There’s competence in Atlanta sports, and woe is me

I’m a little distressed. I’m just now realizing I might not have a job much longer, and it has nothing to do with the AJC or the state of the newspaper industry. It has to do with the state of the local pro teams. They appear, horror of horrors, to be doing things right.

Good news for fans.

Bad news for the nit-picking pundit.

It hit me this week. I posted an item on the Falcons’ apparently successful offseason. I posted another on Don Waddell improving the Thrashers, yet another on the Hawks keeping Mike Bibby. And then I got to thinking, “This is Atlanta! We’re supposed to be Losersville! What in the name of Marion Campell is going on?”

I don’t mind telling you I’m at a loss. I can’t remember a time when the local franchises seemed so clever. (Then again, I’ve only been here a quarter-century.) The Falcons just went 11-5, traded for Tony Gonzalez and loaded up on defense in the draft. The Hawks had a winning season, won a playoff series, traded for Jamal Crawford, drafted Jeff Teague and re-signed Bibby. The Thrashers hired Rick Dudley as assistant GM, picked Evander Kane, traded for Pavel Kubina and signed Nik Antropov. In good conscience, I can’t find fault with any of the above.

We can argue a bit about the Braves, who do have a losing record, but honesty compels me to report I thought Frank Wren did good work over the winter. And the move of his I questioned most — trading for Javier Vazquez — has worked out the best. Yes, Wren can be tin-eared when it comes to PR, but he has taken a team that lost 90 games last season and has made it competitive.

We Atlantans are, sports-wise, in a rare era of relatively good feeling. Nobody has traded away a Brett, be it Butler or Favre, lately. Nobody has drafted Aundray Bruce or Adam Keefe. Nobody has fired Joe Torre and replaced him with Eddie Haas or rehired the aforementioned Marion Campbell.

And me, I’ve got nothing much to criticize. I can only bide my time until September. And here I sit, mouthing my new mantra: “Thank goodness for Willie Martinez.”

81 comments Add your comment


July 8th, 2009
6:27 am

Interesting point especially when you consider that the football teams at our major universities are doing well and may have a competitive rivalry again. They only sport there are still question marks with are their basketball teams though GT is expected to be a top 25 team this year. In fairness, we need to sit back and see how things turn out for the remainder of the year.


July 8th, 2009
6:58 am

“Thank goodness for Willie Martinez.”

That right there’s funny, I don’t care who you are! Good one, MB!


July 8th, 2009
7:20 am

Great article! Exciting times for sure!

Brad in Jasper

July 8th, 2009
7:24 am

The WM poke was funny, Mark. We can talk all day about the season as a whole, but I really think the first game at OSU will tell the tale on where UGA stands for the year.

The Braves frustrate me so. Man, I love to see good pitching – which we have – and even a half-arse offense – which we have – occasionally should have more good days than they’ve had. I get the feeling at the end of the reg season it just ain’t gonna be quite enough. Short by a hair.

No matter how the gnats and mutts jaw at each other, we can all look forward to see what the Falcons have in store for us in Matty and Mike’s second year. Wouldn’t be surprised by a deeper push into the postseason (nor would I be by an 8-8 season, either)

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 8th, 2009
7:25 am

MB, Martinez….funny. LMAO funny. Have to agree with you on Wren. I think the moves he made were pretty darn good. If he had the money available, I believe he could build a winner this year. But its not and we are stuck looking a mid level bats.


July 8th, 2009
7:30 am

Hey MB…………….but the results will be the SAME! NO Championships…………..


July 8th, 2009
7:32 am

It is an exciting time for sports in Loserville! Fuuny crack about Martinez. I agree with Brad on the 8-8 season. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.


July 8th, 2009
7:34 am

When you are writing in the wee hours of the a.m., do you find yourself getting delirious? I mean, “Frenchy, as in benchy” and “Thank goodness for Willie Martinez”? Good stuff!

Ashley in Ashford Park

July 8th, 2009
7:37 am

Keep up the good work, Mr. Bradley! I expect to see your next column in 1 hour and 30 minutes. You’re on the clock!


July 8th, 2009
7:42 am

5:32 articles are even a little much for you. Are their any programs for recovering columnists. You woke up in the wee hours and decided “man everything is great in Atlanta sports!”


July 8th, 2009
7:48 am

we’re on the right track, but this town needs consistency. i’ll be happy if the falcons can actually have back to back winning seasons. hawks & thrashers are shaping up nice (still would like to have at least another winning season for the thrashers and a playoff appearance that doesn’t result in a first round sweep). braves…well..they are the braves (major league pitching with minor league hitting). both college teams should have good years. may take a few years for loserville to wear off.

jeffrey d

July 8th, 2009
8:02 am

Does this mean you’re moving to Cleveland, Mark?


July 8th, 2009
8:17 am

Yes someday your childlike sports town may achieve greatness.

For my town (and I’m not going back) we already have done it several times.


