The Hardships Endured by an Atlanta Sports Fan


If there’s one word that describes the experience of an Atlanta sports fan, it would “heartbreak.” With only one professional championship to its name, the city of Atlanta, along with its fans, has endured a lot. Atlanta sports is Matt Ryan and the Falcons coming up 10 yards shy of the superbowl after blowing a 17-0 lead in the NFC Championship game, it’s a bogus infield fly getting called during the Braves’ wildcard game which stifled a rally, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets having another mediocre season, the Hawks riding the treadmill of mediocrity themselves, and Aaron Murray leading the Bulldogs to what looked to be a comeback in the SEC Championship against Alabama just to have his receiver slip at the 5 yard line as time runs out (the Georgia Bulldogs aren’t technically located in Atlanta, but many in the Atlanta area claim the Bulldogs as their college team). Its been a grind for the good people of Atlanta when watching their sports teams, and I think I can speak for all of those people when I say that we don’t feel bad for you at all, Cleveland; why should we when we’ve got our own hardships to endure?

The Falcons have been the cause of many headaches. We love this team and will always support it but all of those years coming up short in the play-offs, not to mention that NFC Championship game in the 2012/13 season, have been gut wrenching. But at least they’ve been getting to the playoffs lately: in their first 24 years of existence, the Falcons only made the playoffs three times, winning one of those games and never sniffing the superbowl. Up until 2009, this team never even had back to back winning seasons: not once in its first 45 years as a franchise. This is especially difficult for older fans who have been on the Falcons’ roller coaster, which has gone down many more times than up.

There was some light in the tunnel for Atlanta’s only NFL franchise, before the Matt Ryan era. In 1998 star running-back Jamal Anderson danced his way into our hearts, leading the “dirty birds” to the Superbowl. The 14-2 record that season was the best in Falcons history, and so was the playoff run. Atlanta beat the 49ers in the divisional round, before knocking off the heavily favored 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in overtime of the NFC Championship game at the Metrodome (Gary Anderson’s missed kick will forever be remembered by both Falcons and Vikings fans, for completely different reasons). The dirty birds went on to fall to John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the super-bowl, however. The Falcons have had amazing regular season success in the Matt Ryan era, but are only 1-4 in the playoffs since the QB from Boston College arrived in 2008.

The Hawks have likewise had difficulty constructing postseason success, despite having some great teams over the years. The Hawks did win a title in 1958, under the leadership of Bob Pettit, but this was when they were playing ball in St. Louis. The only stat you have to know about the Hawks in Atlanta is that they’ve gotten past the second round of the playoffs zero times; they’ve never sniffed the finals. Not during “Pistol” Pete Marovich’s time, not in the Dominique Wilkins era, not in recent times despite having made it to the playoffs seven straight times since 2008 (the longest active streak in the eastern conference).

The 80’s were the golden years for basketball in Atlanta: Dominique Wilkins was the leader of some of great Hawks teams who were consistently in the upper echelons of the East. However, as mentioned, they could never advance past the second round. They came close to doing so in 1988, but Larry Bird and his Boston Celtics orchestrated a series comeback, and won 4-3, closing it out in a game 7 which featured one of the most epic duels in NBA playoff history, when Bird and Wilkins matched each other blow for blow, but in the end it was Boston who escaped with a victory.