Incidentally, the issue of Atlanta as a sports town raises a couple additional thoughts:
1. Why isn't Detroit being labeled as the worst sports town in America in light of the thousands of empty seats at the Joe for the home playoff games of the top-seeded Red Wings? You mean it's possible for fans to get playoff fatigue when their team makes it year after year after year?
2. This article($) is simply outstanding. In a nutshell, Nate Silver took a stab at analyzing the true size of each Major League Baseball team's market, both in terms of the size of the metropolitan area as well as the surrounding states, to get a better sense as to which teams are truly big market teams. Here is the section on the Braves:
Attendance Sphere: 5.5M (93, 13th)
TV Sphere: 15.6M (176, 2nd)
MSA: 5.2M (90, 12th)
Mike Jones: 6.5M (102, 11th)
States Won (TV): Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Mississippi
Note that the Braves rank 13th in their attendance market but 2nd in their TV market--it’s no accident that Ted Turner invented the Superstation. There are huge numbers of people in the South that are closer to the Braves than any other club, but not close enough to drive to games regularly. Atlanta itself has grown by 20 percent since the 2000 census, but that growth is along the city’s periphery rather than in its center, and the traffic in the region is terrible, so the Braves remain a television team.
This analysis goes a long way to explaining why the Braves' attendance lags behind the team's popularity: the Atlanta metro-area is far-flung and the Braves, not unlike the Cardinals, are a regional team that has a number of fans in the surrounding states. Given the love that the Red Sox get as a regional team, the Braves deserve a little credit for having similar characteristics.