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Opinion

To be the sad fan, behind blue eyes...


  • By Clay Neely
  • |
  • Oct. 20, 2020 - 1:55 PM

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To be the sad fan, behind blue eyes...

Clay Neely is co-publisher and managing editor of The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at clay@newnan.com

I used to think my dad was a pessimist, but turns out he’s just a realist.

Like millions of others, dad’s a long-suffering Atlanta sports fan. Since 1966, his personal choice of poison has been the Falcons.

He got in on the ground floor with season tickets and proceeded to watch the Falcons drop their first nine games that year. Things remained the same until 14 years later when he saw a glimpse of hope.

However, a stinging loss to the Cowboys may have required the repair of our living room wall. Game by game, it was clear to him. The Falcons absolutely refuse to win.

However, fans of losing sports teams find ways to cope, and for my dad, that meant antagonizing those who still believed. In short, he became a sports heel.

I can’t keep up with his endless stories of watching those big games at Longhorn, where he drew the ire from those around him by predicting the inevitable.

As Game 4 of the 1996 World Series went into extra innings, Steve Avery came in to pitch, and that’s when my dad let the bar know the game was over. And it was.

When the Falcons took their 21-3 lead into halftime at the Super Bowl, he still wasn’t convinced. He’d seen this movie before, just not with such a blockbuster budget.

They called him crazy. They called him much worse after the game.

Getting emotionally invested in an Atlanta sports team is like having a lifelong friend who despite his numerous attempts to straighten up and fly right, always seems to hit the skids.

Sure, he’s holding a job, has a new steady girlfriend and things finally seem to be going his way.

Before you know it, he's walking out of the pawnshop and suddenly you’re missing some tools.

For some reason, God called me to be a Red Sox fan. I have no idea why. It was 1986 and they had just blown the World Series, but not in an Atlanta-like fashion. It was much weirder.

I don’t think there was any bandwagon jumping on my part. Maybe I felt sorry for them and became a fan out of sympathy.

Soon, the 90s blessed the Braves with an unparalleled run of great teams and one World Series in 1995. The Red Sox would continue to blow crucial games to the Yankees until 2004 when, just like that, their curse was over.

Before I knew it, the Red Sox were becoming the Yankees of the 21st century, and my romantic days of rooting for an underdog were over. They were the new Evil Empire for many fans.

So since all the Braves had to do was win one crucial game this weekend, Dad knew their season was over. It’s pretty clear that when any professional Atlanta team gets their opponents on the ropes, we seem to think it’s Miller Time.

Seems to me, a pep talk from even the most inspirational coach can’t match the power of knowing you’re playing against an Atlanta team.

Destiny is on your side. We simply refuse to win.

But that’s why God gave us college football in the South where, for some reason, heartbreak feels a little different. Watching the SEC mix it up always gives me joy, even if Alabama always seems to win when I don’t want them to.

If invited, I’d go to any college game in the South. Personally, there’s a sense of history and sociology when it comes to the schools, especially on game day, that just doesn’t translate into professional sports.

Can’t say I’ve ever been curious about tailgating a Dodgers game.

But for those of you who still believe, and will continue to stand by your professional Atlanta teams, I say godspeed. They need you now more than ever, and the inevitable payoff will be sweet.

‘Tis better to have playoff-ed and lost. Than never to have playoff-ed at all.

***

Clay Neely is co-publisher and managing editor of The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at clay@newnan.com