Today, I want to tell you a story from a fan’s perspective. Who might that fan be, you ask? Me. You see, in my line of work, I rarely have the opportunity to attend sporting events and enjoy all of the splendor as a mere spectator. Over the weekend, however, I did that on two separate occasions.
Now, I realize that this is a baseball-centric website, but I want to sing the praises of the support I witnessed at Bobby Dodd Stadium during an Atlanta United match on Saturday. We have all experienced that chill-inducing moment as we walk through the tunnel and catch a glimpse of a packed stadium for the first time. The roar of the 40,000+ fans engulfed the regular season home of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. On this particular day, there was not much gold to go around. It was a sea of mostly red and black, with almost every single person standing voluntarily throughout the duration of the match. I should point out that I do not follow soccer. That being said, I would like to think I have a firm grasp on how the game works.
By now, you can garner that this was my first taste of professional soccer. My friend, who shall remain nameless, and I spent a majority of the first half observing our surroundings. As whistles were blown, fans took it upon themselves to boo what they believed to be the wrong call. We tended to side with the officials. Multiple times during the 45 minute period, we also pointed out things we thought to be odd or new to us (Flopping, Chanting, Invisible Drums Beating, and Our Neutral Attire).
If I have not already lost you, and I promise baseball will be discussed, here is a similarity I noticed between the two sports. There are predetermined blocks of time allotted for fans to sit and relax. Due to the overwhelmingly toasty conditions, the match halted for momentary hydration breaks. These, and I may be reaching here, could be linked to the seventh inning stretch at a baseball game. The match also paused, although it should be pointed out that the clock never stopped, when a player fell to the pitch with an apparent injury.
Fast forward to the second half. My friend and I fully immersed ourselves in the culture of the United fan base, or The Five Stripes as it is affectionately known. Those chants that we found odd were now the basis for our cheering. With our hands outstretched, the drum sounded. A-T-L! Each time a United player touched the ball, we clapped in unison with the other 38,000 die-hards. We willingly rose to our feet and screamed boisterously as Atlanta went on the attack. It was the only atmosphere I could ever equate to a Quidditch match as seen in the world of Harry Potter. Being the nerd that I am, I would most certainly purchase season tickets if that dream became a reality. Outside the gates of Bobby Dodd after the 1-0 United victory, it was an absolute frenzy. Everywhere you looked, fans were walking up Techwood Drive. Later that night, as we made our way to Nancy’s Chicago Style Pizza, a random stranger caught me documenting the moment. His girlfriend jokingly quipped that the photo was going to be a good one. Her boyfriend, the aforementioned stranger, came to my defense without provocation.
“Man, you do you. You are a beautiful man.”
I returned the compliment, as we went our separate ways pointing back at each other.
Stray Observations Made by My friend:
- He would have been all-in were he wearing the appropriate garment like a jersey.
- He could not wear a scarf in those sweltering conditions.
- The two guys in front of us were twins. You do not see adult twins together much anymore.
- Those nachos looked really good.
The next day, I had the chance to take in a Braves game at SunTrust Park for the first time. If you recall a story I penned in April, I worked as a Major League Baseball representative during the Georgia/Missouri game as a tune-up of sorts before the Braves christened their new digs. On this day, I was alone. I arrived roughly an hour before first pitch in order to check out The Battery. What an eclectic mix of restaurants and shops. For over a year, I have been a fan of Baseballism, a company that specializes in, wait for it…all things baseball. I looked left and right with no luck. I then decided to take a stroll around The Roxy to see if there were any other shops I missed. Bingo! I walked in and immediately felt home. Shirts with catchy baseball phrases adorned the walls for both men and women. Hats topped the shelves in the back corner of the store. There was even a section for their line of socks, which I definitely took advantage of (See Instagram @BenPoplin…I like socks a lot).
Anyway, getting to the game. It was not much of one, and that was evident from the first two innings. Julio Teheran allowed two home runs after what may have been just 65 pitches and quickly dug himself into a hole. Given the less than stellar performance on the field, I sat and observed. In my experience, there is always that one clueless fan within earshot. You know exactly what I am talking about. This particular fan happened to be a gentleman in his low-to-mid 60s. He was accompanied by his wife and a child. I am not even exaggerating when I tell you he uttered the following two phrases at least eight times during the first five innings.
“C’mon Braves, do somethin’.”
“It’s not lookin’ too good for the Braves.”
He also took it upon himself to try and teach his son or grandson about the game of baseball.
Some of My Favorites:
With Milwaukee Brewers slugger Eric Thames batting and a runner on first base…
“I bet you he’s gonna steal here.”
With the Brewers pitcher batting, 1-2 count, runners on, and two outs…
“He’s probably gonna try and bunt.”
At one point, he left to cleanse his pallet. Upon returning, the Braves had failed to capitalize with runners in scoring position…
“Man! They didn’t do anything after all that?”
Despite this fan’s cluelessness, who did leave midway through the game by the way, I sincerely enjoyed my first Braves experience at SunTrust Park and will be back in the near future. Back in April, I recommended a trip for fellow baseball lovers. After attending a game, I can honestly say it is a good time for anyone involved.