The Braves are rewriting Atlanta’s tortured comeback story

from Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

Go back a few years and you could barely utter the word “homecoming” in the city of Atlanta because of the traumatic memories it would surely evoke.

In a gritty little stretch where a brutal wind blew through Atlanta sports and “so close yet so far” became an ever-present phrase, the area’s most popular teams found increasingly creative ways to let glory slip through the cracks. their fingers.

There was all that 28-3 Super Bowl business, of course, with Tom Brady to blame for igniting what would have been an epic Falcons party in February 2017. Less than a year later, Tua Tagovailoa’s heroics outside the bench carried Georgia through the national championship. And during MLB’s COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Braves surrendered a 3-1 series lead to the Los Angeles Dodgers to earn a berth in the World Series.

Yet those same Braves put a roadblock on the tortured narrative a year ago and, heading into their National League showdown with the Philadelphia Phillies beginning Tuesday (1:07 p.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports App), have continued the retooling process this season .

Because “comebacks” aren’t what everyone else is doing against Atlanta teams anymore. The art of the comeback? Well, that’s just how the Braves live now.

“Comeback” isn’t usually used to describe a long, drawn-out come-from-behind turnaround in a pennant race, where winding up takes place over months, not minutes. But that’s exactly what happened as summer turned to fall and the Braves chased the New York Mets, turning a 10.5-game deficit into a leadoff sweep for the final week.

The scale was impressive, as was the fact that the Braves posted a stellar 78-33 record after a rocky start to the campaign. What really made it one of the big pennant-chasing stories of late was the way it unraveled, the Mets’ sweep of Truist Park last weekend to take over the division lead heading into the postseason , supported by momentum.

“I think these guys have probably gained more confidence in what we’re going through here than they did last year,” manager Brian Snitker told reporters. “In that respect, we’re better equipped to handle the stress of what we’ve been through the last four years.”

The Atlanta series was fun to watch and came with some notable quirks and highlights. The team did not give up a sacrifice until the 161st game of the season. Dansby Swanson was the only MLB player to start all 162 games, while Matt Olson, who did an admirable job replacing fan favorite Freddie Freeman, essentially accomplished the same feat — but one of his appearances came off the bench.

The series evoked memories of last season, when the Braves got off to a similarly poor start, survived and persevered, avenged the Dodgers with a 3-1 upset in the NLCS and won the World Series despite having only two starting pitchers, Max Fried and Ian Anderson, on whom they felt they could count on.

As it stands, oddsmakers have Atlanta as the +450 third favorite (FOXBet) to win it all again, behind the Dodgers and Houston Astros.

Back-to-back titles would be another intriguing chapter in the history of Atlanta sports, which went from zero professional teams to one in every major league during a whirlwind 1966-1972 run.

A recently released book, Loserville: How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta – and How Atlanta Remade Professional Sports, takes an intriguing and detailed look at this evolution, the title a reference to a 1975 newspaper column lamenting how early excitement over the influx of teams had given way to frustration and apathy.

“There’s a bit of an imbalance,” the book’s author, Clayton Trutor, told me by phone Sunday evening. “Atlanta seniors remember the bad days, with bad teams, low attendance and low interest.”

“But newer fans feel pretty good about things. Even with the near misses, people got used to the Braves being good and Georgia being competitive. The Hawks had fun with Trae Young and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta FC got people behind them.

“There are certain expectations locally when it comes to the Braves. And the way things have played out over the last few seasons has added to the excitement because it’s been so dramatic.”

If you’re looking for drama, chasing the Mets in a catch-me-if-you-can battle for the ages will do.

But don’t call it a comeback. In fact, call it what you will, as the tale of woe appears to be in hindsight, Atlanta’s scars are all but healed, and the Braves, buoyant and dangerous, are having fun.

“A win is a win,” Swanson told reporters. “And winning at the highest level has nothing to replace it.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and contributor to the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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