On July 31, Forbes Magazine named Atlanta the second most miserable sports city in America. Only Seattle— who lost their beloved NBA franchise in 2008— was seen as suffering more. With one total championship in 159 seasons in the four major sports, it is hard to argue their ranking. However, 2013 has given Atlanta fans reasonable hope for two championship runs.
Anybody remotely familiar with Atlanta Braves baseball is aware of the dominant run of 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005. They are also aware that this run only brought one World Series title in 1995. Outside of defeating the Cleveland Indians, the Braves made four other World Series appearances. The remaining nine seasons were ended prior to that.
Since 2005, Atlanta has only made the playoffs twice; they won the Wild Card in 2010 and 2012. So why then is there hope for these 2013 Braves to make a significant playoff run? A league-leading 3.19 team ERA is complemented by an offense that has scored 606 runs, fourth in the National League. By finishing with the best record in the league, they will also have to play the winner of the Wild Card play-in game, a move enacted last season to truly reward the best team in each league. Because of this, Atlanta will have a marked advantage against whichever NL Central team they face. The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are battling for the division, and the loser will have to face the Cincinnati Reds in the Wild Card round.
The city’s second-oldest franchise, the Atlanta Falcons, has also shown glimpses of dominance as of late. A 13-3 regular season ended within 12 minutes of a Super Bowl appearance. Despite the heartbreaking loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the 2013 season provides expectations usually reserved for traditional powerhouses. For once, ‘Super Bowl or Bust’ will not be lunacy down on Georgia Dome Drive. A potent offense returns Tony Gonzalez, who contemplated retirement during the offseason. Along with Julio Jones and Roddy White, the Falcons have arguably the best receiving corps in all of football. Steven Jackson joins Matt Ryan in the backfield, a considerable upgrade from 2012’s 29th-ranked rushing attack. These are relatively new expectations for a team that did not have back-to-back winning records until 2008-2009.
Atlanta is a city that has grown indifferent to the failures of their teams. This is also the same indifference that has allowed two hockey franchises (The Atlanta Flames and Thrashers) to flee north to Canada. The positive outlook does not extend to the Atlanta Hawks, either. They are a team in flux in the same division as the Miami Heat; not much is expected from them in the foreseeable future. However, the excitement for their baseball and football prospects is evident. Fans gobbled up tickets for all eight home dates in the Georgia Dome quicker than usual. Postseason Braves tickets are about to go on sale to a now-fervent fan base. Fall in Atlanta will be abuzz with dreams of grandeur and midday parades down Peachtree Street. The misery has been replaced with hope.