Atlanta Spirit hammered again in all-sports franchise rankings

Braves fared well in rankings, current problems notwithstanding.

Braves fared well in rankings, current problems notwithstanding.

I acknowledge that we don’t need any more affirmation of the pecking order of Atlanta’s major pro sports franchises — or more specifically, their owners. But it’s always comforting when a national publication echoes the same sentiment.

And so, we give you ESPN The Magazine’s ninth annual “Ultimate Standings” of 2011. The magazine ranked all 122 sports franchises, including those who might be moving to Winnipeg. Their eight criteria were bang for the buck (wins vs.

Guess which team ranked No. 122 (last) in ownership?

Guess which team ranked No. 122 (last) in ownership?

revenue in the last three years); fan relations; ownership (the word “honesty” was invoked); affordability; stadium experience; players (effort and likability); coaching; and title track (championships won or expected in lifetime of current fans).

The Braves and Falcons fared well, ranking 19th and 20th, respectively. You’ll have to go lower to find the Hawks and Thrashers.

Lower. Still lower. Almost there.

The Hawks rank 103rd, a huge drop of 59 spots from last year’s No. 44 ranking. The Thrashers rank 115, and it’s not surprising what dragged them down the most — ownership.

The Atlanta Spirit ranked last in the ownership category for the Thrashers. There’s the Spirit’s kick out the door. Not surprisingly, the team had a decent ranking (65th) in the bang-for-the buck category, a testament to the roster fix done by general manager Rick Dudley and the coaching of Craig Ramsay. (Makes you wonder why the new owners in Winnipeg already have decided not to keep Dudley and may part with Ramsay.)

The Hawks drew their lowest rankings in effort and likability of players (118), coaching (114) and title track (114).

The top franchise is the Green Bay Packers, but you can find them all on this link. Just click the team for more details. The bottom feeder: The Cincinnati Bengals.

Some franchises, even the Atlanta Spirit can equal.

Following is analysis from the article on each Atlanta team:


Last Year’s Rank: 15
Title Track: 29
Ownership: 45
Coaching: 58
Players: 25
Fan Relations: 24
Affordability: 24
Stadium Experience: 55
Bang for the Buck: 30

The names may change in Atlanta, but the franchise rolls on, as 15 postseason appearances since 1991 will attest. Atlanta is also a model of stability in our rankings — its No. 19 finish marks the sixth year in seven the team has cracked our top 25, and it has never ranked lower than 40. Once Bobby Cox retired, the Braves dropped an expected 50 spots in Coaching, so new skipper Fredi Gonzalez, a Cox disciple, has some ground to make up. But with help from homegrown stars Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, that shouldn’t be a problem. Meanwhile with an average ticket price of $19.38, Braves games remain a solid value, and the new food and beverage lineup at Turner Field has been well-received. When you’re in town, check out McCann’s Burgers, serving fries, sweet onion rings and milkshakes. But don’t expect to see the All-Star catcher there. He spent the off-season dropping 10 pounds. He knows the bar has been set high.


Last Year’s Rank: 36
Title Track: 57
Ownership: 20
Coaching: 15
Players: 34
Fan Relations: 40
Affordability: 60
Stadium Experience: 92
Bang for the Buck: 7

At the NFL draft in April, one of the biggest — and most-criticized — moves came when the Falcons traded five picks to get the sixth overall selection and used it to pick Alabama receiver Julio Jones. It was a risky move, certainly, but Atlanta’s fans seemed to take it in stride. They know better than to be critical of the guys in charge. After all, not much has gone wrong for this team recently, thanks in large part to the roster skills of GM Thomas Dimitroff and the on-field schemes of head coach Mike Smith, which have pushed the Falcons into the NFL’s top five in both Ownership (No. 20 overall) and Coaching (No. 15). Since Dimitroff and Smith arrived in 2008, the Falcons have enjoyed three straight winning seasons — a franchise-first capped by an NFC-best 13-3 record last year. For all the debate the draft-day deal stirred among insiders, Falcons fans have faith that Jones will team up with Roddy White (NFL-high 115 receptions in 2010) and Matt Ryan (career-bests in passing yards and TDs; first Pro Bowl appearance) to form one of football’s most prolific air attacks. Now, what to do about that Stadium Experience ranking? Well, owner Arthur Blank is developing a plan to replace the Georgia Dome with a new open-air stadium in downtown Atlanta. That would sure help — as would a Super Bowl appearance by Ryan and Co.

