The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
As we progress with our little experiment, we're glad to hear that so many of you are enjoying the ride. Up next is Jay Busbee, the Atlanta-based proprietor of fellow YSB blogs, Devil Ball Golf and From The Marbles.
1. It can't get any worse than it did in 2011: Here's a sentence I never thought I'd type: Thank heaven for the Boston Red Sox. Without their epic collapse and the orgy of self-pity that erupted out of New England (plus the absolute glee from the rest of the baseball world) everyone would be mocking the Braves as the worst example of down-the-stretch choking in recent memory. Oh, don't get me wrong, losing five straight to end the season makes me want to puke, but at least we've got company. If you've gotta go down, take someone bigger with you.
2. Chipper Jones can still do a decent Chipper Jones impersonation: Yes, Jones now has the range (and structural integrity) of a gingerbread house. But every so often, he'll break out a key home run or a wiseass quote that reminds you of the days when he used to pick his teeth with the New York Mets. This is in all likelihood his final season, so we owe it to him to enjoy and appreciate the remarkable run of one of the best third basemen ever named Chipper. Oh, and in baseball history.
3. Plenty of good seats are always available. Look, we get it: Atlanta has a fickle fanbase. Yes, we know; we didn't sell out playoff games and we don't support our team and blah blah blah. Now you see why, don't you? We've been worked over by this team so many different times we've run out of ways to give tentative support. On the other hand, that means that whenever we do want to make it to a game, there's no problem getting a seat. And if you look like you're supposed to be there (i.e. fake-talk on a cell phone while carrying a tray of drinks) you can get one of the seats that's closer to catcher Brian McCann than the dugout. Or so I've heard.
4. Hey, we've finally got a great relief corps! Relief pitching was the bane of Atlanta's existence throughout its vaunted and now-long-vanished playoff run. (At campfires in Georgia, we tell the tale of Mark Wohlers versus Jim Leyritz in the '96 World Series. Keeps the kids awake and terrified all night.) But with the Vegas-lounge-singer-named Jonny Venters and reigning rookie of the year Craig Kimbrel, we've got a legitimate late-inning shutdown threat. Now, if we could just get them the ball with the lead...
5. We have a cow. Check out the monstrosity that is the tomahawk-chopping Chick-Fil-A cow:
Tell me that doesn't look like the opening scenes of some found-footage horror flick where the cow comes alive. It's part of Turner Field's avowed policy of sponsor-love, where you'll find a gargantuan Coke bottle, an entire kids' playhouse dedicated to the Cartoon Network, and a ring of high-priced fieldside seats named for a local bank. Now, if only Liberty Media would turn some of that money into a free-agent big-stick outfielder...
6. Speaking of the tomahawk chop, yeah, we're keeping that going: Racially insensitive? Check. Ripped off from Florida State? Yep. But it's still here, and you know what? If you hear a sold-out stadium chanting it (yes, we DO sell out occasionally), without prompting from the organist or video board, it's pretty damn chill-inducing. (Hey, at least we sent the offensive "brave" logo to live on the farm with Chief Noc-A-Homa.)
7. We had the greatest pitching staff of all time: OK, look: We didn't recognize the gift we had at the time in the 1990s. Nobody ever realizes they're living in the golden days until after they're gone. But the holy trio of Greg Maddux/John Smoltz/Tom Glavine, a rotation so powerful that All-Stars like Steve Avery, Kevin Millwood and Denny Neagle were No. 4 starters, will stand as the finest in baseball history. How good were they? These guys won six of the eight Cy Youngs from 1991 to 1998 (Maddux won for the Cubs in 1992; Maddux and Neagle finished right behind Pedro Martinez in 1997). They'll all enter Cooperstown one day, along with former manager Bobby Cox and Jones. Short of Apple purchasing the Dodgers, you'll never see a team with the kind of financial muscle to keep a rotation that strong together that long again.
8. The nicest man in baseball history was a Brave. You can debate whether Dale Murphy's early-80s run (two straight MVPs, a home-run hitter in a singles era) is worthy of Cooperstown. But what you can't debate is that the guy is one of the classiest men ever to don a uniform. His Twitter feed (@DaleMurphy3) is a must-follow for baseball fans; tweet at him and chances are good he'll reply. If there were a Hall of Fame for nice guys, he'd be a first-ballot selection. (Shut up. If Murphy can't get into the real Hall, we're allowed that groaner.)
9. We'll always have 1991: 1991, the year Atlanta went worst-to-first and started a 15-year playoff run, is a holy number for Braves fans, even though a kid born the day the Braves first visited the Metrodome turns old enough to buy beer this season. We'll never recapture that kind of holy-crap-can-you-believe-this? citywide mania, mainly because nobody in the city trusts the team not to choke away a lead now. But having one of those miracle-turnaround seasons in your past always gives you hope that it'll happen again.
10. The 1995 World Series title: We got one, at least.
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What are you favorite things about being a fan of the Atlanta Braves?
Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres