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Atlanta = Paris

And not just because the High is showing elements of the Louvre, bit by bit.

This piece from The Classical about the changes to fan culture at Paris Saint-Germain (the one major soccer team in Paris) is at times fascinating. It detours into a Nader-ite criticism of neo-liberalism, so the politics of the article can be hard to take, but the description of how PSG's new owners have transformed the experience at home games is very interesting.

Paris is unlike most major European cities in that it has only one major soccer team and that team doesn't not have an especially distinguished history. Most other cities of Paris's size have at least two clubs that fight one another for the affections of the local populace. London has at least four (Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, and West Ham) and that doesn't include smaller clubs that have come in and out of the top division (or, in the case of Fulham, have stayed thanks to a wealthy owner). Paris has only PSG and this explanation sound a little familiar to Atlantans:

Finally, "Paris is not a city made of real Parisians." Very few people who live in the capital have roots that run as deep as they do elsewhere. The Arabic word "bled" has come to mean, in French slang, both a useless place in the boonies as well as the ancestral hometown, and it seems that Paris attracts people who are willing to leave behind their bled, be it in West Africa, Maghreb, Brittany and the rest of France, the overseas departments of France like Guadeloupe, or Spain, Portugal, Italy, Eastern Europe, or every corner of Asia. The world, in brief. Those who arrive here do so expecting to advance socially or economically—not necessarily plant new roots. Mom and Dad don’t live here, so neither should their soccer team play here. As a result, Mignon concludes, there is no history of "passionate or loyal" support for Parisian soccer teams. "There is only the attraction of the spectacle and of the excursion that is going to Parc des Princes, but more in the style of the ironic flâneur than in that of the loyal supporter."

Like Paris, Atlanta can be described as a city where a good portion of the populace comes from elsewhere, seeking better social and economic opportunities. Also like Paris, Atlanta sports fans are more attracted to the spectacle that the local teams can sometimes provide than we are creatures of habit, going to games because that's what they have always done. When the Braves came out of nowhere to contend in 1991, Fulton County Stadium was home to the spectacle, especially with the Tomahawk Chop being new and exciting. When Mike Vick hit the scene, the Georgia Dome was home to the spectacle, as Vick was the most exciting player that most of us had ever seen. To a lesser extent, the Hawks had the same attraction when Dominique was in his prime. For a hot minute, the Thrashers provided a spectacle when Heatley and Kovalchuk were electric. In short, we need a reason to go.

Then again, maybe Atlanta fans aren't the only ones whose support is less than total:

Not helping the cause here: Very few Pats fans made this trip because the game is in Indy (not exactly Miami); it's been tough to find tickets/hotels; the Giants have probably five times as many fans spread across the country (and those fans travel better than Patriots fans); it's the fifth rodeo for the Pats; they didn't exactly rally New England with that last victory (barely beating Baltimore); and it's been such a good run for Boston sports teams that the locals are spoiled. Remember, at the last two Pats Super Bowls (in Jacksonville vs. Philly, then in Arizona vs. the Giants), the Pats fans were wildly outnumbered. This is going to be worse. You know what else? I kind of like it. The Belichick-Brady Pats have done some of their best work in enemy territory. It's true.

One wonders if it occurred to Bill Simmons when he wrote that list of excuses (at least aside from the first two, which are not valid excuses because they apply just as much to Giants fans as they do to Patriots fans) that he might as well have been writing the defense's brief for the Braves not selling out playoff games in the latter half of their run of division titles. In fact, it's a bigger issue for an area full of natives ("It's hard to overstate how provincial Massachusetts is.") to not travel to see their team in the Super Bowl than it is for a city of transplants to not sell out for a divisional round game against the Astros.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.