Would UGA winning a national title mean more to the state than any professional Georgia sports team?
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Would Georgia football winning a title mean more to the state than the Braves, Falcons or Hawks?
Some believe that the best, most followed teams in Georgia are cursed. If you exclude the Atlanta United title — which we are for sake of the discussion — the last time one of Georgia football, the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves or Atlanta Hawks won a championship was in 1995. There’s a generation of sports fans in the state of Georgia who haven’t seen one of the four biggest teams in the state win a title. By comparison, the state of Massachusetts has won 12 in that same time period.
So if one of these teams were able to get over the hump, which would mean the most to its fans? Some have labeled Atlanta as a bad sports town, but that’s not really the case anymore. It’s no different than any other city. Fans still show up in droves to support a winning product like Georgia football or Atlanta United.
The top four teams have “contended” for a title at various points over the years. But which Georgia sports team is the most starved, and thus a title would mean the most? To determine the top team, we’ll factor in things like drought between titles, number of fans, recent playoff success and reasons why some might root against the local team.
4. Atlanta Hawks
Last championship season: 1958, when the franchise was located in St. Louis
Fans on social media: 3.77 million combined Twitter, Facebook and Instagram following
Last playoff success: 2016
Reason neutral fans root against the Hawks: The Hawks traded away the rights to Luka Doncic
Among the teams in Georgia, the Hawks feel the farthest away from winning a championship. The Hawks have the fifth worst record in the NBA this season after finishing with the third worst record in the NBA last season.
Of the professional sports teams, the Hawks have the smallest social media following, despite playing in the most forward thinking league from a social media standpoint. The Hawks also took plenty of criticism for trading away likely Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic for the right to draft Trae Young and an additional lottery pick. Young has played well as of late, and the Hawks have a promising young group of players, making the Doncic deal a little more defensible. Maybe landing Zion Williamson in the 2019 NBA Draft would excite the state, but as of right now, most people in the state of Georgia aren’t desperately hoping for the Hawks to bring home a title.
3. Atlanta Falcons
Last championship season: Never
Fans on social media: 5.22 million combined followers
Last playoff success: 2017/18
Reason neutral fans root against the Falcons: Atlanta blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl
The Falcons have never won a championship. They came incredibly close in 2016-17, when Atlanta famously blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. That loss really hammered home the idea of an Atlanta sports curse.
Atlanta is definitely a football town, and the Falcons have the largest social media following by a healthy margin. But losing the Super Bowl in the manner that they did really upset a lot of people. Not only did Atlanta hand another championship to America’s most hated team but it really gave the Georgia sports curse national attention.
And of the teams on this list, the Falcons feel like they have the smallest championship window. They missed the playoffs last season, and Matt Ryan and Julio Jones aren’t getting any younger. And if the Falcons do take a step back from competitive to average, you have to wonder if fans will continue to support the team. Mercedes-Benz Stadium wasn’t very full as the Falcons went 7-9 during the 2018 season.
2. Georgia football
Last championship season: 1980
Fans on social media: 2.42 million combined followers
Last playoff success: 2017/18
Reason neutral fans root against Georgia: Plenty of competition from a number of other schools in the Atlanta area.
I know this might be an unpopular opinion, especially given the site. While Georgia does have the smallest fan base in terms of social media presence, I’d argue the Bulldogs have the most engaged fan base of any of the Georgia sports teams.
The Bulldogs have become one of the elite college football programs under Kirby Smart. Georgia has come incredibly close to taking down Alabama in each of the last two seasons. Georgia held fourth quarter leads in both, only to be undone in both games by a back-up quarterback.
The state of Georgia as a whole might not be as thrilled though with a Georgia football championship, given that there are a number of Georgia, Tech, Auburn, Alabama and other supporters in and around the state. But you can bet that a Georgia football championship would absolutely mean the most to its fans. To paraphrase Larry Munson, some property is going to be destroyed when, not if, the Bulldogs finally win a championship.
1. Atlanta Braves
Last championship season: 1995
Last playoff success: 2001
Fans on social media: 4.28 million combined followers
Reason neutral fans root against the Braves: General indifference towards baseball
The Braves have the most recent championship. But it came all the way back in 1995. They made the playoffs every year from 1991-2005. And yet the franchise has a claim as maybe the most tortured franchise in the city since the turn of the century.
Atlanta hasn’t won a playoff series in baseball since 2001. Division foes Philadelphia and Miami have won championships in that time, while the New York Mets have also advanced to the World Series. Only the Nationals, Reds, Pirates and Padres have a longer drought without an appearance in a LCS.
The Braves did make a surprise playoff run last year, and like the Hawks have a number of promising young players. But this offseason saw the Braves’ division rivals all spend big money to improve their teams, while the Braves have not, despite having a brand new stadium that should’ve helped make them more competitive on the free agent mark. It’s no doubt been a frustrating offseason for Braves fans, as it has been for most of the 21st century.
When you factor in fan base size, and the importance of the Braves to the entire state of Georgia, they just narrowly squeak past the Bulldogs for the team that a championship would mean the most too.
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