This hasn’t been the easiest time to care about sports around here. The Braves collapsed in September, made no moves of note over the winter and started the new season 0-4. The Falcons didn’t score a point on offense in their playoff loss, made no ripple in free agency and don’t have a Round 1 pick in the draft. The Georgia Bulldogs lost the SEC championship game by 32 points, blew the Outback Bowl and have seen much of their defensive backfield arrested and/or suspended.
And here’s where we cast our eyes toward yonder horizon and espy …
A silver lining.
Our sporting fortunes might not be all that exciting at the moment, but we’ve gotten past the point (at least for the moment) where they’re utterly stupid. For utterly stupid, we must turn elsewhere in the South.
• An SEC head coach wrecked his motorcycle with his girlfriend aboard, and he did it, appropriately enough, on April Fool’s Day. He failed to mention the girlfriend’s presence to his boss (or, presumably, to his wife and children). Apparently this young woman was so dear to the coach that he not only hired her but gave her $20,000. The coach was fired Tuesday night.
• A National League East manager gave an interview to Time and expressed an affection for a despot, saying: “I love Fidel Castro.” That manager’s team had just christened a shining new stadium in an area of Miami known as Little Havana for its preponderance of Cubans, many of whom fled Castro’s regime. The manager was suspended Tuesday for five games.
• An NFC South team condoned a bounty program that was in place when this long-suffering franchise finally won a Super Bowl. The NFL’s discovery of these bounties resulted in a year’s suspension for the head coach, a half-year’s suspension for the general manager and a six-game suspension for the assistant head coach. The NFL upheld those penalties Monday.
It isn’t just that we Atlantans/Georgians can bask in the warm glow of schadenfreude. (That’s German for “pleasure taken from the misfortune of others.”) There’s a chance our local entries will benefit from this run of misbehavior. The NFC South team is New Orleans, which has beaten the Falcons 10 times in 12 games under the now-suspended Sean Payton. The NL East team managed by Ozzie Guillen is the Marlins, who spent heavily on personnel and have been tabbed by some to finish ahead of the Braves. And the SEC West team …
Well, that’s a double boon. Arkansas was seen as a top 10 team for 2012, just like Georgia, and the Razorbacks were coached by Bobby Petrino, who ran out on the Falcons after 13 games in 2007 and stands alongside Steve Spurrier and Jim Leyritz as the biggest villain in Atlanta/Georgia sports annals. Our response to Petrino’s (literal and figurative) fall: It couldn’t have happened to a nicer rat.
There’s another savory twist to this outbreak of idiocy. For once, Atlanta hasn’t been the source of such gaffes. Goodness knows, that hasn’t always been the case.
We’re the city that saw its NFL team’s only Super Bowl appearance besmirched by the arrest of Eugene Robinson for solicitation only hours after he accepted the league’s good citizenship award. We’re the city that saw its NBA franchise snarled in court for five years because one owner balked at the trade for Joe Johnson. We’re the city that recoiled when its baseball team’s closer gave an interview to another Time-Life publication — in John Rocker’s case, it was Sports Illustrated — that offended nearly every ethnicity. We’re the city that lost its NHL franchise — twice!
We in Atlanta saw our NFL team draft Michael Vick No. 1 overall and pay him big money, some of which he invested in a dogfighting enterprise in Virginia. To maximize Vick’s talent, the same NFL team hired Petrino away from Louisville. (As it happened, Petrino never coached Vick in a game.) We’re the city where the Georgia athletic director Damon Evans took his swerving midnight ride up Roswell Road with a woman who wasn’t his wife and whose undergarments weren’t in place.
Over time, we in Atlanta have known far more than our fair share of ridicule, so you’ll have to pardon us if we’re chuckling at the moment. We were just named the nation’s most miserable sports city by Forbes, and you know what they say about misery. It just loves company. And here’s where we say:
“Pull up a chair, Brother Petrino, and tell us all about it. Heh, heh, heh.”
By Mark Bradley