July 8th, 2009
8:26 am

Yep…I must admit this Fall is shaping up to be very, very interesting…in a good way too!!!!!

tale of woe

July 8th, 2009
8:31 am

No…Woe is me…. :)


July 8th, 2009
8:32 am

Enter your comments here


July 8th, 2009
8:35 am

Hit the ##&*^&* send button to quick…Just give me back-to-back winning seasons for the Falcons. I have been pumped like this before only to have my dreams squashed. If there ever was a chance to do it, I think it is this year


July 8th, 2009
8:58 am

Well, at least it makes the Great Recession a little more bearable.


July 8th, 2009
9:00 am

Bobby Cox is unbelievable — his incompetence and lack of intelligence stick out like a sore thumb. How can you possibly justify moves like he made last night. In the top of the eigth, he is planning to pinch hit for the pitcher with Diaz who is is best available pinch hitter. But as it turns out the first two runners get on 1st and 2nd (no outs)- and it is an obvious situation where he will bunt — but instead of using a good bunting pinch hitter for the pitcher, he goes on and pinch hits with Diaz who has had only one bunt all season. Result is a pop up out and we end up not scoring. Not only did he not pinch hit with a good bunter but he also wasted Diaz (his best pinch hitter) who could have been needed later if the Cubs had tied the score. Absolutely so stupid that it is unbelievabel. And the sad sad thing is that similar actions by Cox are not unusual – he keeps doing things just this stupid game after game after game.

Willie Coyote

July 8th, 2009
9:07 am

Hopefully all of the new-found competancy will lead to some serious winning in the coming years. Maybe we can get some fans to show up at the venues also.

Atlanta Sports 1

July 8th, 2009
9:26 am


No doubt, each team is improving. Not sure if I agree with the Georgia Tech ‘Top 25′ thought. Reality (especially on defense – lost a lot of talent the last 2 years) is going to come down with a solid ‘thud’. 5 or 6 wins – maybe 7. Sometimes you take a step back before going forward.

Thrashers made some very good moves. Hawks should be solid. Both will make the playoffs, which compared to the past (I know the Hawks have been the last two years) is nothing to complain about.

The other concern is the Falcons. I do think they will be better, but it may not show up in wins – in fact, they may take a step back in that department. Why? Schedule. It is a very tough schedule. I think they are a year away.

Plus, being along the same mindset as MB concerns me. He usually writes to ’stir the pot’ – not to actually make sense.


July 8th, 2009
9:37 am

Ha, we’re not even a good loserville Mark, after all the lone championship…. came at the expense of Cleveland.

Imagine being in Cleveland that close to Pittsburgh where they have one of the best most watched teams in pro football and they just won a stanley cup yet their baseball team has been out of it since Sid slid.

Relax man even they are a 2 paper town.

Doyle, Winder

July 8th, 2009
9:38 am

As the late and VERY GREAT Lewis Grizzard once said, “I’m Bulldog born, Bulldog bred, and when I die I’ll be by God Bulldog dead”! Yea and Amen! Still, Mark, that crack about Willlie is funny as hell! Thanks!


July 8th, 2009
9:42 am

Bobby was not impressive last night. He bunts Prado (a hot hitter) on the first pitch after Mclouth walks to start the game, he bunts Diaz in the eight inning.

Mark Bradley

July 8th, 2009
9:42 am

Moving to Cleveland? I’ve already made a call to the Mayor of that great American city.

And Tale of Woe, I have to admit your line was funnier than my Willie Martinez jibe.

World Be Free

July 8th, 2009
9:50 am

Thrashers still need more veteran help. Still some good free agents out there. Young team will only improve.


July 8th, 2009
9:51 am

You said it yourself: “For my town (and I’m not going back) we already have done it several times.”

Pitt might have had some success lately in the field of sports, but nobody wants to live in that awful city. How many Steeler or Penguin fans actually LIVE in Pittsburgh?


July 8th, 2009
10:02 am

@Atlanta Sports 1: I think he meant Top 25 in Basketball, not football. Though I think Tech will still be top 25 in football, having talked to some of the players.


July 8th, 2009
10:14 am

Let’s not break any limbs congratulating ourselves over some off field moves; the games themselves are yet to be played and to refine an old cliche: there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.

THE BEST Falcons Offseason Ever

July 8th, 2009
10:20 am

In addition to acquiring the magnificent Tony Gonzalez, FALCONS NATION got rid of that undereducated, drug-using, dog-raping, criminal, sub-par QB and top-shelf buffoon Mike Vick and his legion of inarticulate “Supporters.” No more FreakNik at the Georgia Dome on Sundays, just FOOTBALL, Baby!

GO, FALCONS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!


July 8th, 2009
10:20 am

sub 500 team yeaaa FIRE WREN


July 8th, 2009
10:21 am

hey woody, go back home, no one likes you here

Bryan G.

July 8th, 2009
10:25 am

I’m glad someone is thankful for Willie Martinez…someone other than Roddy Jones I suppose.

matt r

July 8th, 2009
10:26 am

Thanks for the jinx


July 8th, 2009
10:36 am

I think Roddy Jones just scored ANOTHER touchdown!!

coachdawg 2000

July 8th, 2009
10:36 am

As a life fal-can’ts fan. we will miserably underacheive (1981,1992,1999,2003,2005) so don’t worry. Atlanta is jinxed -remember nick esasky. Tony gonzalez will probably develop virtigo or something and be unavailable or break his elbow pulling his socks up (mike hampton)or matt ryan will get stung by a killer-bee in training camp. Fret not, when things look the brightest for atlanta sports that is when the bottom usually falls out (like the bishop’s round of the lifetime in caddyshack). MB just wait and see!

