So I was thinking this weekend as the Braves were getting pummeled twice at home by the hapless Nationals that the Hawks are officially the best pro team in the city. The Falcons and Thrashers are one of the two worst teams in their respective leagues, while the Braves are meandering under .500 and have put together one of the worst outfields in recent memory. Meanwhile, the Hawks are coming off of a season in which they made the playoffs and pushed the eventual champions to a seventh game. Yes, the Hawks did so after finishing eight games under .500 and they didn't come close to winning a game in Boston, but work with me here.
Anyway, it was only three years ago that the roles were completely reversed. At this time three years ago, the Braves were en route to their 14th straight divisional title. They were in the process of reinventing the team with a corps of players from the minors, led by local products Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann. The Falcons were coming off of a season in which they made the NFC Championship Game. They had Michael Vick, one of the biggest stars in the NFL. The Thrashers had not yet made the playoffs, but they had assembled a nucleus of Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley (one month from being dealt to Ottawa), and Kari Lehtonen. The future of all three teams looked bright. Only the Hawks were in the toilet, as they were coming off a season in which they won a whopping 13 games and finished with the worst record in the NBA.
What are the lessons here? I can think of a few possibilities:
1. As bad as things appear for our local sports collectives, fortunes can change in a relatively short amount of time. With progressive drafts and salary caps (in three of four sports), three years is an eternity in American professional sports. That said...
2. This is Atlanta and bad things will happen.
3. The Braves, Falcons, and Thrashers were all stocked with young players, but bad decisions from management of those three teams (the Thrashers and Falcons far more so than the Braves) caused the teams to founder. This is a clear lesson for the Hawks. Assembling good young talent is only the first step. That young talent needs a supporting cast. The players also need hobbies that don't violate federal law.