When the Atlanta Braves took a 3 to 1 game lead on the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, I knew it was over…for the Braves.
I have watched Georgia teams choke my entire life, so I knew it was inevitable that the Braves would let Georgia sports fans down again. Prior to the Braves of the 1990’s, Atlanta had virtually zero professional sports success.
There were the Georgia Bulldogs (from Athens), who were always solid, and won the College Football National Championship in 1980. But before that, they last won in 1942. The hire of Kirby Smart seemed to have rejuvenated Georgia football, but in 2017, they blew a 20-7 lead in the third quarter to lose to the Alabama Crimson Tide 26-23 in overtime for the National Championship. A year later, they blew a 28-14 third quarter lead to lose 35-28 to the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship.
The Braves appeared in five World Series during the 1990s, only winning one, in 1995. They played in the National League Championship Series on three other occasions, only to lose to the Florida Marlins, and San Diego Padres. They also had three aces (Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux), for much of this era. The Braves should’ve been a dynasty.
The Atlanta Falcons were cellar dwellers for many years, but in 1998 they emerged as one of the most exciting teams, the Dirty Birds. After upsetting the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, they were trounced by the John Elway-led Denver Broncos 34-19.
The Falcons had hope when they drafted Michael Vick in 2001, but that ship sunk when Vick got busted in a dog fighting operation in 2007. In 2008, the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan, and he’s been the consistent leader ever since. In 2016, Ryan captured the MVP Award, leading the Falcons to their second Super Bowl appearance. After amassing a resounding 28-3 lead in the third quarter against the New England Patriots, they allowed Tom Brady to maneuver their way back into contention, eventually winning 34-28 in overtime. All they needed was one first down. Instead, Ryan got sacked on second down for 12 yards, taking them out of field goal position. An offensive holding call took them out of contention, and Brady led the Patriots to a game tying drive, sending it to overtime. This was the biggest choke job in NFL Super Bowl history.
The Falcons have blown big leads to the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears in 2020 regular season games.
The Atlanta Hawks have rarely given their fans much to cheer about, but in 2014-15, they earned the top seed in the NBA Eastern Conference with a record of 60-22. They were swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 2020 Braves had an opportunity to end this excruciating Peach State disappointment. Instead, they prolonged the agony for sports fans in Georgia.