As insults go, Dan Shaughnessy’s Boston Globe missive regarding Atlanta and its sports is as mild as it gets. Indeed, I’m not sure it qualifies as insulting. His thesis: It’s hard for snooty New Englanders to get excited about a Super Bowl with the little lambsies from the A-T-L.
And you know what? For them, it probably is.
I can’t lie. Boston has a much richer history in sports — pro sports, anyway — than our city. Boston had Carl Yastrzemski and Bill Russell and Bobby Orr. If I had to name my 10 all-time favorite athletes, they’d make the list. I would, however, note that those luminaries began playing for their Beantown teams before we in Atlanta had a big-league club in those respective sports, which would make this a bit of an apples/oranges thing. But not entirely.
In the spring of 2008, this correspondent went to Boston for the sub-.500 Hawks’ playoff series — their first postseason voyage of this century; it wound up going seven games, improbably enough — and became immersed in Patriots Day and the morning Red Sox game against the Rangers at Fenway and a bit of the Boston Marathon and even the Bruins playing Game 7 of a Stanley Cup series that night in Montreal. It was, I must admit, pretty cool.
I talked to the Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon about the championship vibe in his fair city. He used the phrase “kicking ass” to describe what Boston teams were doing. These genteel Southern ears had never heard such a thing.
As for Boston itself: Great place. Been there many times. Like it a lot. Like clam chowder. I wouldn’t want to live there, but that’s only because of the weather. Personal choice.
Mr. Shaughnessy makes a big deal out of our ardor for college football, noting that the TVs in Philips Arena as the Hawks were about to face the Celtics last April were tuned to G-Day. He mentions that the ol’ AJC made a splash of the scrimmage the next day. (He didn’t mention Ludacris and the condoms, so thanks for that.) What can I say? We do like college football. We like college football more than any major city in these United States. I don’t see that as a terrible thing. To quote the Patriots’ coach: It is what it is.
I did find this part semi-amusing: That beating the tradition-less Falcons in the Super Bowl wouldn’t be as satisfying as beating the Cowboys or the Packers or the Giants. Here’s the thing: The Patriots have never beaten any of those in a Super Bowl. (They’re 0-2 against Eli Manning.) Boston’s Super triumphs have come against the Rams, who have since moved to a different town; the Panthers, who came into being in 1995; the Eagles, who haven’t won a title since 1960; and the Seahawks, who began NFL play 10 years after the Falcons. Here’s the number of Super Bowl wins for those four franchises — two.
I could get all righteous about Spygate and Deflategate, but I’m kind of gated out. I admire Bill Belichick but consider him an ass. (Blame Papelbon. He taught me that word.) I admire Tom Brady but have never warmed to him. (In my book, he’s no Bobby Orr. I loved Bobby Orr. Growing up in the hockey hotbed of Maysville, Ky., I’d listen to Bruins games on WBZ.)
If anything, I’d think New Englanders would have a sense of kinship with us Atlantans. The Sox — the team that traded Babe Ruth for cash, mind you — went from 1919 until 2004 between World Series titles. (I was there the night they broke though in St. Louis. It was fun.) They had Bucky Frickin’ Dent. We had that rat Jim Leyritz. They had Buckner’s flub. We had Levingston’s running lefty hook. (Against the Celtics, if memory serves.) We both hate the Yankees. Isn’t the enemy of my enemy my friend?
Do I like the Patriots? Nope. Do I find them insufferable in their arrogance? Absolutely. Still, they’re a team trying to win, same as every other team in every other city. I understand folks up there mightn’t feel stoked about this game, but that’s OK. Imagine how it will feel when their proud team loses to a franchise that hasn’t much of a history. Imagine seeing the alum from the Jesuit school in Chestnut Hill lift the MVP trophy. Imagine that.
(Oh, and one thing more: That playoff series Mr. Shaughnessy covered here last spring? Could have sworn the Boston team didn’t win.)