Monday, November 18, 2013

Week of 11/18/2013

Braves Move Proves These Really Are Not “Our” Teams
– by David Matthews 2

So did you hear the news?  The Atlanta Braves are moving!

Well, they’re not leaving Georgia, but they are leaving the home that they’ve known for decades.

The contract between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Braves expires in 2017, and while the city and the team have worked together through both the old Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field (a.k.a. “The Ted”, a.k.a. the former Olympic Stadium), obviously someone wasn’t happy with that set-up.

So this past week the Braves announced out-of-the-blue that they were leaving Atlanta proper when the contract expires and moving to neighboring Cobb County.  They get a nice brand-new multi-million dollar stadium for their troubles, and they don’t have to worry about traffic hassles or having to deal with the City of Atlanta.

And Turner Field?  Well Mayor Kasim Reed is saying “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of town”, because he’s already planning on tearing down “The Ted” and letting the developers turn that space into their playground.  And there is a part of me that can understand his attitude about this.

Hey, the city just finished ironing out the details for a brand-new billion-dollar football stadium with retractable dome for the Atlanta Falcons, including prolonged negotiations with two churches to give up their property.  And now here come the Braves and their “What have you done for us lately” and their “Wah!  Where’s our new stadium?” attitude.  Yeah, I’d want to give them an attitude back as well.

In fact, if I was in the mayor’s place, I’d probably go one step further and pull the city out from the Braves.  You want to give up on Atlanta?  Well then you can’t call yourselves the Atlanta Braves anymore!  Go call yourselves the Cobb Braves!  Or the Cumberland Braves, or the Marietta Braves.  Or maybe that’s just being too vindictive.

The funny part is that, as of this column, nothing has really been formalized yet.  People are treating this as though it’s a done deal and yet there haven’t been any signatures affixed to paper.

This still has to go through the citizens of Cobb County, and they were caught by surprise as everyone else!  And then they realized that they would have to foot the bill for the majority of the deal!  This from the county that prides itself as being ultra-conservative and having a passionate hatred of taxes.  Do you really think they will be excited about these so-called “fiscally conservative” politicians of theirs forcing them to cough up a few hundred million for the “privilege” of hosting the Braves?

Then there’s the traffic!  I’ve lived in Cobb County.  I used to commute on a daily basis to that part of the Cumberland Mall area where the Braves have already secured the property for their little fetish. 

How do you think people will get to this proposed new stadium?  Drive?  Good luck!  I await hearing about the added carnage at Windy Hill and Cobb Parkway, which is already known as the deadliest intersection in Georgia!  And Cobb Cloverleaf is about as bad as its counterpart on the other side of the 285 Perimeter.

As long as the Braves are in Atlanta, their fans have the convenience of using MARTA instead of having to deal with the I75/I85 hassles.  They don’t have to worry about parking.  They can park at a MARTA station, take the train, and then transfer to a special bus that takes them right to The Ted.  But in Cobb County?  Forget it!  The Cobb County conservatives hate MARTA with the same passion and fury as they hate taxes and Barack Obama.

So, again, how do you think all of those Braves fans are going to get to the new stadium fetish?  Teleportation?  Fairy dust?  Walking?  Hey, AMC may be filming “The Walking Dead” here in Georgia, but that doesn’t mean it’s the preferred mode of travel for the non-zombie residents!

Obviously the details have to be worked out, and of course everything is still subject to change, but as it stands right now, it doesn’t look like either the Braves or the Cobb County politicians put too much thought into the outhouse pit that they just put themselves and the Cobb County residents nose-deep in.

And all of this reinforces something that I’ve been pointing out for a while now.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the decision of the Braves to leave Atlanta for Cobb County points out the inescapable fact that these sports teams are not nor were they ever “ours” to begin with.  Despite the PR, despite the commercials trying to rally our support, despite the stadium announcer proclaiming during each and every game that these are “our” teams, they’re not.  They belong to owners and corporations whose interests are less with the community and more with their own bottom lines.  Just ask the taxpayers of Cleveland if you don’t believe me.

I think it’s damned self-centered for sports owners to threaten to leave a city if the taxpayers are not willing to satisfy their perverse fetish for new stadiums, especially given the prolonged global recession.  We have cities declaring bankruptcy or on the verge of doing it.  They’re still struggling to be able to afford paying teachers and firefighters and police officers. 

If the fans have to make do with driving the same cars and living in the same homes when times are tough, then millionaire and billionaire owners of those teams should learn to also make do with the stadiums they had already convinced the cities to build for them with taxpayer money.

And if they can’t… then maybe they don’t deserve the support that we blindly and foolishly give them.

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