Willie Martinez

July 8th, 2009
10:47 am

Hey! Don’t forget that we had Tech down 28-12 at half!

Hillbily Deluxe

July 8th, 2009
10:50 am

Mark, you’ve been here a quarter century but I’ve been here over half a century (since birth), so pardon me if I’m a tad gun shy about getting all optimistic.

Mark Bradley

July 8th, 2009
10:52 am

I almost invoked the name of Nick Esasky in the post, you should know.

Mark Bradley

July 8th, 2009
10:53 am

I understand, Hillbilly. I share those sentiments myself.


July 8th, 2009
10:58 am

No problem. Falcons will find their losing ways now that they released Vick….Way to go Blank.


July 8th, 2009
11:04 am

Tech still sucks!!!


July 8th, 2009
11:09 am

I agree that things are quite a bit brighter for sports teams in Atlanta. The past really has been quite ugly when you total the number of years each franchise has been in the city and the fact that we only have 1 championship. It would be hard to repeat even if you tried. But, hope springs eternal.

It has been great to be a Braves fan for the last two decades. For those of you who continue to attack Frank Wren and Cox you probably are not old enough to have lived through the 70s and 80’s in Atlanta when things were at their worst. I think Wren has done an outstanding job building a competitive team. Sure, we could be better and clearly need another bat or two, but we can compete with anyone on any given night. We have solved the one thing that most teams want..pitching. Let’s not get too greedy right now if you don’t remember Rick Cerone and Andres Thomas. But, I do agree that Cox has made a few weird in game moves recently.

And yes, there were some really godawful years for the Falcons when the Smiths owned the team. The fact that we still haven’t put back to back winning seasons together reflects this quite accurately. But, you have to love the coach and GM and owner and players right now. This is as good as it gets for a franchise. It is so nice to have an owner that really wants to win and has the wallet for it and understands that football scouting is not his core competency.

The Hawks are flawed and are missing some key parts, but at least they appear to be trying to get better. What they have right now is a poorly built but attractive ship that may require some re engineering to figure out what works. However, we still have not advanced past the second round ever, so this team has been a failure overall. Poor drafting for the last couple of decades has really killed our chances. It is too bad that the Nique years didn’t bring a championship. The Eastern Conference was too strong back then.

Thrashers have truly been a terrible organization and no Atlanta professional hockey team has ever gotten through the first round so the bar is quite low. I do miss the Flames, Dan Bouchard, Willie Plett, the no helmets, and the smell of dead cigarettes and beer from the Omni.

Willie Martinez

July 8th, 2009
11:27 am

“m”…I agree! Oh wait, they whipped our arse in the second half.


July 8th, 2009
11:33 am

That’s why Cox has earned the nickname “Moron Cox”. What an idiot.


July 8th, 2009
12:05 pm

Don Waddell improved the Thrashers? I must have missed the headline about him resigning.

All I'm Saying Is...

July 8th, 2009
12:18 pm

Bradley: Count your blessings, dude, as you have actually been very lucky over the last 25 years—I’ve lived in Atlanta since 1974 and…
1) Before Ted bought them, the Braves had lousy, capital starved ownership and poor on the field performance aside from their brief success in 1969
2) Before Ted bought them, the Hawks went nowhere and were basically unnoticed and uncared for while playing at Alexander Memorial Coliseum despite the efforts of Super Lou Hudson, Walt Bellamy, and Pistol Pete
3) Tom Cousins’ other businesses were so challenged that he had to sell the Flames in 1979-1980 after barely a decade of having them in Atlanta (prior to which they lost every playoff series they ever made—which I guess makes them just like the Thrashers)
4) The Smith family was THE biggest bunch of idiots as shown by the Falcons general incompetence and losing ways starting in 1966 and throughout much of their Smith family ownership except for 1973 and 1980, and
5) No one paid any attention to the one championship team we did have which was the Atlanta Chiefs of the North American Soccer League

Ted bought and saved the Hawks and the Braves and eventually learned that he did not know anything about running sports franchises and allowed Stan Kasten to run the Hawks and to bring in competent people to run the Braves and then Ted stayed out of their way which is something Arthur has finally figured out such that the Falcons now have informed leaders with the latitude to get it done. For better or worse, looks like we’re stuck with Waddell so let’s hope things get better there.

All I'm Saying Is...

July 8th, 2009
12:21 pm

And before anybody brings it up, Dan Reeves is why we made the Super Bowl in 1998 despite the Smith family who can only be given credit for the fact that after almost 30 years they finally realized what nincompoops they were and turned over everything to Dan…

Louis Varnson

July 8th, 2009
12:32 pm

Yet we still haven’t had a major sports championship in 14 years. Compare that to Boston, LA, Miami, St. Louis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.


July 8th, 2009
12:35 pm

Fire Mark Bradley!