sports

Good Luck

There’s been some really good writing lately about Andrew Luck’s surprise decision to retire two weeks before the 2019 season begins. Understandably, some “fans” are upset about this. If you remove all the individuality and humanity from the players (and the NFL would like nothing more than a bunch of mindless automatons who spout brand nonsense, plug merch, defend the shield, and then go away quietly to die), then yeah, losing Andrew Luck is a blow. I can imagine a lot of folks who follow the Colts are less than pleased right about now.

Personally, I wish Luck all the best, and I think he’s making the right call. I’ve tried putting myself in the shoes of Colts fans and imagined how I would react if my favorite player, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan, suddenly retired two weeks before the season began. And I would certainly be bummed about it, but I would hope that I would wish Ryan well as I wish Luck good fortune in going forward.

These men don’t owe us anything. If you’re a season ticket holder or someone who pays for a DirecTV subscription so you can watch your team, that’s all you’re entitled to–watching the team. You aren’t entitled to victories or even seeing your favorite players suit up. The only difference between Luck retiring and Luck getting catastrophically injured is that he’s making the choice that’s good for his life rather than getting obliterated for my entertainment and sending folks scrambling to retool their Fantasy Football lineup.

Football is an incredibly guilty pleasure. We all know what we’re watching and what it costs. We try to justify it to ourselves by saying the players get paid a lot of money and they get to be beloved and they get to play a game, but at the end of the day, we know what this is: disgustingly wealthy white guys making lots of money off gladiatorial combat in the 21st century. And that’s not to diminish the athletic accomplishments of the players or the strategies of the coaching staff, but we’re engaging in a dirty bargain for entertainment that chews up its labor force at an astonishing rate. Andrew Luck decided he didn’t want to be part of that system anymore. “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live,” he said.

A hard truth is that most of us don’t get to live the lives we want to live, and it’s easy to feel resentment towards someone like Luck who was paid tens of millions of dollars to play a game. But should Luck be miserable because other people are miserable? Should he sacrifice his body and his brain so that we can have a few fleeting hours of entertainment once a week?

If every player behaved like Andrew Luck, the NFL would be gone, and that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world (and I say that as someone who loves watching the Falcons and dutifully tunes in for every game I can). We would not be hard-up for entertainment. We would not be hard up for sports. Andrew Luck doesn’t owe anyone anything except to those closest to him. He shouldn’t be booed for leaving the field. He should be cheered.

Monday, August 26th, 2019 brilliant, sports No Comments

USWNT

In bleak times such as these (and yes, I am well aware it can get so much bleaker than this), I’ve come quickly latch onto any joy I can find, and these past few weeks, it’s been the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) at the Women’s World Cup.

A quick disclaimer: I am not a soccer guy. I have nothing against the sport; I am just not an aficionado in any way, shape, or form. I get the basics of the game, but I couldn’t break it down for you with any specifics. But between Atlanta United winning the MLS Cup and now this, I’m getting more into soccer. I will hop on any bandwagon.

But there’s also the thrill of watching this team of women unapologetically kick ass. When people asked if Megan Rapinoe really meant that they were snubbing the White House, she stood by it. When people criticized Alex Morgan for the egregious crime of miming a sip of tea after scoring on England, she stood by it. These women are the best in the world at their jobs, and they know it.

And it’s good to see that kind of pride. While there’s so much in the world to bum us out, I can’t help but take comfort in their swagger. It has felt lousy to be an American ever since November 9, 2016. And yes, the warm feeling following USWNT’s World Cup win will fade. But for now, it feels great and I’m going to revel in it. These are the times when sports are good.

Sunday, July 7th, 2019 brilliant, sports No Comments

The Stupidity of Being a Sports Fan

The Falcons got crushed yesterday by the Steelers, and now sitting at 1-4, the Falcons’ season is effectively over. And that’s a huge bummer because I like watching my team do well and stay competitive. Instead, they fell off a cliff. And it’s not like I haven’t seen that happen to this team before. It happened in 2013 and 2014, but it still blows.

And it blows that I even care! I think pop culture fandom is riddled with its own issues, but at least you’re following and engaging with art. Sports is something that’s kind of random and you just have to ride the wave. But man does it feel dumb to care about it. Like my joy and my disappointment are equally unimportant. I can’t engage with a loss like I can with a disappointing movie or TV show. I just have to sit there and feel bad.

Anyway, today was definitely one of the worst losses I’ve ever seen as a Falcons fan, and the most I can do is write about it to get it out of my system. At least I can control my rage, whereas if I was writing about something important, like the GOP seating an accused sex offender on the Supreme Court, all that would come out would be a string of swear words for paragraphs on end.

Monday, October 8th, 2018 sports, stupid No Comments

Rise Up

Falcons-Logo1Tonight, the Atlanta Falcons will play in the second Super Bowl in the team’s history and go for their first championship.  As they stand on the precipice of this historic moment, I think ti’s important to realize that as critical as fans can be, we should sometimes turn our critiques towards ourselves, and admit when we were wrong.