HAWKS (103)

Last Year’s Rank: 44
Title Track: 118
Ownership: 101
Coaching: 118
Players: 120
Fan Relations: 114
Affordability: 86
Stadium Experience: 98
Bang for the Buck: 13

Okay, you try figuring out the Hawks. A year ago, with fans raving about the Al Horford and Joe Johnson combo (and that 53-win season), Atlanta jumped 36 spots in the Standings. The Hawks were poised to take that elusive next step. Fans should’ve seen the red flags when GM Rick Sund brought in former assistant Larry Drew to replace much-maligned head coach Mike Woodson. The Hawks regressed under Drew’s tutelage in the regular season (nine fewer wins) but were surprisingly tough in the playoffs, reaching the conference semifinals. Still, local bloggers want the front office blown up and the roster changed. “We have watched the Hawks be consistently inconsistent for over two years,” writes Hawk Str8Talk at Peachtree Hoops, “and now it’s time to make moves.” That negativity seems pervasive right now, as the Hawks dropped in nearly every category, from Ownership and Players (a free-fall from 47 to 120, even though the roster is largely unchanged) to Fan Relations and Stadium Experience. How strange are things in Atlanta these days? Even though the average cost of going to a game has dropped 21.7 percent since last year — the biggest drop in the NBA — Hawks games are still only the 86th-best deal out there, 39 spots worse than last year. Despite all that, they are ranked 13th in Bang for the Buck. Maybe it’s time we fly in some Sacramento fans to give folks in the ATL a little perspective.


Last Year’s Rank: 109
Title Track: 120
Ownership: 122
Coaching: 103
Players: 110
Fan Relations: 107
Affordability: 99
Stadium Experience: 102
Bang for the Buck: 65

The rumors finally proved true for the Thrashers, but not until fans had watched the dismal 2010-11 season draw to a close. New faces in both the GM’s and president’s offices didn’t bring enough positive change to keep the franchise in the ATL for another year. Nor did a major multiplayer trade last June. Instead, the changes led to the worst Ownership ranking out of all 122 major pro teams. So while the Atlanta Hawks — also operated by the Atlanta Spirit Group — were making headlines by reaching the 2011 NBA playoffs, their oft-ignored sibling began packing for Winnipeg. The ASG, which announced in January that it had lost $130 million over the past six years, had been trying to dump the team since 2005, doing business on the cheap. As a result, the Thrashers made just one playoff appearance in 11 seasons. Perhaps the writing was on the wall in February 2010 when the team traded Ilya Kovalchuk, its franchise player and one of the league’s top scorers. Atlanta still averaged 13,469 fans per game for the swan song, boasting a roster that featured a record five African-American players. Otherwise, there’s not much praise to go with the blame. Usually we’d tell a fan base, “There’s always next season.” But, for Atlanta fans, there won’t be one.

Once again, no love for the Atlanta Spirit.

76 comments Add your comment

Atlanta native

June 16th, 2011
1:29 pm

If the Atlanta Spirit group had any brains, and that is debateable, they should sell the Hawks immediately. You messed us over with the Thrashers, but we still should support your incompetence by coming to Hawks’ games. Yeah, right.


June 16th, 2011
1:30 pm

Where have you gone, Ted Turner, Atlanta turns its lonely eyes to you….


June 16th, 2011
1:31 pm


Mr. The Sky Is Falling

June 16th, 2011
1:32 pm

Hopefully after the Hawks are sold, we’ll never see the likes of the ASG in Atlanta, again.

Good read, Jeff, thanks.

Astro Joe

June 16th, 2011
1:42 pm

An almost 22% drop in the cost to attend a game AFTER a 53-win season? One wonders if the fact that they “lost better” in the 2nd round will allow the ASG to fill seats without another 20% discount. At some point, they will have to break-up this sacred core and deliver a better product or they will have to “dispose of” the Hawks. Meanwhile, I assume the ASG are still in search of a sugar daddy to help them run the operation?

Leon "Pooch-Kick" Trotsky

June 16th, 2011
1:46 pm

Bring back the Knights!

Jeff, I took my wife to the beauty salon this morning. She was there for two hours. And that was just for an estimate.


June 16th, 2011
1:47 pm


Ted M

June 16th, 2011
1:50 pm

The Hawks aren’t low enough and the Thrashers should be higher because they are rid of the Spirit ownership.


June 16th, 2011
1:59 pm

Looks like the ASG narrowly beat out Al Davis. Good for them.


