Labor - And A Whole Lot More

We've Lost America's Team
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I've lost my baseball team. So have millions of others who, wherever they live, whatever their hometown team, have long owed their allegiance to the Atlanta Braves, aka "America's Team."

For 30 seasons we could watch the Braves almost daily over TBS, former team owner Ted Turner's "superstation." But beginning next year, stations outside the Braves' primary market of six southern states will get only am eager 13 telecasts per season, the southern stations just 45 telecasts at most.

Thirty seasons! The Braves became, in effect, our hometown team. We got to know the players up close and personal, thanks to dryly humorous Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson Sr., Pete Van Wieren, Joe Simpson and the other folksy TBS broadcasters who spoke warmly of "Hub," and "Horns" and "Murph." Of"Knucksie" and "Chipper" and "Bobby" and the other Braves.

The announcers were openly partisan, and that was fine with us. Their team was our team, after all, their friends among the players our friends. We even put up with the Braves' prancing mascot, "Homer the Brave." He was our mascot, too.

As just about anyone would for their hometown team, we stayed loyal through thick and thin, and, boy, was there a lot of thin. Our Braves lost more games - 845 - and won fewer games - 712 - than any other National League team during the 1980s. They were last in their division four years running. Also last in 1990, with the worst record in all of Major League Baseball.

Caray and his fellow broadcasters didn't try to hide our team's ineptness -or the smallness of the crowds at its Atlanta home base. "Lots of folks here tonight," Skip Caray was wont to say. "But most of them came disguised as empty seats." Skip also was thoughtful enough to alert us when the Braves were hopelessly losing a game in the late innings, as they often were. "Time," said he, "to walk the dog."

Ted Turner didn't try to fool us, either. He declared that while "some people have to live with diabetes, I have to live with a lousy baseball team."

Sticking with the oft-losing Braves was ennobling. High-minded and self-esteemed we were during those years of Braves' futility. It's easy to hop onto winners' bandwagons, easy to identify with front-runners. But to stand by perennial losers like the Braves -- that took true character.

We learned one of life's important lessons, that winning is indeed not everything. For if it was, there would have been no point whatsoever in watching our Atlanta Braves at play.

Ah, but we finally were rewarded in 1991 when the Braves went from last place to first to win the first of what became 14 straight division titles, under manager Bobby Cox. He didn't merely win, but also frequently gave us the chance to shout excitedly at errant umpires in support of the vociferous head-shaking complaints that have caused him to be tossed from more games than any manager in Major League history.

The Braves even won a World Series in 1995. The team hasn't done as well in recent years, yet the Braves have remained our team, a frequent and welcome presence in our homes via television. Until now, sad to say.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted, it is truly "the end of an era."

Copyright (c) 2007 Dick Meister