UPDSR In-Depth: Atlousyanta

Mark Bradley asks that age old question: is Atlanta a lousy sports town?

In a word —–> yes.

Greetings one and well… one probably, Jubbo here and I have to admit, its not very difficult to find a good time in Atlanta. I’ve spent a lot of time there through the years and a lot of it has been because of sports. I’ve been to old Fulton County Stadium, Turner Field, Philips for a Hawks game and to the Dome for the SEC Basketball Tournament. I’ve gotten drunk downtown, Midtown, Buckhead, you name it. I’ve run the Peachtree Road Race and navigated through Hartsfield, hell I’ve even ridden the MARTA, something I don’t think anyone else has ever done.

But I’ve always been pretty down on Atlanta as a sports town.

Mark Bradley from the AJC, predictably, isn’t. Sort of. And away we go:

Should the Thrashers leave for Manitoba, ours would become the first American city to lose two NHL franchises. Word of the pending sale has spawned yet another round of Atlanta-is-a-lousy-sports-town boilerplate harrumphing, and again I pause to ask: Are we a lousy sports town?

The Thrashers were 28th among 30 NHL teams in attendance last season. The Hawks were 22nd among 30 NBA clubs. The 2010 Braves made the playoffs for the first time since 2005, and their attendance ticked upward from 15th to 13th among the 30 baseball teams. (The average Turner Field crowd grew by 1,685 year over year.)

OK this, to me, is a huge foundational piece to a city being declared a lousy sports town: people essentially don’t go to games. Keep in mind Atlanta is a MASSIVE city, the metro area coming in at right around 5 million people. That puts them into the same conversation with cities like San Francisco, Boston, Philly and Houston, cities that I would say have few if any problems supporting their teams. And its much larger than non-lousy sports towns like Minneapolis, St. Louis (ugh) and Cleveland. Losing two NHL franchises is pitiful. I also don’t think its a stretch to say that no one would give 2 shits if the Hawks went to Winnipeg as well based off that attendance number. And the Braves? Meh. They draw pretty well on the weekend but some of those weeknight games are embarrassing from a crowds perspective. (They average about 31K a game and are at 62% of capacity, ranking 17th in MLB)

CITATION!——> http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance/_/year/2010/sort/homePct

Of note: The 2010 Falcons, who had the NFL’s second-best record, were 15th among 32 teams in attendance and 19th in capacity at 95.3 per cent. But the Falcons’ average gate was 67,850. Put it this way: Over their last full seasons, the average Braves, Hawks and Thrashers crowds together still fell 6,000 below the Falcons’ yield.

So a not-too-well-supported NFL team outdraws the other pro franchises COMBINED? And the Falcons coming in at 15th in attendance yet 8th in NFL market population is shameful. This is all sounding pretty lousy to me.

That’s instructive.

No it isn’t.

ARTHUR BLANK WAS NOT OUR OWNER AT THIS TIME!

Since 2004, Hawks and Thrashers fans have faced a shared dilemma: Do I buy tickets and support the team even if it means endorsing the maladroit Atlanta Spirit? Since 2007, the Braves have been owned by faceless Liberty Media of faraway Colorado. (Last week Liberty Media offered $1 billion to buy Barnes & Noble; the Braves’ payroll remains under $90 million.)

Ah yes, that always well thought out idea of Hey, I hate the ownership of the team I love therefore I will show ownership the way I feel by depriving myself of the joy of seeing the team I love in person! Yes, thats exactly what I’ll do! I will stay at home and watch from afar, with my absurdly-priced jersey on, surrounded by other various team paraphernalia that I purchased back when I went to games and also… meh you get it. This is a really awkward paragraph from Bradley.

My point:

See, he acknowledges his rambling pointless blathering by attempting to reign it all back in.

The only local pro sports owner who inspires any confidence is Arthur Blank. We’re more inclined to support the Falcons because we believe they’re well run. About the other teams, it can be tough to know. Example: Frank Wren signed Derek Lowe to a four-year contract paying $60 million in January 2009 and was trying to dump him 10 months later. Another: The Hawks paid $120 million to keep Joe Johnson in the same summer they promoted Larry Drew to head coach at a cut-rate price.

