How Has Atlanta Escaped The Most Cursed Sports City Debate?
When the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Finals, it appeared the city's hold on "Most Cursed City in Sports" was finally going to disappear. Immediately, discussion began on who would inherit the title next. I personally made the case for Washington DC earlier this year.
But upon further review...why hasn't the hot choice been...Hot-lanta?
The Atlanta Falcons will have a brilliant chance this weekend, a chance to enter the amazing ranks of NFL history, with a win in Sunday's Super Bowl LI. Exciting, explosive, thrilling, all qualities of a magnificent NFL team, the Falcons will be playing in their second Super Bowl in their history.
The Falcons' magical run has been just enough for the city to almost look beyond the fact their teams should very well go down with the Cleveland's and the Philadelphia's in terms of curse.
Let's take a look at the Falcons, whom you probably forgot were John Elway's human sacrifices in Super Bowl XXXIII. The most memorable Atlanta play from that game occurred before kickoff, as Eugene Robinson was caught soliciting a prostitute...mere hours after he took home the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award. Prior to this Super run, the Falcons had the top seed in the NFC twice in a three year span (2010, 2012) and ended up bowing out to the conference champion both times. Matt Ryan has more or less put Atlanta football on the NFL map, but if his arrival was the dawn, because the Falcons were at their darkest. In 2007, one of the most electrifying talents in NFL history, who just happened to be the Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, went to jail for a brutal dogfighting ring, which somehow made noted motorcycle fiend Bobby Petrino's 13-game NFL stunt the second worst headline of the year.
Atlanta could very well be cursed by its baseball team alone, the Braves. With their current rebuild process ongoing, it may be hard to remember that the Braves had a monopoly on the NL East, winning the division every completed year from 1991-2005. Yet, it is they who captured the city's lone title...yes, I said lone, because despite all that success, the number that stands out is one, a single title that, true to Atlanta fashion, many didn't even care about. Winners of the 1995 World Series, the Braves' win came at a time where people were still angry at baseball for the infamous 1994 strike that cost them the season. In their existence, the Braves have also played host to brutal loses. In the 1996 World Series, where the Braves blew a 2-0 lead, it was Jim Leyritz's home run that allowed the New York Yankees to get back in the series and close down Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. More recently, the Braves played host to the 2014 NL Wild Card Game, best known as the "infield fly" game.
The Hawks, starring on the hardwood floor of the NBA, have a solid history, playing host to some of the more renowned names in NBA history, like Lenny Wilkins, Pete Maravich, Dikembe Mutombo and Dominique Wilkins. But the lone Hawks title not only came in 1958, but came when they still played in St. Louis. The modern-day incarnation of the team has enjoyed prosperity, on pace to make their 10th consecutive postseason, a streak trailing only mighty San Antonio, but are trapped in a case of being merely good in an era of superteams. LeBron James has constantly been a thorn in the side of the Hawks, much like Michael Jordan was during both Dominique and Dikembe's tenures.
Even hockey has been cruel to Atlanta, as they have seen not one but two teams depart on them. Among those teams, not a single playoff series was won. In fact, the team has had the same number of NHL teams as they do playoff wins...not series wins, mind you, just wins in a series. The Atlanta Flames accounted for both before departing for Calgary in 1980, and the Atlanta Thrashers made the playoffs just once, victims of a sweep by the New York Rangers in 2007. They likewise left for Canada, serving as the Winnipeg Jets reboot in 2012. To rub salt in the wound, the Flames won a title in 1989, nine years after they left.
So, how has Atlanta escaped scrutiny?
Could it be the success Atlanta has had in "neutral" sporting events? The city has played host to some of the finer football games on the schedule, including the SEC Football championship, the Final Four, and the Super Bowl, one of which was the Rams-Titans thriller in Super Bowl XXXIV, as well as a fairly successful Olympic hosting for the 1996 Summer Games.
Could it be the cultural impact the city has had on American history? Martin Luther King Jr.'s Civil Rights crusade had an unofficial home in Atlanta, which played witness to several major events of the Civil Rights movement.
Could it be the city's popularity in pop culture? Notice how once The Walking Dead moved on, a show straight up named after the city moved right in.
Either way, the Falcons have a major chance to render the comparisons moot. Playing the hated New England Patriots, a team American has collectively grown sick of, the Falcons have more than just a first Super Bowl to play for...a city's whole sports reputation could be on the line with them.
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