The Braves have swept the first two playoff series! Four of their five games were shut outs! What do you mean you don’t follow soccer? Neither do I, but I have watched or listened to the Atlanta Braves play baseball since I was ten-years old, when they moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. Yes, I know it is football season and we live in the Southeastern Conference, but the Braves are in the National League Championship Series. By the time you read my column, they may have even won the NL pennant. They haven’t done that in over 20 years. I will admit this year has been most unusual.
Since my home state does not have a major-league team, I have been a Braves fan since day one...in 1966, that is. In those early years, before Ted Turner and TBS, a televised game was a rare treat. These days, it seems that all games in every sport, except pickleball, are televised. I even saw a cornhole tournament on television recently. For more than half a century, I’ve watched or listened on radio to an untold number of Braves’ games. I’ve been present in the stands to watch a few of those games in person. I’ve even come back out to get in my car after one game, only to discover that I couldn’t get in my car, because someone else had gotten in my car... and drove it off! I still remained a fan...a fan without a way to get home, but a fan. Through the years, I’ve watched great players like Aaron, Maddux, Jones, Murphy, and now Freeman, to name a few, come and go. I watched the team win divisional championships, especially in the 90s, time after time, a few league championships, and one World Series title. In all those years, I’ve never seen a season quiet like this one. For one thing, it didn’t start on time. The season usually begins in late March, but this year no one shouted, “Play ball!” until July 23rd. Teams normally play 162 games in a season. This year they played only 60. Even though I have another car, I have not attended a game in person in recent years. This year, neither did hardly anyone else. Because of the pandemic, when the games finally did begin, fans were not allowed to attend. At least no one had to worry about someone stealing their car. Can you imagine a game being played without organ music or the roar of the fans in the stands? Well, someone let the organist slip in the back gate of some stadiums, and they piped in crowd noise. They even had fake fans in the stands. Real fans could send in their pictures, and for a small donation, have a life-sized cardboard cutout made and placed in the stands. A few cardboard celebrities were in the stands. A few seats were even filled with life-sized teddy bears. One of those bears was beaned by a line drive hit, but it didn’t appear to knock him out or his stuffing. Fake fans are not the same thing as warm bodies in the stands, but it at least gave the appearance that someone was there...that a crowd was watching. Now, in the remaining series, there are a few real-live breathing humans in the stands.
In life, I never want to be like one of those fake fans in the stands. I challenge us all to make sure we are the real deal and not simply someone who looks like something we actually are not...just for an appearance. Be real!
Bill King is an author, musician and native of Rainsville. Visit brobillybob.com for more.