This is quite the debate we are having today. Living where I live, and rooting for the teams that I root for, you would never guess that I could even consider this possibility. I’m not saying this will ever happen, and perhaps this speaks more to my frustration with the lack of support this team has received over the years from its city. And yes, I know this city is a huge market (population wise). But, from an interest standpoint, I believe a case could be made that the Atlanta Braves should be relocated.
Gone are the days when the stadium is packed with crazed tomahawk-chopping fans. As a young Braves fan I remember the fire and the passion at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, and then later at Turner Field. But it’s now gone.
I specifically remember going to a game in 1993 against Barry Bonds and the Giants on a weekday. The “Launching Pad” was packed as the Braves were in the midst of a pennant chase. Those days are gone.
Flash back to a couple of weeks ago. The Braves, riding the buzz of Jason Heyward’s arrival and the fact that the Phillies were in town, managed to draw less than 25,000 all three games. Unacceptable. I know it was in April and the kids were still in school. But still, that’s embarrassing. The Braves currently sit 13th in the league in attendance at just a shade under 29,000, and those numbers are heavily inflated due to an opening series against top draw Chicago. Judging from the look of some of the crowds, I’m fairly certain that the number reflects how many tickets are sold and not the number of “people in attendance.”
There are many reasons for this. Take a look at the Braves radio affiliates. Yes, many stations in Georgia carry Braves baseball, but eight states currently have Braves radio affiliates. You can’t be many places in the Southeast and not find Braves baseball on your radio dial. Many fans outside of Atlanta rely on the Braves radio network to get their fix. The passion that doesn’t exist in the city of Atlanta most definitely exists in other parts of the state. I know adults in South Georgia in multiple counties that will call their satellite provider and fuss when a Braves game isn’t being carried for whatever reason. Many people not only in the Southeast but throughout other parts of the country grew up watching the Braves on TBS, even when they were terrible. Also, as scary as this image may be to you, it’s not uncommon for Loyal Homer to lay in the pool on a hot Sunday afternoon and listen to the Braves on the radio (Editor’s Note: Gross.). I wonder how often this takes place in Atlanta and its suburbs.
Part of the problem with the lack of passion amongst “fans” in Atlanta is that many residents in the city didn’t grow up in Georgia, much less Atlanta. Being a big market, and being a business and media hot spot, many Atlanta residents have moved there from other parts of the country for professional reasons. They don’t have the attraction to Atlanta’s sports teams because they didn’t grow up with them. It’s one reason why Georgia Tech has a hard time attracting fans while the Georgia Bulldogs, an hour away, usually has a waiting list for season tickets in football.
I initially balked at this idea when suggested by Sports Geek during our production meeting last week. But the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. But there are other parts of the Southeast where Braves baseball is more popular. Up until the arrival of the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins, the Braves were the only professional baseball team in the Southeast. Trust me, that means something. It’s a reason why the Braves have passionate fans in places like Charlotte, Memphis, Birmingham, and other places. Atlanta better tighten up, or who knows what could happen in the future.