I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. My father was born and raised there. I bleed Falcons red and black…and Braves red and blue. (I banged my shin all to hell on a box-jump-gone-wrong in my home gym/garage last week, and those were the colors that pooled up on the floor. It looked pretty gross.)
When I was living in Georgia, there was no question what team you cheered for: the Braves during baseball season, and the Falcons during football season. It didn’t matter how well or how bad either team was playing, they were the home town heroes and that’s who I rooted for. That’s who everyone rooted for.
My allegiance to these teams was born out of necessity–the mood in our household, driven primarily by the mood of my father, depended on the outcome of the day’s sporting event.
But that changed when I joined the Navy. You see, when you’re in the military, stationed far from home (as I was for nearly my whole career), your hometown teams become part of your identity–sometimes whether you like it or not.
This was when I really started following the Braves and Falcons. The Braves were easy. With 14 division titles and one World Series championship (1995) from 1991–the year I graduated high school and entered the U.S. Naval Academy–through 2005, they were a winning team, and I was proud to claim them as my own.
The Falcons were your middle-of-the-road team during that same time frame, with a short period in the spotlight: a couple of playoff appearances and trip to the Super Bowl in 1998. We lost.
During all that time, when my teams were winning, I never once talked trash to anyone who supported the “other” team. But when we were losing, I sure heard a lot of trash talking from the “other” folks. I just didn’t get it. I still don’t.
[Full disclosure: I’ve been known to make Power Point flyers and pin them up in my cubicle–when I worked in a cubicle–that may be considered trash talking, but they were not directed at any specific person, er, any specific fan of the “other” team.]
That’s not so bad, is it?
A few of them were less pointed, and maybe a little self-deprecating. Like this one:
See, I’m more like the guy from “The Weight” by The Band… “I’m a peaceful man.” I don’t like confrontation.
Don’t get me wrong, I won’t just stand by and let someone walk all over me when I’m being wronged, or when I see someone else getting the shaft. I used to be that way, but not anymore. Not when it matters.
It’s just a game, right?
I bleed Falcons red and black…and Braves red and blue. But I won’t argue with you over whose team is better. After all, it’s just a game.
Oh, hell yeah, I punched the sofa, cussed like a sailor, threw my hat at the TV, and even shed a few silent tears after Super Bowl LI.
So the games do matter to me. For over two decades, the Braves and the Falcons were my lifelines back to the place I grew up. But in the weeks heading up to the big game this past February, I never said one cross word to that guy at Publix with his Tom Brady jersey on, or even the guy at Ace Hardware rocking the Aaron Rodgers gear the day of the NFC Championship.
I don’t like confrontation. And when it comes to sports, I will only watch a game where everyone in the room is rooting for the same team, i.e., my team. Not because I don’t like fans of the “other” team, I just don’t trust them to not give me, personally, a ration of their “in your face” BS when my team is losing. (Is that bad?)
I will always support my teams. No matter what.
I feel great about the Falcons’ chances to win it all this year. And I will tell anyone who asks that, yes, they are my team.
I’m pretty sure the Braves won’t be winning any pennants this year. They are, as the front office tells us, in the middle of “rebuilding,” and at times, it is painful to watch. But that didn’t stop me from purchasing an mlb.tv “Single Team Package” so I could watch every Braves game this season…if I so choose. I only have access to Braves’ games, but that’s all I need. Because they are my team, too.
So if anyone wants to come over and have a few beers while we pray that someone will actually be on base the next time Freddie Freeman hits one out of the park, you are welcome to stop by. But if you are thinking about wearing your Nats ball cap and #34 t-shirt while we visit and watch the game together…better think again.