Those Atlanta Hawks teams of the late 2000s were a frustrating bunch.
Tepid crowds would file into Philips Arena 41 times a year. They were usually treated to a roller-coaster ride of slightly-above-average basketball.
Josh Smith would jack up ill-advised three-pointers. Zaza Pachulia would pick fights with opponents. Joe Johnson would score 26.
But in the playoffs, the Hawks would usually win Game 6 of a series at home, unifying the city for a couple of days and giving the fans a little bit of hope. Then, they’d lose by 30 on the road in Game 7, and we’d all kick ourselves for believing.
Apparently, Smith thinks Hawks fans should be prouder of those strange days.
(Also read: Georgia is known for this, according to Estately)
After his Houston Rockets lost to the Hawks 104-96 in come-from-ahead fashion Tuesday night, Smith didn’t hold back when he was asked by reporters about why the Atlanta fans were booing him.
“I mean, those fans are fickle, very fickle and bandwagoners. It really doesn’t mean anything to me.”
First of all, they probably weren’t booing; they were probably yelling “SHOOOOOOT,” in hopes Smith would take another poorly-timed three-pointer. He’s a 28.2-percent three-point shooter in his career – something with which Hawks fans are plenty familiar.
But Smith is wrong about Atlanta fans being fickle. I was sure to make it to Philips Arena a few times a year, no matter how bad the Hawks were, but I can understand why many other residents didn’t make the trip. The team wasn’t really worth the time and effort – and certainly not the money – when you knew they were going to let you down in the end.
If you see a movie, for example, that’s really terrible, are you going to spend more money to see it again?
Obviously, the Hawks teams Smith played with weren’t terrible. They were perennial playoff squads, and they’re a big reason why the Hawks have clinched 10 consecutive postseason appearances, with the latest berth being secured Tuesday night.
But this is the direction sports are headed. Tickets are really expensive, all over the country, in every sport, so mediocrity will rarely get rewarded with huge attendance numbers. Check out the stands in Madison Square Garden the next time the New York Knicks have a home game. New York isn’t filling the seats for the lousy Knicks, and their city is about 10 times more populous as Atlanta.
Atlanta has also been known to pack the stands with opposing fans who live in the city. Fans of the Heat, Cavaliers, Lakers, Celtics, Knicks and Bulls show up in droves whenever their favorite team comes to town. Maybe those fans have switched sides and decided to join the home team, but Smith had to know there wouldn’t be many people on his side Tuesday night, no matter how well the Hawks were playing.
Yes, the bandwagon is more crowded than ever, but that’s because this year’s version of the Hawks are actually fun to watch.
Wish we could have said the same about the last bunch that put on the Atlanta uniform.
Image: Screenshot via Deadspin.com