Commentary

City of Atlanta doesn't deserve win

The worst sports town, 'Hotlanta' is as cold as it gets when it comes to fan support

Updated: January 6, 2012, 3:07 PM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

It's not fair.

And, we know, it really shouldn't matter.

But Atlanta -- the city, not the team -- doesn't deserve a playoff victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.

It has nothing to do with football. It's deeper than that.

Atlanta Braves fans
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesFans in Atlanta haven't exactly been going out in huge numbers to see the Braves recently.

Without question, Atlanta is the worst sports town in America.

If the New York Yankees are the standard for excellence in baseball, Atlanta is the epitome of the bottom of the barrel when it comes to fan support.

Hence, the Atlanta Falcons shouldn't be allowed to win and reward some of the worst fans in the country. They just don't get it. They are both missing in action and simply not passionate enough to appreciate their team winning in the NFL playoffs and moving on to the next round.

Giants fans -- even with a fresh Super Bowl in their memories after the 2007 season -- are living and dying with their team. Football is a part of their lifestyle, it's who they are. On Sunday, every single moment of the game will be pure agony until the clock shows all zeroes and the Giants have secured the victory.

Your typical Atlanta fan -- who is probably from another city since so few are actually from ATL -- will be preoccupied with something else. They might not even be sure what time the game is on.

In fact, at some point, they might ask a friend -- filled with sweet tea -- at a pork-saturated barbeque, "Are the Falcons playing today?"

Pathetic.

But it's Atlanta, known as Hotlanta.

It's not for their passion when it comes to sports, just the weather. Oh yes, it gets hot down there.

But when it comes to sports, no city is as cold to warm up to its home teams. And it's just not when it comes to the NFL and the Falcons.

All of their teams have suffered from terrible support.

Just ask the Hawks. Atlanta's young and exciting basketball team has had problems selling tickets over the years -- even during a pretty thrilling playoff run a few years back. It's not like they play in a dump on the bad side of town.

The Philips Arena downtown is sweet, a cool place to see a game and be a part of the city as well. Yet, on most night you can get a section to yourself.

Even back in the old Omni days when I covered the Knicks for the Daily News, there were always more Knicks fans in attendance than Hawks fans -- and they had Dominique Wilkins, the Human Highlight Film. Shame more didn't see him play in person.

Sadly, there always seemed to be empty seats at Turner Field when the Braves were in the playoffs as well. You still have to wonder how fans got tired of the Braves winning. They had the best pitching staff in Major League Baseball for a decade and won a World Series back in the '90s. Fans should not have missed a pitch during that run.

Worse is the lack of passion the fans showed after an epic Braves collapse this season. Looking like a shoo-in most of the season, the Braves, who were 8 games up in the National League wild-card race to start September, gave up their postseason spot on the last night of the season. The Braves went 9-18 in the final month, including a five-game losing streak to end the season. It allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to get in instead en route to winning the World Series.

Heads should have rolled. Instead, Braves first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn't under fire from the fan base and will be back this coming season. Again, most probably didn't even notice.

Of course, there are some true-blue Atlanta sports fans. But in the 25 years I have covered sports in that town, attendance has always been an issue. Despite winning 14 straight division titles, the Braves only led the league in attendance once. In Game 4 in the 2010 NLDS, there were 6,000 empty seats. In the 2005 NLDS, there were 10,000 empty seats in Game 1 and 4,000 empties in Game 2. In the 2004 NLDS, there were 9,000 empty seats for Game 1 and 10,000 empties for Game 2. Last season, the Hawks ranked 22nd in attendance in the NBA.

And don't forget the NHL!

It's bad enough Atlanta got another hockey team, the Thrashers, after losing one already, the Flames in 1980. But it happened again -- the Thrashers are now in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg? How embarrassing. Atlanta is once again hockey-less. Why? Terrible fan support.

The NHL wanted to believe Atlanta is a major-league city, a city that could support all four major sports. But it can't. Atlanta is now the first city in the NHL's modern history to lose two hockey teams. So sad.

That's why it would be a waste for the NFL gods to allow the city of Atlanta to lukewarmly enjoy a postseason win.

The city and its lame fans simply don't deserve it.

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