If there is one town that shouldn’t take part in a premature celebration, it’s Atlanta.
There’s a reason this city has the nickname “Chokelanta.”
For the novices who don’t know the city’s history, they might be inclined to dance in the streets after the Atlanta Braves beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first two games of the National League Championship Series down in the ATL.
The Braves lead the best-of-seven series, 2-0. Game 3 is tonight at Dodger Stadium.
For sure, the series has been amazing and thrilling. The Braves won the first two games in their final at-bats. It’s been the stuff Hollywood scripts produce.
On paper, the Dodgers are clearly the better team and they were the clear-cut favorites to beat the Braves and make it back to the World Series for the second straight season. They won the WS last season, ending a 32-year drought.
And while the Braves won the mostly pathetic NL East, they, somehow, did it without their best player. Ronald Acuña Jr., who tore his ACL in early July, is the heart and soul of this franchise. There’s no doubt about it.
And the idea that the Dodgers would lose to the Braves without Acuña just didn’t seem possible.
But good pitching and clutch hits work in the postseason.
There’s only one problem. The postseason — or big games — usually don’t work for Atlanta.
And we’re not solely talking about the Braves.
There’s a reason this city is called “The Choke Capital of Sports,” America.
So many times a team from this city has given up a big game, a series that should have been in the bag.
And you don’t have to go back that far. It’s not ancient history. The wounds are fresh. The salt is probably still in there.
Last MLB postseason, the Braves were up in this very same series, 3-1.
They needed to secure one one victory in the final three games and they were World Series-bound. It didn’t happen. Instead, the Dodgers rallied and beat them in a Game 7.
It was devastating for Chokelanta, er, Atlanta.
The Braves won Game 4, 10-2, to take a commanding three-games-to-one lead. The series looked over.
But in losing the final three games, the Braves scored just seven total runs and lost the seventh and deciding game, 4-3.
It was a total heartbreak.
But there are even bigger choke job fans in Atlanta will never be able to forget.
In Super Bowl 51, the Atlanta Falcons led the New England Patriots, 28-3, with just over 17 minutes to go. No team in the Super Bowl had ever blown an 11-point halftime lead. The Falcons had a 25-point lead.
The Falcons never scored again and lost, 34-28, in the only Super Bowl game ever decided in overtime.
Then there’s the 2018 College Football Playoff National Title Game. This was supposed to be a beautiful dream scenario. After all, Georgia got to play the big game in Atlanta. It was practically a home game.
The Bulldogs led 13-0 at the half and 20-7 in the second half. It all came crashing down as Alabama stormed back. At the end, freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa’s 41-yard TD pass brought another title to Tuscaloosa with a 26-23 victory.
In 2012, the Falcons were in the NFC title game. They jumped out to a 17-0 lead over Colin Kaepernick’s San Francisco 49ers.
The Falcons led, 24-14, at the half. But the 49ers scored 14 unanswered points to lead, 28-24. The Falcons had a chance to win it, but Harry Douglas tripped over himself catching the football. Had he stayed on his feet, he would have walked into the end zone. Instead, he was five yards short, and so was Atlanta, from making that Super Bowl.
And the crème de la crème came in 1996 for Atlanta fans. The Braves blew out the New York Yankees in the first two games of the World Series in NYC, but went to Atlanta and lost the next three games, including Game 4 — which they led, 6-0. The Braves lost that Series in six games.
So, Atlanta sports fans, don’t celebrate a thing. Your history suggests ain’t nothing a lock.