Oh, I see. Actually, I think Atlanta is more inclined to support the Falcons because its a city filled with front-running transplants who no matter what only really care about football and baseball. And has Bradley ever heard of, just off the top of my head, Virginia McCaskey or Mike Brown? Those are two pretty bad owners yet Chicago is ranked 4th in capacity at over 100% and Cincy is down with Atlanta at 22nd (they won *FOUR* games and play cold weather football). My point: why can’t a 13 win team in a town of 5 million get 68,000 people out to a game 8 times a year? My answer: a lot of Atlanta doesn’t give a shit.

CITATION!—–> http://espn.go.com/nfl/attendance/_/sort/homePct

My question: If we have qualms about a team’s management, are we wrong for keeping our money in our wallets? Isn’t that essentially what Americans do every election — vote our pocketbooks?

My answer: No, that’s douchey and a way to spin Atlanta’s apathy to its sports teams.

Addressing Thrashers fans, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on a radio show Thursday: “I understand that there may be dissatisfaction [with ownership] there, but demonstrating your dissatisfaction by not going to games is an interesting strategy. It’s your absolute right. But if it becomes a turnoff for anybody who might want to buy the franchise, the long-term consequences could be severe.”

So Bettman’s recommendation would be to spend money on a bad product just so somebody else might come along and snap it up? In what solar system is he living?

News flash: Money’s tighter than it was in 2005, or in 2000, or in 1995. For a family of four, a game at Philips Arena can run more than $200. (A trip to Turner Field can be done for less.) At a time of lower income and higher prices, the issue becomes: Do we need to go watch this team play in person? For many Atlantans, the teams that meet that criterion tend to be based on college campuses.

He waited until he was damn near pissing himself to bring up college sports (read: football). Yeah hoss, no shit it costs a lot to go watch pro sports. But just like any other city, the ATL (ugh) is *FULL* of rich assholes who love dropping coin on fucking off. They just don’t spend it on Atlanta’s shitty franchises because THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THEM. The thing that rubs me the wrong way about this piece (or blog entry, whatever) is I think Bradley knows all this, he’s just harrumphing civic pride for whatever reason (to sell papers? I truly don’t know. Hey look, this guy Bradley likes us all here in Atlanta, I’ll be sure to visit ajc.com and occasionally purchase a physical paper because I too have civic pride!) and its not even really believable at all.

Whenever I’m hit with the Atlanta-is-a-lousy-sports-town line, that’s my rebuttal: We might not be the best pro sports city, but we’re the absolute best for college football. All you need do is drive around the Perimeter on an autumn Saturday morning and you’ll see the festooned cars bearing Fulton and DeKalb and Cobb and Gwinnett plates headed for Athens and Auburn and Knoxville and Tuscaloosa and Clemson and Columbia and Tallahassee and Gainesville. (And yes, for North Avenue, too.)

Wait… (and this is shockingly stupid) Because Atlantans *LEAVE TOWN* en masse to watch college football in the Fall, this is what makes Atlanta a great sports town? Did Bradley really just type this? Good lord.

In our love for college football, we’re different from Boston or Philadelphia or New York or Miami or L.A. (Among big cities, Dallas would be the closest to us, but it’s not really close.) Our sporting priorities are those autumn Saturdays. As Gary Stokan, the president of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, says: “Our two biggest pro teams are Georgia and Georgia Tech.”

You’re different from those towns because they care about their sports teams for the most part (and Miami could possibly unseat Atlanta for “Worst Sports Town in the Country” by the way, LA isn’t a great sports town either). I haven’t spent an autumn on the East Coast but I have in Chicago and I think the two areas are at least somewhat comparable and Chicago is *CRAZY* about college football. Seriously, walk down Clark or Belmont or any other major street in the Fall and there is nothing but college flags hanging out front of all the bars… Iowa, Michigan, OSU, Michigan State(!)… hell there is a massive bar FULL of Alabama alumni and fans right under the EL tracks on Clark Street. And yet the next day, those same bars are filled with (gasp!) NFL fans. Bears, Browns, Lions (!), hell even Green Bay (vomits). My point: being a fan of a college football team and a NFL team aren’t mutually exclusive. In other words, Atlanta doesn’t care about pro sports. Thats fine, neither does the rest of the South. But these are YOUR teams. If Atlanta doesn’t care about them, who the hell does?

