t get that chance very often. Seems like I need to educate the Atlanta fans because they are abused by bad journalism on espn. Espn is so bias to the northern teams. They will do anything to talk up those teams. We need a new sports channel for the south…

DawginOH

December 24th, 2010
11:53 am

Keeping my fingers crossed for them all. Go ATL teams!!

Steve

December 24th, 2010
11:55 am

Who do people from New Orleans continue to make themselves look bad? We all know they are a bunch of poor people and that they are uneducated but the say that “Who Dat” thing. Unreal. If I were president I would cut the state of Louisiana away and let it float into the ocean.

Steve

December 24th, 2010
11:56 am

Why, not who.

Be Content!!!!

December 24th, 2010
11:59 am

Ok Atlanta be content about making the playoff because you “AIN’T” gonna win nuttin’ !!!” WHO DAT!!!

Let us know when you get a ring for anything this decade!!! Settling for the playoffs is so Atlanta!!!

LMAO You said it right Shcultzy You were a city of losers and still are!!!!

Steve

December 24th, 2010
12:01 pm

“Be Content,” another thug from New Orleans. Shouldn’t you be out killing or stealing or something?

Be Content!!!!

December 24th, 2010
12:02 pm

Only in Atlanta can the poster be over joyed about just making it to the playoff. SO ATLANTA!!!!! Just like having to winning seasons in a row. WOW!!! LMAO!!!! WHO DAT!!!!

al

December 24th, 2010
12:04 pm

Who Dat Nation

December 24th, 2010
12:05 pm

Wow steve great comeback from a dumb falcons fan that can’t spell

Steve

December 24th, 2010
12:06 pm

New Orleans Saints all time record – 285-382-5. HA HA

Steve

December 24th, 2010
12:07 pm

Oh I can’t? Did you not see the post below by first one thug? What a moron.

Be Content!!!! Stevey

December 24th, 2010
12:07 pm

Its Christmas and you’re going to make the playoffs!!!! WOW shouldn’t you be out celebrating because Christmas will be over come Monday Night!!! But it’s okay because you imbeciles can get all excited now you made the playoffs. So sorry that’s all that going to happen for ya’ll this year. Get back with when you guy actually win something.

Who Dat Nation, Steve is a GEEK

December 24th, 2010
12:09 pm

Hey Steve, after the pigeons lose monday how will the CROW taste idiot

urm...

December 24th, 2010
12:10 pm

who dat? da falcons dat who. looking back at u from our rear view mirror.

Be Content!!!! Stevey

December 24th, 2010
12:12 pm

Stevey you seem to be upset??? I am just complimenting the ATL community of sports for you endurance for losing!!! LMAO