June 16th, 2011
2:05 pm

thanks Mr. Turner you sold to right people including your relatives for discount price. last you cared, what torture and curse on thousands Atlanta loyal fans you action affected. good luck in buffalo busyness. please take to Montana this asg clowns. great Atlanta city deserve better. just jealous to Boston, Philly, Dallas. we not worse. just need remove asg cancer asap.

Up Yours ASG

June 16th, 2011
2:13 pm

More proof Levenson & Gearon Jr. SUCK.

Atlanta Spirit, YOU SUCK, DEAL WITH IT


June 16th, 2011
2:44 pm

I say again, who is it on the Hawks that one needs to pay to see?

Perhaps only Josh Smith. Maybe Jeff Teague if you want to bet on the come.

They spend the worst money of any team in the league and it’s not close.

It’s the worst Front Office in all of sports. It’s not only that they can’t find a superstar, they can’t even evaluate talent well.

Marvin Williams made 7 million dollars. The guy couldn’t start at LA Fitness.


June 16th, 2011
2:45 pm

mike– Ted Turner did NOT sell the Thrashers to asg. They were sold by Time Warner– Ted was in no way part of the decision– in 2003 he had no power to make a deal like that.

Up Yours ASG

June 16th, 2011
2:48 pm

Everyone hates the ASG.

Trojan condoms should use pictures of Levenson & Gearon Jr. to enhance sales in the Atlanta market.

Lester Archambeau

June 16th, 2011
2:56 pm

They could be giving away Hawks tickets and I’d never step foot in Phillips again. Not until the ASG is gone will I financially assist in the Hawks or any other event in Phillips.



June 16th, 2011
2:57 pm

I look forward to seeing the new “ASG Rules” in the NHL and maybe NBA Ownership Vetting Guidelines. This collection of lawsuit-minded misfits should have never been given the keys to an NHL franchise. Let alone and NBA franchise and an arena. I hope, for the sake of any expansion or re-located teams in the future that the ASG goes down in history as the absolute worst. I would hate to see any group or owner be worse than these clowns.


June 16th, 2011
3:13 pm

I can’t help but wonder how the men of the Spirit feel about how they’re perceived?

Lots of hate, much of it earned. They’re learning that they don’t really own the sports franchises: the fans do. The Spirit are caretakers who are responsible for maintaining the health of the franchises.

When they fail — worse, when they’re incompetent and entangled in legal issues — then they’ve earned the scorn of the true owners of the teams: the fans.

They’ve brought all of this on themselves. First, with a terrible ownership contract that embroiled them in a horrendous lawsuit. Then, with poor choices in partners. And finally, with disingenuous public pronouncements about the Thrashers and Hawks. Lies, actually.

They probably see themselves are white knights who tried to keep local ownership when AOL Time Warner wanted to sell. Everyone else sees them as underfunded, incompetent and dishonest.

Sage of Bluesland

June 16th, 2011
3:27 pm

For what was done concerning the Thrashers, I’ll never step foot in Philips again. I’ll never eat at Ted’s again. I’ll never watch the Hawks again.

I refuse to subsidize incompetence.

You reap what you sow.

Ted Turner

June 16th, 2011
3:36 pm

I don’t want you at my restaurant anyway, loser.


June 16th, 2011
3:37 pm

Glad to see my Packers on top!

Najeh Davenpoop

June 16th, 2011
3:52 pm

For crying out loud reopen the Hawks blog, AJC people.

Bruce Levenson

June 16th, 2011
3:54 pm

No. Deal with it!

Jim Mora Jr.

June 16th, 2011
4:16 pm

How funny that the news breaks that there is a $500 million bid for the Hawks, Thrashers, and Phillips, and Michael Gearon Jr. is unavailable for comment because he is on vacation in Asia.

Guess those were crocodile tears he was shedding on 680 The Fan the day they announced the sale of the Thrashers.


June 16th, 2011
4:18 pm

I would say the ASG is the worse ever, but I haven’t lived in Cleveland. They have had more failures than could ever be matched.
The fans of the Cavs, Indians and Browns can provide us stories we could never match (Disco night, Modell moving at midnight, Ted Stepien)
History tells us that it will be hard to duplicate those feats that Cleveland has had to endure, and I didn’t even add LeBron to the mix.
Their fans dont’ deserve the atrocities they have experienced.

