1. LeBron and Kobe jerseys are bigger sellers than any Hawks jerseys. This would have the be a function of: (1) the NBA marketing players as opposed to teams; and (2) the fact that the Hawks don't have an especially good track record of producing teams that have even come close to winning a championship (hence the stat that until last Sunday, the Hawks had not won a seven-game series since the 70s). I'd imagine that LeBron and Kobe jerseys sell well in other NBA cities, but point taken.
2. There are a lot of Cowboys, Steelers, Yankees, and Red Sox fans in the stands when those teams come to town. Boone tries to address the argument that the city is full of transplants, but does so a little weakly:
The “everyone who lives here is from somewhere else” rationale has been used to explain Atlanta’s divided sports loyalties for years, and while there’s some truth to it, the numbers don’t add up.
According to the 2000 Census, of those living in Georgia at the time, 46,975 were born in Massachusetts. Roughly 25,000 more hailed from the New England states, where the Red Sox fervor runs just as deep.
So are we to believe one-third of those natives flock to Turner Field whenever Boston invades, or has Atlanta become over-run with front-runners?
It's too simplistic to say that there are 72K people born in New England in the area and therefore that that is the only population that would come to Turner Field for a visit by the Red Sox. Those 72K people are probably not all sterile, raising the possibility that they have offspring. It has been known to happen that offspring will cheer for their parents' favorite teams. Also, looking solely at the metro area is short-sighted because the Braves draw fans from a multi-state region, especially for weekend games as the tilts with the Red Sox always are. Do you think a Nashua, N.H. native living in Birmingham or Greenville isn't going to drive two hours to see the Sox play at the Ted?
That said, I'd be lying if I said that Boone doesn't have a point that there are plenty of people who have no connection to New York or Boston who become fans of the Yankees or Red Sox. We're going to see more and more of this as sports fans turn with increasing frequency to national news sources as opposed to local ones. A city like Atlanta with relatively young teams is going to be especially vulnerable to this phenomenon because the ties between its teams and fans won't be as tight as the bonds in other places. This is what's annoying about ESPN devoting excessive coverage to certain favored teams. If ESPN is going to play a bigger role in shaping rooting preferences, then they have a responsibility not to push those rooting interests to two or three teams in every sport. ESPN would no doubt claim that they are simply giving the viewing/reading/surfing public what they want, but that underrates the WWLIS's impact in shaping those preferences to begin with.
One other problem with Boone's article: any piece about sports preferences in the Atlanta market that doesn't discuss college football is, by nature, incomplete. I recognize that newspaper pieces are subject to strict word count requirements, but an article like this that argues that Atlantans aren't very committed to the home teams ought to address the fact that this market is full of college football fans who support their teams with religious fervor. The major problem that I have with outsiders who criticize Atlanta as a sports town is that they have only one conception for what a good sports town is: a city that is fanatically devoted to its pro sports teams. They don't recognize that there is merit in a market that follows college football more intensely and is full of large fan bases for about ten different programs. Boone's article feeds into that flawed mindset by treating the sale of Hawks jerseys as the measure of this city as a sports mecca.