CINCINNATI - MAY 15: Hank Aaron waves to the crowd before the Gillette Civil Rights Game between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on May 15, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
To be honest, most Atlanta sports history has been plenty "Worst and Ugliest" and not a lot of "Best." That's OK. That just means we have reason to appreciate the good even more.
Let's get the ugly out of the way first. And I don't mean ugly like the lime green Hawks uniforms from the early 70's.
- Michael Vick's looong list of infractions. Enough of the list was documented during The Falcoholic's reevaluations of past players. We don't have room to list them all.
- bobby petrino. Sorry bobby, capital letters are for adults.
- The exit of the original Atlanta NHL team, the Flames. They were very competitive and respected around the league. Alas, hockey was not to be in Atlanta for long. True Flames fans followed them for years after they moved to Calgary. I still miss them.
- A few loud idiots giving Hank Aaron a hard time during his home run record pursuit. Hank endured insults and threats while chasing Babe Ruth's record. All the while, he quietly kept on being himself, and showed quite a bit of class. The national media chose to make it look like the drama was due to universal Southern racism. That theory would have been blown to bits just by looking around the stands. Hank was roundly accepted by everyone who had an intelligence high enough to matter.
- The Olympic Park bombing.
My dad used to have a practice of betting $5 against Atlanta teams regardless of who they were playing. Before we condemn him too harshly, check the first three items in our Worst list.
- The '74 Saints only won two games ... both against the Falcons.
- In '88 the Braves lost 106 games.
- The Hawks hold the current record for the worst single-season Atlanta pro team: their '04 team won only 13 games for a .159 average.
- Ted Turner firing Bobby Cox in '81. In a moment of honesty at the time, Ted said he would probably regret firing him.
- When Falcons owner Rankin Smith fired head coach Marion Campbell the first time (yes, he eventually fired the same coach twice), he forced Pat Peppler out of the front office to coach. Peppler made it clear he did not want the job! Rankin later fired head coach Leeman Bennett and famously said he wanted to reach another level. We know what level that turned out to be: Jerry Glanville, a time bomb. The one constant through all those lean Falcons years was Rankin Smith.
Feeling down enough yet? Breathe deep ... Finally, here comes some good.
- The Olympics. Though it wasn't the most widely acclaimed Olympics, Atlanta's still an Olympic city. Not many cities can claim that.
- The Masters. Even if you are not a golf fan, you should visit at least once. The uniform majesty and respect Augusta National has throughout the world of golf is deserved. TV does not do the course justice. How is this a moment, you ask? Every time you see this course counts as a great moment.
- The Braves achieved a record string of 14 straight division championships. This includes the simply magical "Worst to First" '91 and winning the World Series in '95.
- College football national championships: Tech in 1917, 1928, 1952 and 1990, and UGA in 1942 and 1980.
- Hank Aaron. We all know who the real home run king is.
For the first time in a long time, things are looking up across the board.
Currently the Braves are in first and looking forward to giving Bobby Cox a terrific retirement gift. The Falcons are operating under the best leadership they have ever had. The Hawks are gradually improving. All three have good young talent with loads of potential.
Tech and UGA are still running highly successful athletic departments. Georgia State will be playing their first season of football this year. Kennesaw State is in the planning stages for football as well.
So we are positively and enthusiastically looking forward to this Best list growing in the near future. Long-time Atlanta sports fans: what would make your lists?