Being a sports fan is so dumb. You get invested watching millionaires play a game, and forget that billionaires profit from it. You just see it play-by-play, game-by-game, season-by-season. And then you cheer anyway because home runs, touchdowns, slam dunks, and goals are exciting. It’s appeals to the lizard brain, and I fully admit it.
I write that preface to acknowledge that it’s somewhat silly to complain about the Braves. I’m not a sports expert. I have an emotional connection to the team since they hit their hot streak when I was growing up, but I can’t tell you everyone who ever played for them or even what certain stats mean (I’ve had slugging explained to me more than once, and I still don’t understand it).
But I love listening to the Braves on the radio. It’s what helps define my summer. It passes the time. Watching them on TV isn’t so bad either. I rarely attend games because it’s expensive, more time-consuming, and scheduling conflicts mean it’s hard to find someone to go with.
However, I didn’t let those obstacles stop me from going to tonight’s game. I hadn’t seen the Braves play at all this season, and the game would be followed by Weezer, whom I’d never seen in concert. It was win-win, at least until the Braves lost, at which point it became win-loss-win.
I wasn’t surprised that the Braves lost. I recently read an article where a Falcons fan described the team thusly: “They are bad at being good.” It’s a sentiment that could also apply to the Braves and to a lesser extent the Hawks. Even when the Braves were in first place, they didn’t seem remarkable. When our pitching dominated in April to save our crappy offense, it felt like a stroke of good luck rather than a formidable team. After all, we go through starting pitchers like toothpicks.
Eventually, the flaws became obvious, insurmountable, and after tonight, the Braves will be five games back in the division without only about six weeks left to play. Theoretically, they could claw their way back, but after watching tonight’s game, I’d be surprised if they put in the effort.
Tonight I learned that what the radio doesn’t tell you and what the radio doesn’t show you are details. Radio and TV is made of highlights. The little moments can be far more telling, and during tonight’s Braves game, I saw a team absolutely devoid of hustle. I know “hustle” is a word sports pundits like to throw away to lazily describe intangibles, but I think it fits the play I saw tonight. Throughout the game, the Braves’ defense refused to scrap for the ball. They lackidazically ran for balls, and refused to dive, sprint, or slide to try and make the out. Instead, they were content to just make sure the ball didn’t get behind them. They played conservatively and like they would get extra points if they didn’t get their uniforms dirty.
It’s dumb that I should feel like I want them to win more than they do. But a sense of lethargy pervaded the entire game. No one was enthused about Mike Minor’s pitching (he was fine tonight; his defense let him down); no one expects anything from this weak offense; and now there’s nothing going on in the field. The team exists.
When I looked at the upper deck of tonight’s game, it was pretty packed. It was packed with fans who found a way to get relatively cheap Weezer tickets, and the ballgame was a bonus. I can’t say I blame them. At least Weezer is willing to put on a show.
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