To Braves, Hawks, Falcons, Thrashers: Good is for losers

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 spend a season within the next couple of millenniums keeping the events of October 28, 1995 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium from resembling a fluke.

That was the night of the second loudest baseball crowd I’ve heard inside these city limits. As for No.1, nothing will surpass the eternal stomping and screaming that occurred after Francisco Cabrera’s hit and Sid Bream’s slide. But back to No. 2, when David Justice’s homer gave the Braves their only run back then against the Cleveland Indians, and Mark Wohlers followed Tom Glavine’s eight innings of shutout pitching with a save. Then the Braves’ old ballpark became a noise factory again.

Soon after that World Series victory was official for the Braves, I roamed center field, about where Marquis Grissom squeezed the final out. I hadn’t a choice. Players, team officials, coaches. Nobody wanted to leave the area in order to savor the moment, so you had to interview folks on the field.

While those associated with the Braves alternated between smiling, crying and dancing (you know, with a few interviews in between), the crowd hollered louder and louder as they kept blaring Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ care of business” over the PA system.

I remember thinking from an Atlanta standpoint: It can’t get better than this, and it hasn’t. And it won’t. Not until one of these teams becomes more than just good, which is the Hawks’ problem in the playoffs against the Miami Heat.

Elite NBA teams have an elite player, such as the Heat’s Dwyane Wade, and Joe Johnson is the Hawks’ best player, but he’s only good, just like the Hawks.

The Falcons also are only good. Still, with suddenly enlightenment management and coaching, they have a chance for a breakthrough, but they need back-to-back winning seasons first. They’ve yet to do that in their existence.

Elsewhere, courtesy of decent starting pitching, promising youth and future Hall of Famers Chipper Jones at third base and Bobby Cox in the dugout, the Braves are only good (see a pattern here?). The Thrashers, not so much. Ilya Kovalchuk is the only overwhelming star on a flawed roster, and he could bolt after next season as an unrestricted free agent.

This isn’t to say the two major colleges around Atlanta have fared better at winning it all beyond gymnastics since pro teams came to Georgia in the mid-1960s. In football, the Bulldogs had a national championship in 1980, and the Yellow Jackets managed one 10 years later. Neither has come close since then.

But that’s another column.

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