(Ted Turner hoisting the World Series trophy in 1995. And to think, some people laughed when he signed Scott Hall and Kevin Nash)
Tom Glavine is nursing a hamstring injury from Sunday, which might actually come as pleasant news for the Huffington Post’s resident Braves fan Alex Remington. “Then they stayed atop the NL East for more than a decade, overstayed their welcome, and became known for playoff futility and the Tomahawk Chop, a stupid racist gimmick plagiarized from FSU,” recalls Remington. “Finally, they stopped winning, and I have to learn how to root for a team that isn’t the best any more.” (link taken from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)
I didn’t start to love the Braves just because they won, but they started to win right around the time I started to love them. They weren’t Hollywood like the Dallas Cowboys, the other America’s Team — Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz were great competitors and lovely guys, but they weren’t supermodels. Instead, they were solid and professional, and a bit intentionally bland. Then came the end of their unprecedented streak of postseason appearances, and their point of national interest ended with it. The Braves went back into the rank and file, kicked to the middle of the pack in SportsCenter highlights, pundit predictions, and feature article puff pieces. I want my team’s 15 minutes of fame back. How loudly can I root for the old overdogs to get back on top without sounding like a jerk?
I know there’s a line somewhere, because by definition Yankees fans are across it. New York Yankees fans, if they’re self-aware — and may they have all my neuroses and then some — understand the low sacrifice and low moral stakes involved in rooting for the richest team in the game, for rooting for Ivan Drago to beat Apollo Creed. No one wins a moral victory in high school by blowing out the other team. There’s a purity in defeat, just as there’s a bullseye attached to every championship ring. For almost 20 years, I loved my team through thick; now that my team’s suffering, I finally can prove my loyalty by loving them through thin. But I don’t want a moral victory. To hell with close competition and a well-fought match; I want all the other bums in the cellar, and I want my guys to lap the field.
The Boston Red Sox did that last October, and their fans are learning the collateral joys of being insufferable. By spending a few well-placed dollars wisely, the Red Sox recently traded futility for dynasty in a matter of 36 months. Now, replica Cheers bars and college campuses are filled with poser bandwagon fans, outnumbering true bleeders by as many as green-hatted drunks outnumber Irish Catholics on St. Patrick’s Day. I admit I envy their success. I hate that they’re better and more popular than we are, and I hate that I have no right to complain.
Two years without playoff baseball in Atlanta (and TBS’s decision to stop showing Braves games) have had the opposite effect — our fans are so famously fairweather that we rarely sold out playoff games by the end of our run. If you find someone who can name a Brave other than Smoltz, Glavine, or Chipper Jones, odds are they’re the genuine article. (It’s an even easier guess these days, because fans of the Falcons and Hawks are rarer than a six-leaf clover.)
Yikes. “If you find someone who can name a Brave other than Smoltz, Glavine, or Chipper Jones, odds are they’re the genuine article.” If that’s the case, I suppose this is what passes for baseball intelligentsia in the modern age.