Last year I asked Michael Adams, Georgia’s president, how Sanford Stadium kept playing to capacity crowds in an uncertain economy. “For our folks,” he said, “[football tickets] are second to the mortgage.”

Again (and this is so stupid) Bradley asks someone who lives in Athens why attending sporting events IN ATHENS is important to the city of Atlanta. That Sanford Stadium sells out seven times a year is somehow a testament to the greatness of Atlanta as a sports town. Why is he doing this? In what solar system is he living?

It would be nice if a pro team grabbed us by the lapels and made us care — the Braves did it in 1991, and the Falcons did it with Michael Vick — but that’s the job of the team. It’s not on us.

So a team has to be a championship contender (or even worse, a champion) for Atlanta to give a rip? I got that right?

GRAB US BY THE LAPELS!

That more folks haven’t turned up to see the Thrashers lose doesn’t make us lousy civic stewards. Gary Bettman might not be happy with us, but he has to admit we’re savvy shoppers.

SPIN, all of it. You all aren’t savvy shoppers, you’re all front runners who even when you have a team to bandwagon with, the Falcons currently, you don’t even do that great a job of it.

Bradley essentially asks a two-part question here: Is Atlanta a lousy pro sports town and/or is Atlanta a lousy college sports town?

And Bradley hackedly throws in Georgia Tech and their 50-something thousand seat stadium on the side of 14 lanes of interstate and selling out (I guess? He doesn’t really mention their attendance) 7 games a year as some proof that Atlanta cares about sports. That and that thousands of alumni leave town every Saturday in the Fall to spend money on their alma maters (and spend money out of state/city for whats it worth) as yet more proof that Atlanta is a viable sports town. I think you, me and even Mark Bradley knows that just isn’t the case. Pro sports, college sports… who in Atlanta really gives a shit? (Happy Gilmore’d)

Atlanta isn’t a lousy sports town; its a miserable one.

Everyone else must be Athens or Tuscaloosa or Gainesville

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UPDSR In-Depth: Morosi’s got a crystal ball

Look at my awesome crystal ball

Hi all, Jubbo here and oh shit have we got a good one today.

So Jon Paul Morosi, a “writer” for MSN/Fox/whatever, wrote something the other day and its shockingly bad. Let’s take a closer look at it why don’t we?

(EDIT: I can’t get the link to work, its supposed to be the ‘something’ up there. Its no doubt the fault of some shithead in our IT Dept. here at Uncle Popov Towers. If you want to C & P —-> http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/it-is-not-chicago-cubs-year-051111)

Voodooed postseasons notwithstanding, the Chicago Cubs have offered their fans some pleasant summer memories over the past century or so.

Whoa. Strap in and hold on folks, we’re starting out strong! The Cubs have had some good seasons in their history. Who knew?

Take 2007, for instance. The Cubs were 8 1/2 games back in late June, with a losing record, before rallying to win the division. That was Lou Piniella’s first season at Addison and Clark, and all seemed possible.

Listen man, its Clark and Addison. Clark then Addison, every single time. Do you say “jelly and peanut butter sandwich” or “The Cubs lost 0-3? I don’t know if you fuck everything up like that or not but the rest of us sure as hell don’t.

It’s not often that the Cubs can point to history as a reason for optimism. This is one such case. If it happened four years ago — despite Michael Barrett and Carlos Zambrano scuffling in the dugout — then why not now?

