It is ‘Sports Moments That Made You Cry’ Week across SB Nation and, with that in mind, writers from the Peachtree Hoops staff weigh in with some moments that fit the description, prompting tears for sports-related reasons.
Zach Hood: August 2007 was a sad time to be an Atlanta sports fan. Even more sad than normal. The Braves were in the midst of their second consecutive season missing the playoffs, after winning 14 consecutive NL East from 1991-2005. The Hawks had yet to embark on their quest of ten straight playoff appearances, and were still trying to get out of the cellar of the NBA. But by far the saddest thing of all was the arrest, suspension and incarceration of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
I was 14 years old, and Vick had been my favorite football player since he starred at Virginia Tech when I was only seven or eight. I had his college jersey, a red No. 7 Falcons jersey, and a black one. He was the Falcons to me, and despite lackluster team success, Vick rushed for over 1000 yards in 2006, a historical accomplishment for a quarterback. I don’t know if I cried, but I was as sad as I have ever been as a sports fan when everything happened. Vick served almost two years between federal and state prison. Less than a month after being released in July of 2009, Vick was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. After spending the 2009 NFL season getting back into football form as a reserve/running option, Vick had the best season of his career in 2010, totaling 30 total touchdowns.
Rashad Milligan: I can remember 82 sport-related reasons when I cried — Every single game of the 2004-05 NBA season. The Hawks won 13 games that year, and I cried just about every night they lost. Going into the season, SLAM Magazine did a feature on the rookie Josh’s — Smith and Childress. The team also traded for three-time all-star Antoine Walker and All-Star snub Al Harrington that summer. The playoff guarantee embarrassment of years past was over and a new era was ready to be ushered in.
Those Hawks were bad. Worse than the playoff guarantee Hawks. Worse than the Rasheed Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Glen Robinson, Theo Ratliff, Jason Terry and Shareef Abdur-Rahim-led Hawks.
Walker airballed free throws, Smith ran around like a young superhero learning how to channel his powers, Childress was a rookie, Kevin Willis, Jon Barry and Kenny Anderson were each operating at 86 years old, but Harrington was a decent scorer. The Hawks traded Walker back to the Celtics at the trade deadline.
Sixty-nine losses. Sixty-nine nights of disappointment in an empty Philips Arena and a boisterous drum line that constantly played in the upper deck as the Hawks lost.
Graham Chapple: I tried to rack my brain for an instance in the NBA for an instance that made me cry but the reality is I’m not even 10 years an NBA fan, so I don’t have a ton of history as others do. The closest thing I could think of was when the NBA drafted Isaiah Austin in 2014, that was a touching moment. But I’ll have to go elsewhere for a moment that made me cry, and to another sport too: Formula 1 and the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.
I was a huge fan of Felipe Massa since he entered F1 in 2002, so when he went toe-to-toe with Lewis Hamilton (a driver I absolutely detested during his first few years, a little less so now) for the world title in 2008, I was all in on Massa and all against Hamilton. The title went down to the final race in Brazil 2008, where Massa trailed by 7 points with a maximum of 10 on offer for a race victory, meaning his chances were slim to start as Hamilton only needed fifth to seal the deal. In a crazy race where the weather swung from wet, to dry and back to wet late on, Massa converted pole to victory in his home race by a convincing margin, doing everything he had to do on the day in what was an extremely difficult race. As the final lap began, Hamilton languished in P6, which would give him only three points, meaning Massa would tie on points but win the title on victory count (with Massa winning more races in 2008). When Massa crossed the line to win, Hamilton was still in sixth and, at that moment, Massa was the champion, and a man of emotion in the cockpit having won his home race but in suspense of waiting for the rest to cross the line. Heading into the last braking zone of the track (effectively the last corner), Hamilton overtook Timo Glock (who decided to stick it out on dry tyres while others, including Hamilton chose wet tyres), giving Hamilton the extra point he needed to win the 2008 title by one single point.
Between seeing a driver I loved falling short literally at the last hurdle and the driver I detested as the victor, the celebrations in the Ferrari garage turning from joy to heartbreak and Massa having to still stand on the podium having lost the title in the cruelest way possible — displaying a mixture of pride and pain on the podium — it was too much for me and the tears came. While Hamilton would go on to win another five titles (and counting) after 2008, Brazil 2008 was the final race victory of Massa’s career (ending in 2017) and his one and only shot at a driver’s title…
It’s still sad for me, and recently Massa watched the whole race through and and many others, including myself, are still bummed out over how what would’ve been his only world title was snatched away at the death...
Sam Meredith: Feb. 5, 2017. I still couldn’t tell you if there were tears or if it was just the blood running down my face from trying to claw my eyeballs out. Fans of the Atlanta Falcons can try to heal, but if you watched the worst loss in professional sports history from this side, that wound is cut deepest of all.