Last season, when Matt Ryan was totally off his game, I lamented that he had peaked and that he would never be more than a solid, unremakrable quarterback.  Last night, he won the MVP and deservedly so.  He’s been lights out.  His growth this season has also highlighted how he reached where he has come now.  He wasn’t a leader in the early days of the team as he let veterans take on that role.  Now he’s finally stepped up, taken that leadership role, and it’s paid huge dividends.

I also said last season that Kyle Shanahan was the root of the team’s offensive woes, and that it was insane to keep him around.  But as it turns out, Ryan and Shanahan just needed a season and some long talks to get on the same page.  Combined with the right personnel and Ryan understanding this new system, the Falcons offensive has been outstanding.  I’ll be bummed to see him leave to go coach the 49ers, and I hope that his replacement is as good at play-calling and working within the scheme that has given the Falcons unprecedented success.

After the Falcons imploded after last year’s 5-0 start, I wondered if this was the same old team.  I couldn’t contain my fury after the home loss to the Chargers, crying out on Twitter how this was the same old team and that they couldn’t go the distance.

Yes, some things broke the Falcons way.  When Julio Jones got injured, we had two of the easiest teams up on the schedule.  The Seahawks lost the #2 seed, which made room for the Falcons to get a bye week and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs after the Cowboys lost to the Packers.  But those are ultimately just opportunities, and the Falcons made the most of them.  Even without Julio, the Falcons dominated the Niners and the Rams.  They didn’t play down to their opponent.  They destroyed them.  When it came to home field advantage, they didn’t just squeak by the Seahawks and Packers.  They won in decisive fashion.

I became a Falcons fan at the beginning of the Mike Smith era, which conditioned us to experience games the following way:

– First 2 quarters: The Falcons are doing great!

– 3rd quarter: Everything goes to hell.

– 4th quarter: Can Matt Ryan pull out a last-second win?

It’s become clear that the problem was both coaching and personnel, and that both have been remedied thanks to Dan Quinn’s clear vision on what kind of team he wanted.

I don’t know if the Falcons will win the Super Bowl.  I think they have a real shot to do so.  But either way, I’m sorry I doubted them, and I’m grateful for this amazing season.

Rise up.

Sunday, February 5th, 2017 sports No Comments

Go, Braves

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.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 sports, stupid No Comments

Time to Get out of the Sports Game?

After a one-two punch of the Falcons losing a close game on Monday Night Football and the Braves being eliminated after the normally reliable David Carpenter gave up the lead in the 8th inning, I’m wondering if it’s time for me to stop being a sports fan.

I know that’s awfully fair-weather of me, and that my attitude is why Atlanta is such a shitty sports town.  But at the same time, these are kind of shitty sports teams because they’re bad at the worst possible moments.  They don’t consistently suck.  I assume fans with consistently crappy teams just accept them as lovable losers, or get a nice pick-me-up if their team should happen to win.  Atlantans aren’t so lucky.  The Braves and the Falcons have to give the illusion that they could go all the way.  They have to give the illusion of a dramatic victory.  And then they lose in a spectacular fashion.  They lose on the most public stage possible, and the Atlanta fans get crushed.

The teams have been especially vindictive this year.  The Braves won the division title for the first time since 2005.  I had hope that a younger team might not have the baggage of older Braves teams that could never get past the first round of the playoffs.  I was wrong.  They were just as terrible.  It would be nice to think that they’ll mature into a serious ball club, but that’s not going to happen.  Something breaks in the Atlanta Braves when October comes around.  And as for the Falcons, their weaknesses have emerged.  After years of scraping by with thrilling victories, they’re now on the losing side and proving all their detractors right.

Detractors have plenty to crow about, and they’re not wrong.  But as I tweeted both games tonight, I didn’t like myself.  I felt like an absolute bastard who was clogging up people’s Twitter feeds with my negativity.  A good sports fan is never resigned to failure.  They hold on to hope until the last possible minute.  They’re indefatigable.  I thought I was a good sports fan, but I was wrong.  And if I’m going to behave like I did tonight, then I shouldn’t get to call myself a Braves fan or a Falcons fan.  I’m a spectator.  I can cheer, and I can boo, but I can’t say I’m a fan.  I’m as much to blame as the teams I’ve failed to support.

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 personal, sports, stupid No Comments

Comeback

Falcons-Logo1After last year’s painful loss to the Giants, I wrote about how I was proud to be a Falcons fan, and that it was important to be “hometeam”.  I almost became a major hypocrite last week as it looked like the Falcons would never get over the playoff hump.  As someone who is also a fan of the Braves, that one-two punch of teams that quickly get kicked out of the playoffs is almost too much.  But last week, the Falcons performed in Falcons fashion: came on strong, lost the lead, pulled out a victory in the end.

