Jan. 6, 2012
In Defense of Atlanta
By Sean Ryan
you may have heard, Rob Parker of ESPNNewYork.com wrote a piece
Friday that trashed the city of Atlanta and its fans, arguing
that the Atlanta Falcons didn’t deserve to beat the New York
Giants on Sunday because, “Without question, Atlanta is the
worst sports town in America.”
one of the founders of a college baseball website, you might
wonder why I’d post something about Parker’s piece.
native of Atlanta, and because I help run a website and can
post something, I felt the need to respond to Parker and ESPN.
First, a couple of admissions.
majoring in journalism and spending five years editing and
covering sports for a daily paper, two years as a business
journalist and nine years working with media as a public
relations guy, I’m fully aware of the role of a columnist. I
understand that sometimes, columns are written to stir the pot,
especially in an all-consuming, information-driven society.
Eyeballs, hits, Tweets and Facebook posts create buzz, which is
exactly what ESPN and its online properties strive for – and by
and large where ESPN has excelled. In fact, I’m guilty of taking
the bait by writing this, no doubt spurring some of you to
actually give Parker and ESPN what they want: more buzz.
should also know that I’m not necessarily an Atlanta apologist.
What Parker writes has some truth to it in spots.
it frustrating the Braves didn’t sell out playoff baseball
games? Sure. (I should note I shelled out $60 to a scalper to
attend a sold-out playoff game between the Pirates and Braves in
1991.) Is it disappointing the Hawks don’t draw as well as they
might deserve? Sure. (I should note I watched the Hawks mostly
win at the Omni during the late ’80s and early ’90s and cried
when Bird outdueled the “Human Highlight Film” in 1988.) Is it
tough the city lost two hockey teams? I guess, but hockey’s not
my thing. And how about the Falcons? Parker says his column
isn’t about football but promptly rips Falcons fans – even
editing out disparaging remarks about “peach-picking” after the
firestorm erupted Friday. (I should note that I got scammed on
tickets but still made it to the Packers-Falcons playoff game
last year when the Atlanta organization worked with us to
purchase real tickets.)
calling Atlanta the worst sports down in America is many things:
insulting, sophomoric, moronic and just plain wrong. And
honestly, I am surprised that a column like this even saw the
light of day, even in this day and age.
his piece and accompanying video rant, Parker calls out Atlanta
because of its attendance. Some simple
research of ESPN.com would show that in 2011, the Falcons
home attendance by capacity was better than that of their Sunday
opponent, the New York Giants. It’s also better than the Jets,
for that matter. And the Falcons play in an aging Dome, not a
sparkling, brand new stadium.
writes that the Braves’ fan base should have had more fire and
pushed for first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez to be canned after
an epic collapse. What, like Boston, where more than a collapse
led to a splendid skipper’s dismissal? Personally, I think that
was a big mistake. Jets fans, watch out: Parker might soon call
you out if Rex Ryan isn’t shown the door after three straight
losses to end the season to miss the playoffs. And Giants fans,
Tom Coughlin would have been gone, despite the “fresh Super Bowl
in their memories after the 2007 season” if the G-men missed the
playoffs and Parker got his way.
Atlantans, according to Parker, didn’t flock to the Omni enough
in the ’80s to see Dominique Wilkins, the aforementioned Human
Highlight Film. Starting in 1986-87 and stretching to 1989-90,
the Hawks averaged 14,333 (87.5 percent of the Omni’s capacity)
using statistics from the Association of Professional Basketball
Research. The Knicks averaged 15,866 (or 80 percent of Madison
Square Garden’s capacity) over that same time frame.
actually surprised that Parker didn’t chastise us over our
soccer team, the Atlanta Chiefs, because we couldn’t land Pele.
won’t get into the hilarious stereotypes Parker zings us Atlanta
folks with; maybe he was trying to one-up Stephen Bloom and his
hometown bashing of Iowa.
rather call on Parker to seriously consider his statement, worst
sports town in America.
Atlanta routinely hosts PGA events, and by extension, supports
the greatest golfing tournament there is in The Masters. Atlanta
hosts a NASCAR event – yes, it used to be two. Atlanta hosts the
SEC football championship and college basketball tournaments.
Atlanta and the Georgia Dome draw strong crowds for the Georgia
high school football state championships. Atlanta hosts the
Peachtree Road Race, which up until 2007 was the largest 10K in
the world. Atlanta is home to the Atlanta Lawn Tennis
Association (ALTA), which is the largest tennis-based community
organization in the world. Atlanta is home to rabid Georgia
Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fans, albeit Dawgs fans
are more rabid – for my college baseball fans, Georgia and Tech
attracted 28,836 fans to Turner Field in 2004, at the time the
second-largest crowd to ever watch a college baseball fan.
finally, five words: to the city of...Atlanta.
were the immortal words of Juan Antonio Samaranch on Sept. 18,
1990, when Atlanta, the worst sports town in America, was
awarded the 1996 Summer Olympics.
five words don’t come easy – just ask New York about the 2012
are about as tough as the four words we all hate to utter, words
Parker (and ESPN) should write, Tweet or Facebook: I made a