Its a good thing for the ASG that they aren’t in a town like Cleveland. Their families might have to be under protected custody.
They have settled for average and complained about money since they complained about Steve Belkin. For a group who tried to convince the fans of this town to support them and support them even more, and then go out and sell Kobe jerseys and have crowds at Philips sound more like a home game for the Bulls and Knicks, these clowns apparently never got it. When they have finally sold the Hawks, then we can being recovering from their turmoil. Until then, being average is the best they can offer. And that doesn’t even talk about how they jerked around Thrasher fans.

Good riddance to the ASG and if they continue to lose $$ over their pleas for fans to support them more, point to Joe Johnson. He simply isn’t worth the $$ he was paid to play a supporting role on this team.

Call Billy Knight and ask him if he knows what a superstar looks like…he definitely didn’t live up to his title of the ‘basketball expert’ did he?


June 16th, 2011
4:23 pm

5 African americans on a HOCKEY team? Wish I had Terrence Moore on speed dial.

Rankin Smith

June 16th, 2011
4:34 pm

Suddenly, Vancouver is part of America. Moron.

Matt from MN

June 16th, 2011
4:46 pm

Sit on it and spin, ASG. Scumbags!

Astro Joe

June 16th, 2011
4:53 pm

Almost as troubling as the ASG is the notion that the AJC would run an article lauding Atlanta’s viewership of the NBA Finals while not offering AJC website readers with an opportunity to blog about the Finals since a few hours BEFORE the deciding game of the series. If Atlanta is an NBA hot-bed, seemingly, the single newspaper would want to exploit that by offering an NBA blog to readers year-round (and certainly during the single most important game of the NBA season). Has the ASG infiltrated the AJC?

hotrod hockey fan

June 16th, 2011
5:13 pm

Don’t forget about the GM for the Hawks. He also along with the coaches and owners suck. ASG is going to have to sale the Hawks and arena because they can’t afford them. With the NBA going on strike July 1, I hope nothing is in the building and know one supports the ASG owners.


June 16th, 2011
5:21 pm

WingsRule, do you really think that Ted just merged with time Warner sitting on board of directors time Warner have nothing to say in deal hundred thousand less than originally agreed with McDavid to some group including his son in law. and remember McDavid got 240 thousands after litigation for break in agreement. it smell rats for me, and i blame him.


June 16th, 2011
5:28 pm

Wow, I was close! I had them at 123. Their image could use a little polish. Not to mention telling the truth 1 out of 10 times. I see 121 next year, no problem. Couple more “pick your Thrasher seats” nights and they will move right up this poll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lambert Gone Fishin'

June 16th, 2011
5:33 pm

I will not spend a dime on the Hawks (tickets or merchandise) and not a dime will be spent in Philips (no concerts, etc.) until the ASG no longer owns them. Full boycott.


June 16th, 2011
5:44 pm

Good ownership means good GM’s, and smart moves………the Hawk’s are at the bottom of the league for a reason.


June 16th, 2011
6:27 pm

I hope like HELL the hawks move to Seattle, no need for nba in Atlanta, a COMPLETE WASTE of Time and Money !!!!

Burn in HELL Liar snydel, you BITCH and same for Coward gearon and gutless levenson, still waiting levenson you coward !!!

Buddy Grizzard

June 16th, 2011
6:35 pm

Atlanta fans should boycott the Atlanta Hawks until the ASG sells the franchise. After selling the 31st pick of last year’s draft to New Jersey for $3m, the Hawks ceased negotiations with NBA champion defensive coordinator Dwayne Casey and instead hired possibly the single most incompetent head coach in all of the 4 major pro sports, ostensibly to save money.

Joe Johnson doesn’t care if the fans show up and they gave him $120m. Why are we showing up?


June 16th, 2011
6:57 pm

If we do be sure u know if ASG was to sale n try Move The Lovely Mayor reed would jump hand jumps keep hawks here we need them…Not need Thrashers he said who cares at all so what happens ASG up for sale reed crys racism of that….I still would love see the Fans to Hawks Opener and it will be full no matter what u say….Lets do somethin about come to Home opener wearin all Thrashers Jerseys to NBA opener all season…Now if ASG n Philips Try to force them off turn u Tails around to Ticket office for refund n say….Here u arena see it just filled with staffs make look full…also need start wearin Thrashers uniforms durin weekend series at Turner field show ASG again how we feel about it…Oh and way go Boston bruins for beatin Vancouver too…See what happens when canada gets atlanta team again in 79 Ny Islanders won First stanley cup and Boston won to after we were sold again…

Paul in RDU

June 16th, 2011
6:59 pm

I would have put Barcelona at #1


June 16th, 2011
8:26 pm

Najeh Davenpoop
June 16th, 2011
3:52 pm
“For crying out loud reopen the Hawks blog, AJC people.”

