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

J-Man

December 26th, 2010
11:06 am

Well its obvious that Choke is a Vick fan and/or a Saints fan. If Matt Ryan is sooooooo bad how do you explain the 12-2 record or the 19-1 Home record. He may only pass for 200 yards a game but HE WINS GAMES. Guess you gonna tell me Kyle Orton is a better QB because he has more passing yards. I’m still a Vick fan and I’ll root for him unless he plays the Falcons, but to stay ignorant to the facts is laughable. Did Matty Ice steal your girl or something for you to hold this grudge for over 3 YEARS. Geeze dude get over it, move forward and be a better person.

JSS

December 26th, 2010
11:20 am

Wow, I actually saw a person use a derision not used since the late 80’s! Seriously, why were you folks on here deriding each other on a perfectly good day off yesterday?

Hit A Single

December 26th, 2010
11:30 am

I hate that Katrina happened, but New Orleans is not the only place to suffer tragedy. How many tornadoes have hit the midwest and killed many and destroyed life long possessions and you didn’t see the luting, killings and destruction you saw in New Orleans. The bottom line is that the home folks, the mayor and govenor didn’t take care of business. Welcome to Atlanta Saints and let’s have another good one. Go Falcons!

Fred Macmurray

December 26th, 2010
12:12 pm

JSS,,, I’m a big fan of late 80’s Derision,,, could you be more specific.

JSS

December 26th, 2010
12:27 pm

“How many tornadoes have hit the midwest and killed many and destroyed life long possessions and you didn’t see the luting, killings and destruction you saw in New Orleans.”

I don’t know what “luting,” but I do know what “looting” happens to be… And when singular disasters happened across the Midwest, Georgia, and the Western climes. 3/4 of the populace didn’t run off and leave the rest of their neighbors and fellow citizens (poor, indigent, mentally challenged, or infirmed) to their own devices for more than a week without an symbol of hope. Then there are the “law and order” bloggers who’d pick up a rifle or a taser and spend millions to protect property before they’d spend a dime or moment of effort to give a fellow human being a bottle of water or simple place to relieve themselves without sleeping in their own waste… There is a silly segment that live their lives vicariously on these blogs… The viciousness that some of you exhibit easily explains why our children have no sense of right or wrong.

It’s a silly football game that you obsessing about… “Well they started it!” What are you children? You’re grown, stop with this bashing on the 2,000 plus dead of Katrina!

What happened across the Gulf Coast was not a game… The death of a man of a man who treated me like a son simply because I dated his daughter many years ago is a testament of that “fact.” Rodney Thomas, Jr. was educated (had a Masters in Economics), a good father, a great husband of more than 40 years, and moreover was simply a man doing the right thing. He stayed in New Orleans simply to make sure that 3 neighbors who could not be evacuated in time were taken care of even though he was 78 years old…

So, for all of you jack_ _ _ es decrying how the citizens of New Orleans behaved. Go down to the Atlanta History Center and read the accounts of the good citizens of Atlanta following the withdrawal of Union troops from the city. Better yet, see how your forefathers behaved between September 22-24, 1906… If you still feel the need to rag on the people of New Orleans then, well you have no sense of human morality.

President Barock H. Obama

December 26th, 2010
12:35 pm

JSS………….wow.

Fred Macmurray

December 26th, 2010
12:44 pm

JSS,, thanks for clearing that up for me..

Dream Fan

December 26th, 2010
1:01 pm

Anyone hear of the Atlanta Dream?! Conference champions after only 3 years as a franchise? Oh, and rookie of the year Angel McCoughtry? Yeah, they are pretty good too!

Fred Macmurray

December 26th, 2010
1:02 pm

Ok,, If we’re done with the social commentary I would just like to add
GO FALCONS,, CRUSH THE AINTS!!

JSS

December 26th, 2010
1:12 pm

@ Dream Fan…
Yep, got my tickets for the season opener on June 5th vs the Liberty… Jeff Schultz is anti-WNBA; he won’t say anything good about them… The women sport bashers will come out the wood works now… “Believe in the Dream,” they actually win playoff games!

St. Clarkston

December 26th, 2010
1:16 pm

Thank god for the Thrashers. otherwise the whiny northern transplants would have nothing to do.

JSS

December 26th, 2010
1:32 pm

Do you mean “whine” like we are exposed to daily by the “Southern natives” who come on here and brag about “6-6″ juggernauts and “We Run This State” (maybe because they never leave this State)? Seriously, do you really want to go there?

Falcon Jim

December 26th, 2010
2:36 pm

Bashing white Southerners. The last vestige of BIGOTRY allowed in this country.

Stokley Carmichael

December 26th, 2010
2:48 pm

That be right, Jim.

JSS

December 26th, 2010
3:19 pm

“Bashing white Southerners,” the last time I looked at the word: “Southerners” it meant anyone born in the South. Son, I don’t use “code words.” If I wanted to decry Caucasians, I’d say what was on my mind. Obviously, it is not on my mind… But you’ve got a big chip on it regarding that. I’ve pointed out before that my family has never been ashamed of that side of our history. We’ve been ashamed of what they did when they had a choice to do better…

By the way, obese and ugly people will trade with the poor bashed “white Southerners” any day of the week… “Oh Woe, the World is picking on ye!”

Falcon Jim

December 26th, 2010
3:41 pm

I stick by what I said. And I’m nobody’s “son.” Old and parents dead.

Michael Morris

December 26th, 2010
3:58 pm

All nice. I love sports. A true grand slam would mean that violence in our area has been greatly reduced, that kids actually learn in public schools and become productive citizens – that we solve real problems, not just get happy and distracted by games played by kids.

JSS

December 26th, 2010
8:52 pm

And I’ll say it again: “what they did when they had a choice to do better.” It’s is your choice to keep harping that myth that someone is showing bigotry towards “White Southerners.” There is no greater fallacy remaining on our landscape… Enjoy that lonely view, the rest of the World is sweeping past on the way to the 22nd century…

Falcon Jim

December 26th, 2010
10:01 pm

Simply odd and delusional.

Paul Hewitt

December 27th, 2010
11:28 am

Just think, where would the Hawks be if I was their coach….

[...] – Atlanta can suddenly hit pro sports utopia [...]

Rabid Dawg

December 27th, 2010
4:33 pm

born in 65……

15 years later…UGA won the ncaa championship in football.

15 years later…the Braves won the world series.

Well Falcons….guess what? its 15 years later.