“Stairway to Heaven” and “Highway to Hell” – two iconic songs with two diverse destinations. The former, celestial steps that lead to a fulfilled promise. The latter, a gravel terrain that we unequivocally bypass if we can. In your life, you have free will to choose which path you take. Some take the unbeknownst highway, while others take the road less traveled. Regardless, your terminus becomes solidified forever. The life of a Braves fan, however, is not as autonomous. It’s a cycle of emotions. A roller-coaster that never stops no matter how much you scream. The crest of the ride represents 91’ to 05’ – a time our team ruled over the “Iron Throne” like the Targaryen’s. The trough of the ride, however, represents our postseason shortcomings– a time we ruled, only to be beheaded like Ned Stark.
What is your fondest memory of the Atlanta Braves? Is it the 91’ season, when the team went from worst to first, and started their divisional dominance? How about Game 7 of 92’ NLCS when the lethargic Sid Bream beat the throw from Barry Bonds, and was called safe at home plate? For some, it’s the 95’ season, when the Atlanta Braves won their only championship. For others, it’s the many faces that adorned our diamond through the years, and donned the iconic insignia across their chests. Whatever memory you turn to, I can almost guarantee it is a good one. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of rich history woven in this franchise. Year after year, the Braves gave us something special, and we’ve stored these moments in our baseball archives.
And while I’m proud of my team, I can’t help but feel let down in many ways. Yes, the great moments are there, stored in our brain and ready to be re-counted at any social gathering. But let’s face it, the bad moments are there as well, locked deep in our hearts like the Titans of Tartarus. These inconceivable moments in our history wail and shriek like ghosts, yearning to get out. Yet we suppress these thoughts with Freddie Freeman’s on-base percentage, followed by the notion that this will be the year we win it all. To be honest, it’s tough being an Atlanta Braves fan, and it’s ok to feel this way. Sure, our resume is impressive – 14 straight division titles – but we only have one World Series to show for it. Furthermore, the past few years as a fan has felt like a punishment that your parents issued because you wouldn’t eat all your vegetables: The “infield fly rule” in the 2012 National League Wild Card game, Dan Carpenter serving up a fat fastball for Juan Uribe to crush in the 2013 NLDS, and Dan Uggla…
I realize at this moment you’re probably yelling obscenities at me in the name of Andres Galarraga. I get it, you’re frustrated, but so is every other Braves fanatic. The truth is, someone had to say it! It’s not easy being the Boba Fett of baseball – sure we look cool and have a substantial fan base – but we never do anything meaningful when the camera is on us. Much like the bounty hunter, we make it to the final movie, only to meet our demise in the end by some freak accident. No matter how many times we rewind it, we get eaten by the Sarlaac.
Now that a new season is upon us, and our beloved team has been gutted and replaced by a bunch of Raul Mondesi’s, where do we go from here? Do we quit on the Braves? Do we jump ship and become bandwagon fans until the opening of Suntrust Stadium in 2017?
No, we stick it out. We keep tuning in every night, no matter how dismal the season gets. Why? Because that’s what we do; that’s who we are. I don’t know about you, but I’m married to this team. Sure, this spouse gets on my nerves at times, but I still love them. I’m going to remain loyal, because that’s what defines a Braves fan. I didn’t pretend I was Andruw Jones in my backyard for no reason. I didn’t sit with my grandfather and watch the Braves dominate in the 90’s, only to quit on them when times get hard. We’re not the Yankees or the Red Sox – and thank God we’re not. We’re resilient and steadfast. We’re a small market with a respected farm system. We are “The Boxer” that Simon and Garfunkel alluded to. That’s something to be proud of.