For the better part of 6 decades, this city and its sports fans have been in serious need of something. That something is a fresh start. For more than 60 years the city of Atlanta and the great state of Georgia’s professional teams have been the poster child for disappointment. Better yet, if the word ‘Suck’ were a noun, the definition would read: Atlanta pro sports.
For our teams, every year seems to read like the script to a bad rom-com date movie that you’ve seen a thousand times. The out of place dorky guy with no shot, wants the dream girl every man desires. Said girl since the time they were young, has always been with assholes that don’t deserve her, and for the most part she’s never even noticed that the dorky guy exists. So dorky guy formulates a plan to take down current asshole and obtain the love he has always been after. Fast forward to the last 20 minutes of the movie and Boom! To everyone’s astonishment the dork triumphantly defeats asshole, girl falls in love with dork and they live happily ever after.
Now for the overwhelming majority of America, at some point in their lives, this narrative has come true. Just about every city at some point has gotten the chance to have a team of their own get to be the guy who triumphs over the asshole, win the championship and bring her home.
Aside from the Braves in ‘95, and Bill Goldberg’s WCW heavyweight triumph over the Hulk at the Georgia Dome in ’98 (Yes I know that’s pathetic, but it’s also the only other title this city has ever “won”), this city has always been the dork, and we’re surrounded by assholes.
As a firm believer in karma, I don’t know what else the city of Atlanta has to give the world in order to finally get our due? From MLK to Coca-Cola, From Turner Broadcasting to Outkast, from Waffle House to hosting the Olympics, hell we even gave y’all Ryan F’N Seacrest and the Walking Dead…so yeah, you’re welcome world. Honestly what more do we have to give to win a championship? I mean we’re even home to the CDC, and they just beat Ebola! So again World, go’n and marinate on that for a second. A Super Bowl or a World Series ain’t too much to ask for now is it?
So with all that being said, here’s my point. In 2017, this city and its fan base will get something that it not only needs, but it deserves. And that something is a clean slate and a fresh start. That year a brand new team will be playing in a brand new stadium, in what in large part is still a brand new sport in the professional hierarchy of your average American sports fan.
For those of you who are just now joining us, and by us I am referring to the billions of people around the world that have loved the beautiful game of Fùtbol for some time now, I’m sure this summer’s World Cup was an eye opening experience for you. It was not only a fun excuse to rally behind your flag and be xenophobic about America for a month, but it was also in large part your first exposure to what makes this game so addicting. The singing and the chants, the drama of a late goal, the co-existence of graceful flow and violent brutality, and ultimately the camaraderie of those around you as you share in a moment of greatness, or the heartache of defeat that makes this game so intoxicating.
Now I’m not saying that our team in 2017 is going to be great, and as a lifelong Atlantan I damn sure will never guarantee that they’ll ever even win a championship. I will however say that the right pieces are starting to come in place to where I can see this team truly being special. Though we’ve yet to sign a single player or even come up with an official team name or logo, there are two very important factors in place that if you know anything about the MLS, are what separate the best from the rest: An owner committed to winning, and a fan base who will show up in droves.
Fans have already shown their commitment. More than 14,000 season tickets have been requested…and we’re still more than 2 years away from kick-off! Equally as impressive, is Arthur Blank’s clear indication of his level of commitment to win from the start.
As a model owner in the professional world, his level of commitment to not only his teams but also this city can only be rivaled by our dear old Uncle Ted (That’s Ted Turner for you Yankees who migrated from the north only recently). Not only is he building what will be one of the finest stadiums in the world for his team to play in, but he’s also beginning to build a world class front office staff to go with it.
This past Monday the team’s first official president, Darren Eales began work. Though his name may be unfamiliar, the name of is previous employer where he was Director of Football Operations, shouldn’t be. Located in the heart of London and affectionately known throughout the English Premier league and the world as Spurs, Tottenham Hotspur are one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Though they have failed to emulate their success of the 1960’s and 70’s, Spurs have remained a fixture in England’s top 6 for the past decade and have been home to some of the games greats. As Director of Football Operations, Eales high level experience of wheeling and dealing with the world’s elite, namely overseeing the world record transfer of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, is what makes the hiring of Eales a clear indication to the rest of the League, that Arthur Blank means business.
Though I may be putting the cart before the horse, and in typical Atlanta fashion I already have the “Wait till next year!” mentality. Given Eales track record and experience with directing one of England’s biggest clubs, I think it’s safe to say that Blank has every intention of fielding a team that can compete for a championship. Given the fact that more and more European stars are seeing the MLS as a viable option to prolong their careers (Frank Lampard, David Villa and Kaka are the latest to jump on board for 2015), one can only hope that some of the world’s elite would seriously consider bringing their talents to the ‘A’. When you consider Atlanta’s climate, international appeal, booming film industry and with the endorsement opportunities of 16 fortune 500 companies, Atlanta has the potential to make a real splash by bringing in at least one marquee name. I’m betting the first signing is going to be an aging EPL star, looking for one last pay day and the chance to dominate against lesser competition.
I know soccer may not be your favorite sport. It’s a sport often associated as ‘foreign’, as well as being associated with faking injuries (diving), bad haircuts, and people you find in hipster coffee shops whom you might consider on the fringe of “cool and popular” society. But in the city of Atlanta’s case, it’s a sport associated with a new beginning. After all, our cities motto is “Resurgence”, and our new team gives this cities sporting identity just that. Atlanta is a city dominated by transplants. People who either grew up supporting, or their family grew up supporting other teams from other places. What makes Atlanta truly great is our diversity, but from a fandom perspective, it’s our kryptonite.
This team can change all of that. This is our chance as a city to rally behind something that for the first time ever, can belong to all of us. Whether you’re a native or a transplant, a soccer aficionado or a first time fan. This team gives all of all of us who call Atlanta home, a common rallying cry we can get behind and support.
So in closing, I can’t wait for 2017. Atlanta fans deserve a clean slate and a fresh start, and this sport and this team are exactly what it needs. So mark my words, if you’re not yet sold on the idea of soccer and you aren’t a believer in just how popular this team will be, remember I told you so. Because in 2017 you absolutely will be. And by then if for some reason you’re still too cool for soccer, then you’re probably just an asshole. But that’s just fine for this Atlanta fan, I know that script. Like the movie plot we’ve never got to live, this time this dork and this city are going to win, and I have a feeling we’re going to win big.
Author: Alex Jones