What? You mean you don’t want talk UGA football 24 hrs/7 days a week/365 days a year? You mean you don’t want to talk about the ills of all of GA on the cesspool that is the City of Atlanta every minute of every day on 15 other AJC blogs? Najeh, you sure can’t be myopic like 98% of these bloggers!

Sherry Taylor

June 16th, 2011
8:29 pm

Ted is out in Montana roaming where the buffalo do, he could care less.

John Berkman

June 16th, 2011
11:49 pm

Atlanta is a terrible sports city I feel ashamed to live in such a crappy sports town.

Opportunity Franchise

June 17th, 2011
3:13 am

Thanks for this post! I knew something new.

Buddy Grizzard

June 17th, 2011
5:58 am

For those of you either wanting the Hawks to be sold and moved to another city or concerned that the Hawks might be moved to another city, the Hawks aren’t going anywhere. There is a provision with the bonds for Phillips Arena that require the team to remain in Atlanta until the bonds are paid off, which I think will happen in 2029 or something.


June 17th, 2011
6:10 am

saints are no. 3 in that poll!


June 17th, 2011
8:17 am

Thrashers only had one African-American. 3 of the black players were from Canada, and one from Sweden.

What a tool

June 17th, 2011
8:31 am

Here’s a new one. Rutherford Seydel is running around telling people that HE VOTED AGAINST SELLING THE THRASHERS.

Sorry, but you don’t get a free pass, even if it is true. You are a part owner, and just as guilty as Gearon and Levenson of Pre-Meditated Murder of the Thrashers.

But if you want to get things off of your shoulders, then come clean to the public. Tell the truth about how the plan from the beginning was acquire the Thrashers only as an asset and to “discard” them as soon as possible. Explain to us how you and your co-conspirators made it impossible for anyone else to keep the Thrashers here. Tell us the real reasons why the 5 interested parties walked away. And tell us why, while you were claiming to do all you could to save the Thrashers, you entered into an exclusive bargaining period for the Hawks and more importantly Philips operating rights, making it impossible for anyone interested in purchasing the Thrashers to negotiate on even a portion of Philips op-rights.

It Ain't Rocket Science

June 17th, 2011
11:26 am

It is pretty obvious that selling the Thrashers will not help them managed the Hawks any better. I sure wish some local business man or woman would make them an offer they can’t refuse. Otherwise, how long will it be until they have ruined the Hawks as well.

Mike is Back

June 17th, 2011
12:18 pm

Schultz, I think ASG was doom from the start…I think their chicken is just coming home to roost. Their listlessness knows no bounds…ASG, pleeeeeeeeease sell the other team already!!!!lol


June 17th, 2011
1:53 pm

I put my Thrasher jersey’s, hockey sticks, 5 years of Thrasher programs and my heart on the curb for trash pickup today. Gave away the rest of my hockey gear to Goodwill. I won’t miss the over priced parking fees, running the gantlet of city dwelling panhandlers and pickpockets just to watch an at best mediocre hockey team get drubbed again. I’m done with this city and I’m done with this league. The NHL walked through fire to keep the yotes in Phx but not even a whimper of help for the Thrashers. Shame on all of you.


June 17th, 2011
2:09 pm

It’s time for new ownership. I really think that hockey could have survived in Atlanta. It’s embarrassing to loose it twice…to a Canadian city. Look at how successful the Tampa Bay franchise is doing. It’s also a smaller market. Maybe someday, hockey will come back to Atlanta and stay.


June 17th, 2011
2:44 pm

What a tool: I can’t figure out why ASG wouldn’t have wanted to sell their assets (in this case the Thrashers) to somebody willing to keep the team in Atlanta. Now they’ve got a large building with no events for at least 44 dates, and that is quite a bit of lost revenue. What would have been their motive to see the Thrashers move elsewhere? Also, who are the 5 parties that were interested in purchasing the Thrashers, and why haven’t they come public to indicate their reasons for walking away from the deal? I’ve heard these allegations numerous times before, but they don’t make sense. ASG sold the Thrashers for $110 million, considerably less than the $140 million the NHL paid for the Coyotes and the $150 million that is the Forbes valuation for each the Islanders and Blue Jackets. They didn’t make out in running the Thrashers into the ground, they lost a ton. Are you implying that this group is masochistic?