Friday, July 27, 2012

Characterizing the Fanbases #2: Atlanta Braves

Welcome to the latest installment of Characterizing the Fanbases! In this series I’m attempting to present the psychology of every MLB fanbase. This series, as you would expect, comes with a disclaimer: These characterizations are based on my own perceptions and opinions, and no offense is intended by them. I freely admit that I’m only one man, and my view is therefore limited. I’m fully aware that many fans will not fit the profile I depict, and that’s to be expected, because it’s impossible to make blanket statements about large groups of people. If you want to contest anything I write here, feel free to leave a thoughtful, civil comment. Otherwise, sit back and have fun reading. Perhaps I might even say something insightful!

Atlanta isn't known as a great sports city. The Braves got a big attendance boost in the early '90s with their newfound success, then again in 1997 with the opening of Turner Field. After all the winning though, fans became jaded; it got to where they couldn't even sell out playoff games. I recall empty postseason seats even at the Braves’ high-attendance peak in the '90s, so it wasn't just something that happened after they became an annual first-round exit in the early 2000's.

When I was a teenager and hated the Braves with a passion, I used to justify my hatred by pointing to the playoff games that didn't sell out. It proved that these fans didn't deserve the great team they had, I reasoned. Now that I'm older, I'm a little more sympathetic. For one thing, I realize that the Wild Card round has diluted the excitement of the postseason a bit. I've never been a frequent ballpark attendee, since it's expensive and I haven't always had the desire to make the trip, so I can also understand how every postseason game isn't a must-see once it becomes an annual occurrence. Also, as the American South's team of choice, the disappointing attendance likely fails to account for the wide-ranging group of diehards outside the city of Atlanta.

I think most Brave fans are just average people who enjoy the game but don’t obsess over it. Baseball isn’t an integral part of southern culture, so it’s probably not realistic to expect the degree of rabidity that we see in some of the more “traditional” baseball markets. Thanks to the legendary 1991-2005 run though, they probably have more true blue fans than ever. We may have accused 'em of being a bunch of bandwagon jumpers back in the day, but there are now generations that grew up with the Braves being a perennial power, and they see the team as more than just an occasional diversion.

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