I really do not know if Rob Parker meant to stir up this kind of response when he wrote the piece, “City of Atlanta Doesn’t Deserve Win” for ESPN.com but in the immortal words of the group Nappy Roots, he “Done Up and Done It.” Testing the pulse of social media, Atlanta Sports Fans are outraged by the unsubstantiated criticism of them in Parker’s blog. He makes some very specific statements about the support that Atlanta Fans give to the professional sports teams stating that “the Atlanta Falcons shouldn’t be allowed to win and reward some of the worst fans in the country”, and inferring that fans are so unaware of the how the football team is doing that, “they might ask a friend, filled with sweet tea, at a pork saturated barbecue, “Are the Falcons playing today?”” Now, I like barbecue and sweet tea like a lot of people, but what exactly did that tidbit have to do with ATL Fandom?
The truth of the matter is that ATL Sports Fans are “unique” in that you are dealing with so many dynamics that make fans appear disloyal. The loss for a second time of the city’s hockey team is a detriment to the outlook of professional sports. Our traffic and transit system is a factor in fan attendance along with the transient status of many citizens pledging loyalty to other squads is understandable. Also, the Michael Vick controversy of fans pledging more loyalty to the player instead of the Atlanta Falcons is not a good look by any stretch. Finally, Parker was correct to use the term “Hot-lanta”, where this city has a great deal to offer besides professional sports. Ask Miami how hard it is to sell out their venues, when the city is “on fire” with attractions, events, and a booming nightlife.
The ironic thing about Parker’s piece was he tried to pull in real data to attempt to justify his argument, except that it made his premise look foolish. On his blog he had the charts of the Atlanta Average Attendance from ESPN Stats and Info. For the Falcons, in 2011 the average attendance was 68,986 or 96.8 %, 15th out of 32. I admit I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box but that is the top half of the league, up from the 2010 average of 67,950. The Hawks average attendance in 2010-2011 was 15,648 which was 22nd out of 30 and so far this season it is up to 17,205, currently 19th in the league. Finally, the Braves in 2010 averaged 30,989 which was 13th in the league. Attendance declined slightly in 2011, but was still 15th out of 30 teams. I am not sure by these numbers how he drew the conclusion that ATL Fans were the worst but he failed miserably. Along with those numbers the popularity of college football plays a role in considering fandom. There is nothing more passionate in this area than Southeastern Conference Football. I am not sure the same passion is expressed in New York. I took to Twitter and consulted NFL Network’s Steve Wyche. I asked the question, “What is your perspective of the ATL Fan and he responded, “hardcore college” and “goes with the flow professionally.” I could not have stated it any better as everyone loves a winner!
So that bold statement of, “Atlanta is the worst sports town in America”, my response, CONSIDER THE SOURCE. Obviously this is someone who did not take the time to review his own numbers and appears to have an agenda considering the Falcons are playing the Giants and maybe this is way to beg to the football gods. However, he is dead wrong about ATL Fandom. Atlanta has some of the most passionate fans ever. This fan base is not always perfect. They may not show up to games on time and may tell certain players loudly to stop shooting the basketball but if you put a winning product on the floor they will support you like no other.