It’s a great time to be an Atlanta sports fan.
I understand that this is an Atlanta Hawks blog (of course I understand, I write here) and that some of my readers may not be Atlanta Falcons fans, but there is a special connection between the Hawks and the Falcons that Atlantans understand. The Falcons were formed in 1966. The Hawks moved to Atlanta from St. Louis in 1968. The Falcons have played in the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta since 1992. The Hawks played in the Omni from 1972-1997 and then in Philips Arena since 1999 in the same location just one block away.
Dirty birds of a feather fly together. All that is missing is a stint in a Hawks uniform for Deion Sanders.
21st century alert: there is even good-natured ribbing aimed at the Seattle Seahawks from the two Twitter accounts.
Dear Seattle – WE are the only Hawks winning in Atlanta this weekend! – Love the REAL Hawks #RiseUp
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) January 11, 2013
The Atlanta Falcons retweeted that tweet for added emphasis. This is the 2013 social media version of a trash talking for those unaware of Twitter happenings.
Here’s the lowdown on the recent Falcons divisional playoff game for the non-National Football League aficionados. The Falcons stormed out of the gate to the shock of pundits and prognosticators everywhere and took a commanding 20 point lead. The defense stifled the underrated Seahawks attack for 0 first half points.
The Seahawks would not be silenced for the entire game, however. Slowly, they clawed back into the game and the Falcons were unable to add more than 7 points to their lofty lead. Upon taking a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds to go, Seattle was sure to perpetuate the Atlanta sports label for yet another year. But Matt Ryan, Matt Bryant and the Falcons were unfazed and led an incredible 17 second drive to seal the deal with a long field goal.
Why are these recent football events relevant to the current situation of the Atlanta Hawks?
Year after year, the Hawks have been dismissed as a team that just cannot break through a conceived glass ceiling. Reaching the Eastern Conference finals is just something the Hawks will never attain, according to a number of talking heads on mass media. Sound familiar to the whole “Matt Ryan and Mike Smith cannot win playoff games” narrative? Turn on the radio and the TV this afternoon and see if that is ever now mentioned in a serious light.
This season for the Atlanta Hawks has been a rollercoaster, with low lows and not high enough highs, but this is not a new development. Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, the Hawks have made the playoffs 23 times. There have been 11 first round exits and 12 Eastern Conference Semifinals series losses. That makes a resounding total of 0 Eastern Conference finals or NBA finals appearances despite the best efforts of Dominique Wilkins in the 80s and 90s.
It just will not happen. It cannot happen. Replay this sad tune every postseason.
It is no doubt a lazy narrative, but it gets trotted out every postseason, as if it is a character fault of player, coach and fan involved.
Like the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, we came out of the gates quickly, starting 12-5 including victories over 3 division leaders at the time of the game, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder.
However, after losing 5 of the last 6 and 6 of the past 8 games, cat calls have come raining in saying “Same ol’ Atlanta Hawks”. Similarly, after losing to 3 division rivals, including a thoroughly unimpressive Week 17 letdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and analysts all but stated clearly “Same ol’ Falcons” matter-of-factly.
We have all seen great efforts from the Atlanta Hawks. They have the ability to be a lethal long range team and the passing combo of Al Horford and Josh Smith is possibly the best of any frontcourt. In short, when deployed properly, the Hawks can present difficult matchup problems for opponents.
Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner (the Seahawks cornerbacks) met Roddy White and Julio Jones (the Falcons Pro Bowl wide receivers) Sunday. The former two now understand the matchup problems presented by the latter two.
In the same way records are meant to be broken, narratives are meant to be shot down. The Hawks need only look to the West of Philips Arena to see a great example.
All’s well that ends well. The end is in sight for the Atlanta Hawks, and naysayers will doubt them every step of the way but through the utmost attention and focus on the ultimate goal, new heights can be reached. Atlanta’s birds can fly higher than previously thought. Matt Ryan was able to prove it and is in the process of quieting pundits. Can the Hawks? Yes, they certainly can. Will the Hawks? That’s why we watch the games.