Atlanta is lazy. Maybe we just assume it could all get burned to the ground at a moments notice so we invest with cautions. Maybe we figure we can always move an exit further up some highway and build something new. Or maybe we stick with what is safe out of a desperate need to look cosmopolitan over and against the big cities in more cosmopolitan states.
Wherever the genesis lies, we walk with caution. We are truly the first child of the South. Rule followers with an eye toward safety. But it leads to structured laziness much more than fulfillment. We stand guarded against all that could be good for what we have been told we should think is good.
Atlanta does not even embrace Atlanta things as their own until they become popular elsewhere. The list is long. Outkast, Chickfila, Ann's Snack Shack, East Lake Golf Club. There are rare exceptions of course. The 1991 Braves being my fondest memories of a mass movement of homespun natural energy from our fare city. But for the most part if it ain't popular or our dad did not tell us to like it from a young age, we will wait patiently until we are sure no over zealous general or developer plans to burn or build something away. Atlanta has institutions but no movements. We are a town overflowing with religion and absent of faith.
And the Hawks require faith. Yes, Atlanta is a good sports town. In fact, it is an NBA town if you judge the tv ratings, but it is not a Hawks town. Somewhere along the way as the Braves were becoming a religious institution through success, the Falcons out of NFL America's demands and college football by way of a regional indoctrination, the Hawks remained fringe, accessed solely by the faithful. And like any faith, when unrepresented in the room, they and their team are mocked with words like "ridiculous" "dumb" and "unrelatable."
I certainly get it. In a star driven league where championships are won by a few select players from a few select teams, the parity and possibility does not exist like it does elsewhere. For the Hawks, the possibility of becoming an institution remains slight. The Hawks cannot and will not win the championship this year. Fandom requires irrational faith. It undoubtedly will bring failure, and Atlanta has no time for effort based cheering.
But may I raise the possibility that this year's team might be the avenue to bring faith to our city.
This Hawks team is Atlanta. They are good at things like defense they should not be good at. Out of dismantling, they have players we have known for years reborn into what we hoped they could be. Of the others, almost every single one is here for the sole reason that the railroad tracks happened to all meet here. It is a stopover to a final destination. And yet in this layover year, the team has decided between the always perilous choice when time is short whether to go out in a sinful blaze of glory or take the truncated moment and actually chosen do something good.
The team in the midst of impossible odds and against the better judgement of certain understandings of finance have decided to put down roots in the most temporary professional league in Atlanta. They have decided to have faith over safety. They are this ruthless gang of survivors in a faithless world. They plant seeds every home game and watched business men with their free tickets out only out for a night of entertainment rip them up. And then they plant them again the next night.
The word "worship" comes from the Old English word worthscipe which at its simplest term means the thing you give worth too. For too long, Atlanta sports fans have given worth to what they have been told to give worth to.
This Hawks group is a team. It is Atlanta. It is who we are at our best. It is worth it. It is time worship something more exciting. Something truly Atlantan. It is time to caste aside religion and get faith.
And like any good spiritual moment, it does not mean perfect things. It does not claim championship aspirations. It just says, "I don't get it and this is risky but this is good."
And friends, the Atlanta Hawks are good.