"Fair Weather Fan Syndrome" is back in the spotlight


Morguefile/GaborfromHungary

Did you know that the Atlanta Falcons football team is headed to the Super Bowl? Jokes aside, it's honestly a great thing for the city to cheer about these days so let the local newscasters, residents and talk-masters celebrate. To me, that's the silver lining. Beneath that news, it's outrageous how much it costs to go to the National Football League's ultimate championship game known as Super Bowl LI. The game cost thousands for spectators to attend the February 5th brouhaha.

To combat that issue, Mayor Kasim Reed proposed a special viewing for fans to gather at the Georgia Dome to watch the big game on jumbo screens. We saw this idea put to use during Major League Baseball's World Series games during autumn 2016 when fans gathered at Cleveland's Progressive Field to view their team who were playing their opponents in Chicago. As of this writing, the event will not happen since the entire Falcons organization will be in Houston. Thus, someone else would have to operate the Georgia Dome while the football club organization is out of town. Plus it sounds like the NFL is not hot about the idea.

As with any big profile sports match-up, there are rivalries between the cities. At the moment, I haven't heard any bets between the mayors of Boston and Atlanta, but I have been seeing commentaries in the newspapers. Boston pundits note that more folks in Atlanta play sports rather than watch it so that explains the perceived apathy towards the ball clubs like NFL's Falcons, MLB's Braves and NBA's Hawks. Another theory on Atlanta's "fair-weather fans" is that most of the metro area's population is more into college sports.

 Indeed those Bean-town pundits are onto something, but they also miss some other key factors. Atlanta is a far younger town with comparatively newer professional sports franchises. Pundits in older towns like Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh can easily make those observations and they're right. When Atlanta's teams are doing well, attendance is up and a certain spirit captivates the entire market. During down times, attendance is way down.

Another key factor that leads to hometown "fair weather fans" is that Atlanta still has a lot of transplants. I've been in Atlanta for years so I'm almost a native, but still, I'm technically a transplant along with thousands of metro Atlanta residents. Transplants by and large support their home teams. There's still a special place in my heart for the Cleveland Indians, Cavaliers and Browns, but I'm not a solid, card-carrying fan of those teams. I would much rather see the Falcons go to the Super Bowl, Braves in the World Series and Hawks in the NBA Championship series.

If the "fair weather fan syndrome" is the worst thing one can write about Atlanta, then I'll take it. Look at the cities I just mentioned in this post. They're all up north and for a great portion of the year, it snows. I hate snow. Atlanta rarely receives any snowfall and ice (knock on wood and let's pray for a snow-less winter 2017). Yes, we have the heat, but I'll say it again, you can pretty much drive in the heat. It's awful to drive in the snow. Trust me, I grew up on Ohio's north coast in the Cleveland suburbs. It's awful to drive in snow. I had visions of moving away from Cleveland when I was 14.

In Atlanta, much of the population is into college football - mainly the Southeastern Conference. One only needs to look around to see the swarms of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Georgia Bulldogs paraphernalia to see the loyalty to college football. Then there are the much-maligned out-of-state schools with their swag running around the Atlanta metro area including license plates for Georgia that sport the emblem of those schools like South Carolina's Clemson University. I don't think I saw that type of loyalty while growing up in Ohio. Certainly there was always a contingent of Ohio State Buckeyes jackets and flags spotted around the Cleveland area, but not festooned around the northern Ohio city like we see in Atlanta. Indeed Buckeyes Fever is ingrained in the Columbus, Ohio area, but that's pretty much a college town that happens to be Ohio's capital.

Another amount of fan loyalty lies with the minor league teams. Some folks love to run up to Rome, Georgia to watch the Rome Braves.  I hear Rome's minor league stadium is a bit more popular than the minor league park in Gwinnett County.

The Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance as the underdogs once again. Still, it's impressive to see the local professional football club head to the big game. The problem is that it's tough to be a huge fan when one cannot afford tickets or view the spectacle in a local venue with fellow fans. 

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