Matt Ryan is still an elite quarterback, though.
Glen Willis: I’m not really an overly emotional sports fan, so this is a tough one. The obvious (numerous) examples that are there for anyone following and supporting Atlanta sports teams are relevant and were tough moments as a fan but not, for me, tear-inducing. I can be pretty sentimental about stories of people, athletes included, overcoming significant adversity. It might be considered borderline-sacrilegious here, but Isaiah Thomas’ performance in the Celtics’ Eastern Conference playoff run is as good as any recent example that I have. In the month after learning of his sister’s death, Thomas led Boston to first and second round victories over the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. His 25 points per game run was highlighted by a 53-point performance in the second game of the conference semifinals.
Andrew Kelly: 2000 Orange Bowl. I’m an Alabama guy for background and I was 9. It was Shaun Alexander’s last game and they lost on a missed extra point to a Tom Brady-led Michigan team. Brady would go on to break many hearts in his career, including mine.
Daniel Comer: Growing up, Turner Field was the go-to gathering place for birthday parties, parking-lot cookouts and first dates. As a proud ITP kid, my childhood glory days involved riding Marta to ‘The Ted’ to watch Chipper hit dingers and Bobby get tossed for arguing balls and strikes. When the Bravos won (which they always did back then), I’d look up toward the left field bleachers where fireworks would explode from the old Coke bottle to illuminate the Atlanta skyline. So many childhood nights ended with that backdrop. Life as I knew it revolved around the ballpark downtown.
When I read about the Braves’ new Cobb County home, my heart sank. I understood the political and financial logistics of the move, but I knew my fandom would never be the same. It felt like in movies when someone moves out of their childhood home and into a bigger, fancier place in a nicer neighborhood. Yes, it presents well, but the charm is gone. It’s just a house.
I wanted to be there for Turner Field’s last game in October 2016, but I had moved to Oregon earlier that autumn and couldn’t get off work for the occasion. Instead, I settled for my last true Atlanta baseball experience on July 29, 2016. My buddies and I met Brian Jordan early in the night and I had my first legal “stadium beer” sometime around the fourth inning. The Braves beat the Phillies, 2-1. I cried like a baby.
Josh Lane: Many people probably don’t know that I have a lot of personal ties to the city of St. Louis so I almost went with the Rams getting stolen from Gateway to the West so I could write one final “F*** Stan Kroenke.” However since this is a Peachtree Hoops production, I will try to explain how the 2012 NBA playoff series against the Boston Celtics drove me to tears of madness.
The 2010 Atlanta Hawks playoff run that ended in a massively embarrassing sweep against the Orlando Magic was possibly the most frustrating and disappointing event that I have witnessed in my life as a young Hawks fan. However, the 2012 Atlanta Hawks said “hold my beer.” For those that remember, this series featured Rajon Rondo getting suspended and the Hawks still finding a way to lose the following game, Josh Smith blowing an open dunk after trying to showboat, a hilarious Jason Collins mixtape, Al Horford returning from a season long injury to save a game courtesy of Josh Smith, and finally a series ending in at the time was a controversial call and missed free throws. This was too much for my young brain to handle at the time which left me in a very odd state for a 48-hour period that cycled from tears of laughter to seething tears of madness.
Bob: I really only follow the Atlanta Hawks and the Clemson Tigers, which is to say a pretty disappointing fan experience for most of my life. No performance from the Hawks has brought me to tears. Broken doors? Shattered bottles of Rumple Minze? Terrible hangovers? Sure, but no tears. Clemson’s performances have mostly been the same too. I once went down to watch them play in the Orange Bowl and the highlight of the trip was a concert by Train. But recently, Clemson has been exceeding my wildest expectations and none was more thrilling and satisfying than being in Tampa for the 2017 National Championship. That was the last time (only?) I can recall crying from a sporting event, although it’s probably more accurate to say the tears were due champagne in the eyes afterwards.
Brad Rowland: Because this isn’t necessarily limited to the Hawks, I almost went with the moment that Jim Leyritz broke my youthful heart during the 1996 World Series, or even the only sports result in my adult life (noted by Sam above) that produced the brokenness necessary for weeping. However, Michael Jordan did a number on me as a young Hawks fan on March 25, 1995, and that’s where we’re headed. If you are unfamiliar with the play itself, it can be seen here, but this was Jordan’s fourth game back after his first retirement and he sent the Hawks to the locker room with a loss. In short, there was something different about the hype with his return to action and the Hawks were so, so close to beating him. Then, he did what he always did, knocking down a game-winner to send Atlanta to a loss. From there, the waterworks started, even for a regular season game that didn’t mean all that much.