Wait, I thought you just said “the Chicago Cubs have offered their fans some pleasant summer memories over the past century or so.” And that isn’t even the stupidest part about this paragraph. You want Z to go off again in the dugout like he did back in 2007 2010? Yeah douche bag, you remember last year when Z lost it and cursed everyone within earshot out like some crazed goddamn lunatic? Did that ignite anything at all? This is all just so stupid and contrived.

But this isn’t The Year.

THERE IT IS! THAT BOLD PROCLAMATION!

The Cubs have talented, likable players.

False, all of it. Who exactly is talented (other than Starlin Castro) and who is likable (other than Marlon Byrd)? And I challenge you to name a single player (OK, maybe Starlin there too) much less multiple players who are both talented and likable.

As a group, though, they are not inspiring. Nor do they have a better overall roster than the St. Louis Cardinals, despite an 11-4 triumph over their archrival Wednesday night.

Well I had no damn clue about any of this. Did anyone else? I mean, I didn’t before Morosi dropped all this knowledge on us from high above.

This type of shit helps!!!

They have a chance to contend in the National League Central because, in this division, a decent lineup and capable pitchers will do that for you. They could finish better than .500.

No they don’t and no they won’t. They’ll be “contending” for 4th, just like they were last year (they finished 5th). And if they dump a couple players like they should (cough…Byrd…chortle) they’ll actually be worse than they already are, which is really saying something.

Teams that rank near the bottom of the league in the game’s essential skills — namely, scoring and preventing runs — tend not to win titles. Right now the Cubs are one of those teams.

OK, this one was written by a 3rd grader, right? I mean, surely… Uh, let me see —-> I got it, some 3rd grader from Wilmette tweeted this to him and Morosi promised to use it in one of his “articles.” OK, maybe a 4th grader since two “-‘s” were used. Ugh.

When play began Wednesday, the Cubs ranked 13th among the 16 National League teams in runs scored and 14th in fewest runs allowed. If that makes them sound like a fourth-place club, it’s because that is what they are — one game behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yeah, he flirted with it up there when he used little Johnny from Wilmette’s paragraph, but here comes Morosi’s stat bombing in earnest. Yeah, those are pretty shitty stats that lead me and my alcohol-soaked brain to believe that…

This is not a bad team.

Wait, what?!? No, no this is very much a BAD TEAM.

But it is a confusing one. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry pointed out that his team has the league’s second-highest overall batting average but the second-lowest average with runners in scoring position. Huh? “That means the lineup’s doing a pretty good job of getting on,” Hendry said. “We’re just not getting them in. Let’s hope it gets contagious the other way.”

Did you watch any of the 2010 Cubs JP Morosi? I mean, any of them? 1 damn game? This was their problem for the entirety of last season. RISP = guaranteed outs. This shit isn’t news.

It was that way Wednesday. Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook lost his command after a 53-minute rain delay, and the Cubs responded with a six-run third inning. They went 7 for 13 with runners in scoring position. They rapped five extra-base hits. They looked terrific. But blowouts can deceive.

So it took an hour long rain delay for the Cub’s bats to wake up? No. The Cardinals got Dusty’d sending Westbrook back out there. They’re lucky his arm didn’t fall off.

I still wonder who will drive in runs when it matters most.

I sure as hell don’t because I’ve already seen this team and I already know the freaking answer: no one will. You seem to assume that runs are going to be driven in at all. In reality, bad baseball teams don’t drive in runs with a whole lot of regularity. That’s the way its always been. Who’s going to drive in runs? Everyone will sporadically. However, not one player on this POS team will see 80 RBI’s on the back of his baseball card next year.

Aramis Ramirez used to be that guy. He finished with 100 RBI or more six times from 2001 through 2008. Very quietly, he was one of the best clutch hitters in baseball for the better part of the past decade.

And very quietly since 2008 he’s sucked ass. It might have a little something to do with him tearing his shoulder apart diving for a ground ball in Milwaukee in May of 2009. Do you not remember how poorly he started last season? (No because you didn’t watch any Cubs baseball in 2010) Or it may just be that he’s (gasp!) on the decline as a professional baseball player. How many guys follow up their first decade being “one of the best clutch hitters in baseball” with a second decade of being one of the best clutch hitters in baseball? Answer —> not many.

