Editor’s note: This is Terence Moore’s last column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Terence has decided to take a voluntary buyout, ending a stellar 24 years as a sports columnist. Terence sums up his time this way: “My objective was to get people to think, not to agree or disagree, just to get people to think.” We thank him for making all of us think and wish him the best as he moves on to new endeavors.
Can we talk? There’s a question I’ve asked myself for 13 years and counting, especially with the Hawks becoming the latest Atlanta team to operate as a tease.
That question: Will anybody around here join the Braves as the only professional sports franchise with a world championship? I mean, will the Braves even do it again? And the 1968 Atlanta Chiefs don’t count. Well, unless you’re a little goofy and consider the famously wobbly North American Soccer League something worth mentioning.
I’m referring to whether the Hawks, the Falcons, the Thrashers or the Braves can
They’ve golfed together enough to develop a strong bond. In fact, although Dan Reeves preferred that Matthew Stafford remain at Georgia for his senior season, the former Falcons coach keeps praising the maturity level and the gifted ways of the former Bulldogs quarterback along the way to this weekend’s NFL draft.
“He’s a great person,” said Reeves, owner of a famously honest tongue.
Speaking of which, Reeves is correct to suggest that Stafford has lost his mind. He actually wants to play for the Detroit Lions, the worst pro football team of the past 50 years. The Lions are close to granting Stafford’s wish by selecting him with the first pick in the whole draft.
So why is this brutal?
“It’s hard to change Detroit,” said Reeves, without the hint of a chuckle.
“You can change coaches. You can change owners. I mean, there’s so little difference in winning and losing in the NFL, and one of the big things that teams that I’ve coached have had in Dallas, Denver, Atlanta — and
Winning always trumps losing, and maybe you heard: The Hawks used incredible energy to rip the Miami Heat on Sunday night at Philips Arena during the opener of a first-round playoff series.
To prove that Game 1 wasn’t just the figment of everybody’s imagination, when the Hawks won by 26 points and made the mighty Dwyane Wade meek, they must realize something.
They must show it, too. They must realize and show they understand that to prosper in the NBA’s postseason, you have to keep hustling at a wild and crazy pace until the other guy drops.
Take it from Hawks point guard Mike Bibby, who told us Tuesday after practice, “We’ve had second halves when we’ve had [a lot of energy]. There have been times when we’ve done it at the beginning of games. But there also have been times when we’ve missed shots, and then we’ve given up easy baskets. We don’t want it to be like that. You know what I mean?”
Yep. It’s called a lack of focus, which leads to less than
I’ve chatted with Homer Rice off and on for more than 30 years. He’s always been riveting. In fact, just when I think I’ve heard it all involving this caretaker of sports wisdom, I discover something else.
Did you know Rice has a Jackie Robinson connection?
We’ll discuss that in a moment, but let’s start with this: Rice is the former Georgia Tech athletics director. So this is interesting with the Yellow Jackets holding their spring football game Saturday: Coach Paul Johnson has spent the past dozen years, spanning from Georgia Southern to Navy to the Flats, perfecting the triple-option offense, but guess who invented the thing about six decades ago?
Take a bow, Mr. Rice.
I’m guessing Johnson and Rice huddle often about the inner workings of B-backs, A-backs and the such. “I’ve been down there to meet with Paul a couple of times, and I went to practice [this week] to talk about the needs and that sort of thing, but we don’t talk football too much,” said Rice, 83,
This isn’t a fluke. Despite their issues with the Florida Marlins during the past two games at Turner Field, including a 10-4 clubbing Wednesday night, the Braves will remain vibrant in the National League East. For instance: You already know Brian McCann is good, but he actually is better than that.
We’re talking much better. So much so that Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez sat in the home clubhouse shrugging over McCann’s present before grinning over his future.
McCann’s present is wonderful, by the way, and Perez acknowledges that, but here’s the deal: “He’s going to learn more and more and more,” said Perez, a catcher for 20 years in the pros, including 18 with the Braves. “He’s already an All-Star at catcher, but if he keeps doing what he’s doing every year, he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. Easy.”
See, I told you. Better yet, consider the evidence, starting with McCann doing the unprecedented by making the All-Star Game during each of his first three full seasons.