That is both the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of the Atlanta Falcons.  As my friend Brad said, “They play up or down to the opponent they’re facing.”  Credit to Mike Smith for being the best coach in franchise history, but his style has fried every last nerve of the fans.  We “rise up” because we fall down.  A lot.  With so much talent on the field, it’s peculiar and infuriating to see a pattern where we can cheer a comeback even though it’s from a hole the Falcons dug themselves.

The 49ers are a great team.  They were the favorite, and we played them close.  It wasn’t a blowout, and it’s always wonderful to see the Falcons fire on  all cylinders like they did in the first quarter.  I will still root for the 49ers in the Super Bowl because I don’t hold a grudge.  They played a good game, and they deserve to win it all (I also don’t have any love for either AFC team).

But this blog post is about the Falcons.  The pundits will likely pick them apart, which is fine.  This team will probably never get the respect it deserves until it at least goes to the Super Bowl.  The fans can wait because the fans will remain.  The victory over the Seahawks was more important than the NFC Championship.  The Falcons obviously wanted to go all the way, but the support from fans is stronger than its been in over a decade.

I will proudly wear a Matt Ryan jersey every time I watch the Falcons next year (and jerseys are expensive!).  He makes mistakes, but he’s clutch.  Today was just one mistake too many.  But he’s undeniably matured as a quarterback, and I truly believe one day we’ll talk about him with the same respect people show Peyton Manning.

It will be hard to see Tony Gonzalez retire, but he’s earned it many times over.  He will go out on top and as the greatest tight end of all-time.  I’m honored that he played for our team and that he’ll end his career as an Atlanta Falcon.

We have so much talent on this team, but there’s undeniably more work to be done.  I trust Arthur Blank, Thomas Dimitroff, and Mike Smith will do what needs to be done.  They’re smart, thoughtful guys who know how to manage a team, and I believe the Falcons will be even stronger next year.

They couldn’t come back in this game, but they’ll come back from this defeat.

Sunday, January 20th, 2013 sports No Comments

Hometeam

Falcons-Logo1Another Falcons season, another crushing disappointment.  This is how they’ll write the book on Atlanta sports teams.  It almost makes me envy hopeless teams like the Browns or the Cubs.  They don’t make it anywhere close to the playoffs but their die-hard fans love them all the same.  But when it comes to the Falcons, the Braves, and the Hawks, they’re nothing but (and forgive the following crudeness) cock-teases who give their fans blue-balls.  Eventually those fans get frustrated and find a team that might actually fuck them.

But I’m a sucker for punishment.  I’m already looking ahead to next season for the Falcons even though my team got butt-fucked on national TV less than an hour ago.  What changes will we make?  Who gets drafted?  Who gets traded?  Who on the coaching staff has to commit ritual suicide and can I watch?  And will the Falcons front office even figure it out?  Last season, we got trounced by the 6th-seeded Packers even though we were the first seed off a 13-3 record and playing at home.  The snap action from the front office: “explosive” plays.  It was a meaningless buzzword, but they did get an “explosive” player with Julio Jones and in his rookie season he’s shown he’s the real deal.

And yet that’s irrelevant.  We had a worse record this season, we played sloppy football where we either put ourselves in a hole or blew gigantic leads, and toyed with my fragile emotions. Something’s rotten in the state of Georgia.  If the players are talented (and the offense is, and there are some great guys on the defense although the secondary is garbage) then how come we’re so inconsistent?  I’d rather have solid, consistent victory over “explosive” any day.  (This is also my approach to bowel movements.)

This year, I started using a phrase that I’m sure irritated everyone I used it around: “Hometeam”.  Hometeam, by my definition, meant sticking with your team even when your team was making you cry.  You could criticize the hell out of them, but you never wrote them off.  You didn’t look at the score at the half and say “They’re going to lose.”  You held out hope for as long as possible and if you lost, you looked ahead to the next game and stayed positive.

Every passing season that gets harder.  For Atlanta sports fans, it becomes excruciating because our teams pretend like they have a chance.  They dangle their potential in front of us, give us a winning season or at least a wild card berth, and then they get demolished in the playoffs.  They don’t lose; they lose horribly.  It’s almost as if they’re trying to embarrass their fans.  They’re Lucy, we’re Charlie Brown, and the football is a championship.

I’m hometeam so I try to keep the optimism alive.  I’ll be a blockhead and hope that Arthur Blank and the Falcons organization see this kind of loss and will not only make adjustments, but adjustments that would actually improve the team on a fundamental level rather than building off some meaningless buzzword.

So yeah, I’m the idiot who’s forgetting the nationally televised shit-bucket of a game the Falcons played this afternoon.  I’m the sucker who’s dreaming of next season.  I’m hometeam.

Sunday, January 8th, 2012 sports No Comments
 

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