One week ago, Atlanta sports-talk radio was immersed with possible scenarios where the Georgia Bulldogs could play in the College Football Playoff at the end of the season. After getting crushed by the lowly Florida Gators, those hopes are gone.
Two weeks ago, fans of the Atlanta Falcons were convinced the team still had the pieces in place to win the crappy NFC South if they could just beat the Detroit Lions in London and get back on track. They lost the game in heartbreaking fashion, and those hopes are gone.
Three weeks ago, fans of the Atlanta Braves were hopeful manager Fredi Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren would be canned, and the franchise would bring in a new vision to take the struggling team in a new direction. But they retained Gonzalez and brought in John Hart – a seasoned veteran in the GM game who isn’t exactly what most Braves fans wanted – so those hopes are pretty much gone, too.
Noticing a pattern here?
Indeed, this is the strange position in which Atlanta/Georgia sports fans find themselves, nearly every fall and winter. As temperatures grow colder and leaves begin to die, our hopes of an elusive championship coming back to the Peach State also wilt on the vine.
Take, for example, the Georgia Bulldogs, who were likely caught looking past their hated rival, the Florida Gators. You can’t fault them for keeping only the slightest eye out for UF; After all, there were no signs the Gators would actually put up a fight, let alone win.
But they ran away from Georgia, attempting just six passes the entire game because UGA couldn’t stop the run. The Dawgs stacked eight men in the box – outmanning the Gators on many of those plays – and still couldn’t stop them from running up and down the field en route to a 38-20 blowout victory that was Florida’s first over a ranked opponent since 2012. At one point, the Gators scored 31 unanswered points.
It was just the latest embarrassment for the area’s sports fans, but at this point, everyone is playing second-fiddle to the Falcons in terms of which franchise can be most humiliating inside the state’s borders. Falcons fans should find a comfortable spot to ride out the impending storm, because it’s going to get worse before it gets better for this sinking franchise.
Owner Arthur Blank didn’t become a billionaire without being a ruthless businessman, and by all accounts, the man doesn’t take “no” for an answer. That’s why he’s likely to make huge changes within the franchise really soon, according to a CBSSports.com report. The article cites sources who say Blank is livid with the Falcons’ recent putrid state, and will probably fire head coach Mike Smith at the end of this season, if not sooner.
Then, the report adds, Blank is expected to go after an A-list head coach to replace Smith. Maybe a Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher will be yanked out of retirement, but I doubt it. Think further down the A-list … to college. Maybe someone like Kevin Sumlin or Gus Malzahn. The fact is Blank needs to start selling tickets for his new, billion-dollar stadium, and nobody’s going to throw down thousands for Personal Seat Licenses if the team is turning in 3-13 seasons leading up to the big opening.
And the ambition to land a big name is admirable, but who in the right mind would actually come coach in Atlanta? We’ve already determined that there’s an annual stink that hovers over Georgia sports in the fall and winter, and the Falcons have traditionally been the biggest offender.
I’m part of that heartache, and I know plenty of UGA fans and alumni who dealt with it over the weekend. We can commiserate because we’re fans of this lousy sports state, and we have all felt enough disappointment to last a lifetime.
The problem, of course, is that many of us – God-willing – still have decades to go.