If we weren’t talking about Tom Glavine, it wouldn’t be worth it.
He’s ancient. He’s hurting. Mostly, he’s not Tommy Hanson, the Braves’ 22-year-old pitching sensation who could bring his roaring fastballs in a flash from the Class AAA likes of Gwinnett Stadium to the big time at Turner Field.
So, if we weren’t talking about Tom Glavine, it’s like this: Out with the old, in with the new — like now.
It’s also like this: When you’re the Braves, and you’ve missed the playoffs for the past three seasons, sentimentality deserves a firm handshake along the way to the door and your version of a gold watch. That’s especially true if sentimentality has a strained 43-year-old rotator cuff after missing much of last season with a damaged elbow that needed surgery.
We are talking about Tom Glavine, though. As a result, those in charge of such things with the Braves should wait slightly longer than forever before saying so long to their future Hall of Fame pitcher and his increasingly
Hawks general manager Rick Sund is so old school as an NBA general manager that he rarely travels with his team. He wants to scare players and coaches into thinking that something is up when he does. In fact, Sund said on Monday, “I’m Jerry West. I’m Wayne Embry. I’m that era in the sense that we all kind of hung together and shared philosophies and thoughts.”
This is splendid news for the Harry The Hawk Nation.
So is this: The more you listen to Sund in his first year with the Hawks, the more you hear Thomas Dimitroff, who spent last NFL season as a first-year general manager of the Falcons. You also hear Mike Smith, who was in his first year as an NFL head coach with the Falcons.
Remember? Dimitroff and Smith rarely finished a breath without saying “process’” to describe their moves. In the end, the Falcons flourished. They won 11 times compared to just four the previous season, and they reached the playoffs.
So you know where I’m going. With Sund talking “process” after he
Despite the Thrashers’ latest season of woe, there is their player of wow, which means there are several reasons to hug Ilya Kovalchuk. For one, he can score. For another, he can inspire.
Then you have that honesty thing. That was shown when Kovalchuk suggested during a recent chat after practice that anybody who knows a puck from a Zamboni should consider the Thrashers’ wonderful play during the last month or so as somewhat of a fraud.
Said Kovalchuk, the team captain and three-time All-Star, “Yeah, it’s a little bit different, because we’ve been playing with no pressure.”
He’s right. Near the end of seasons, good teams take bad teams lightly, and bad teams play loose. Then again, none of that applied to Saturday night at Philips Arena. The Thrashers spent their season finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so this was bad team against bad team. In fact, the Lightning was among just three NHL teams worse than the Thrashers.
The spirited evening featured a trio of fights, a
I’ve always enjoyed watching or covering that little golf tournament amongst the dogwoods and azaleas, but never more so than now. That’s because for the first time ever, I played Augusta National.
You got a minute? Let me grab my invitation from the Green Jacket folks, and it says right here on Augusta National Golf Club stationary:
Monday, April 14, 2008 (that’s the day after last year’s Masters, by the way).
Terry Moore, 8:55 a.m., 10th Tee.
Please present this card at the Main Gate (Gate #2) for entrance to the Club grounds and at the tee for 18 holes of golf.
I’m still tingling.
Before this experience, I ranked Augusta National among my top five sports venues, which is significant. I’ve been just shy of everywhere — from various Olympic sites to Wrigley Field to Daytona International Speedway to Notre Dame Stadium to old Boston Garden to Lambeau Field — while spending three decades covering most major events. Well, after this experience, Augusta National ranks among
It’s been official for three years and counting: The Braves have gone from operating as the famously hunted in their division for 14 consecutive seasons to whatever they are now.
What the Braves are now is just another wannabe team in the National League East not named the Philadelphia Phillies or the New York Mets.
No worries, though. If used properly by their evolving boys of summer, this is encouraging news for the choppers and the chanters. The Braves could sneak from the shadows into brightness with their significant upgrades that include starting pitching, bullpen depth (well, potentially) and Jeff Francoeur.
They could do all of this by feasting off that tired but occasionally effective us-against-them mentality.
That said, before the Braves left for Philadelphia, where they are scheduled to spend Wednesday afternoon completing their season-opening series against the Phillies, Braves manager Bobby Cox shrugged off underdog talk. “It doesn’t matter,” he