But because of injuries and a steady decline in power, he averaged 74 RBI during the past two seasons. This year he’s again on track for 70. As a cleanup hitter, that’s simply not enough. (By the way, this is why the Cubs need Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder next year. Let’s agree to revisit that subject in November, OK?)

OK, so he notes injuries (He’s had them his whole career essentialy and/or been out of shape). And no dipshit, 70 RBI’s isn’t enough from your #4 hitter. That’s a big reason why the Cubs suck ass. And what the hell does the last part even mean? Everyone knows the Cubs need a long term solution at first. I’m not revisiting shit with you in Novermber, OK?

Ramirez’s drop in production would be less of an issue if the Cubs had a true slugger in the No. 3 spot. But they don’t. As of Wednesday morning, their No. 3 hitters ranked next to last in the majors with a .576 OPS. Yes. Next to last.

So hitting at the 3 spot is the problem now? Is that what we’re going with? Or is this in addition to ARam?

Marlon Byrd has been the Cubs’ primary third hitter, with a brief (unsuccessful) interlude by the brilliant and frustrating Starlin Castro. He batted seventh and sixth during the past two games, suggesting the Cubs won’t rush to put the 21-year-old back into a role that demands steady run production. More than anything, the Cubs want Castro to swing at strikes. First things first, you know.

No wait, Marlon Byrd’s the problem? Good god, the negatives with this team seem to be mounting. Are you sure this team can contend? And don’t bring Starlin into this. He’s one of the few (only?) guys in that clubhouse who will still be in it 5 years down the road.

** Morosi rambles on for a little bit here saying essentially that Byrd isn’t a power hitter (no shit) and that Alfonso Soriano is overpaid (no fucking shit). **

The Cubs’ best hope is that Carlos Peña turns into a middle-of-the-order monster. He did it with Tampa Bay, reaching the 100-RBI mark in ’07, ’08 and ’09. He had a two-hit, two-RBI game Wednesday. Still, I wonder whether there is a reason the Cubs have not attempted to use him in the No. 3 or No. 4 spot.

Holy shit, now he’s getting in the flow. So Carlos Pena isn’t a problem but a potential SOLUTION !?! Oh dear. Let’s revisit Carlos Pena’s 2011 season in November, OK? Ugh

I know it’s early. I know it’s been cold. But it’s been early and cold for the Cardinals, too, and their 3-4-5 has been devastating — even if Pujols doesn’t look like Pujols quite yet. The Cubs’ rotation will pitch better than it has, yet we can’t say that it will give them any discernible advantage over the Cardinals, Reds or Brewers. They’re all about the same.

Wait a minute… (I just ran to the bathroom because I thought I was going to throw up.) So in the Central, not only is St. Louis good but Cincy and Milwaukee are too? But the Cubs can still compete with all of them? Are you sure? Because I think you’re actually too stupid to realize that you’re doing a fairly decent job of, which is… oh fuck it, you get it… I think.

It should be noted that Quade’s positivity has been, and will be, an excellent influence on this team. He has talked with his players about the importance of maintaining their usual approach at the plate in RBI situations. He doesn’t want failures with men in scoring position to affect their defensive play, as it may have in Tuesday’s loss. Hitters are taking extra batting practice, trying to swing their way out of it, a sign that they are responding well to a first-year manager.

“The video room is like a bakery on Sunday,” the manager said. “This group works.”

Jesus, a bakery on Sunday? What does that mean? And does it have anything to do with Jeff Baker? I’m thinking the video room is more like a bakery on Tuesday if you know what I mean… (You don’t)

Yet it will take much more than effort for the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. As a fan of the game and owner of a sympathetic heart, I hope that it happens someday. But it won’t be in 2011.

And mercifully, it ends. And in true hack fashion, he vaguely alludes to something from the next to last paragraph to close out his miserable piece and kind of clumsily brings it all to a close. But just to make sure, he reminds us all that the Cubs are not going to win the World Series this year.

Well no shit asshole.