THE BOYS OF SUMMERHILL

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I fell in love with her the summer of ’86. Powder blue seats, my tiny hand in my dads, I was head over heels. Time and time again she broke my heart, but hope springs eternal, and every Spring I was back, heart in hand, asking to get stepped on again. Always thinking, “This time will be different”. And yes, this time may be different indeed- This time may be for good.

Confusing and gut wrenching, our Atlanta Braves have booked their White Flight- a one way to Cobb Parkway. A cowardly cash grab to the bright lights of chain restaurants and the promised land of strip malls in a sea of concrete- our boys of Summerhill will soon be gone.

In a spineless, hurried press conference on the steps of the very community they are turning their back on,  they claim this is all they can do to survive. They claim the blight around their current home is no longer livable.  Confusing to most Summherhill/Mechanicsville residents, since its long been known to them that the Braves have never wanted development, as crazy as that sounds. But it’s actually quite simple, they hated competition. The KFC, a soft infield fly from the plaza food court, was strangely razed years back. I know of two successful bar owners who separately inquired about the vacant bomb shelter shops along Georgia Avenue and were simply told “no”.  The street vendors along Hank Aaron Blvd selling merchandise a third of the price that’s sold inside those arrogant gates- ushered out by the city with the bloodsucking corporate Braves as their puppet master.  The Braves wanted your money inside, not outside.

All too ironic that the Braves on the field for the last decade have been frightened of competing just as much as the fat cats in the front office- so very brave.  Yes, this seems very nickel and dime, especially for such an elite and proud organization.

But it’s time to accept the fact that the Ted Turner version of the Braves that we grew up with is dead. Replaced with a grim, soulless corporate owned mediocrity of a team that will always be just good enough to be profitable, but never good enough to ever be truly proud of. It’s fitting that the zombie Braves are lurching towards the suburbs, where the other dead-eyed walking corpses that have given up on life are.

Like big chickens they’re soon to be peers with, they’re off for suburbia. But the Braves and some Braves fans argue that we can finally have a ballpark atmosphere with bars, restaurants, and excitement of the safe variety all next to the new stadium. It will be just like Fenway, Wrigley, and all the other new stadiums *that have moved inward*. But those parks are a tad different; they have very minimal parking, are in historic or downtown neighborhoods, and have mass transit. So no, Henry County Braves fans, you are not allowed to chime in on how to develop land.

There is nothing to convince me that the 3rd rate Braves and Cobb County wont completely drop the ball in this mixed use development. It will be handled with the precision of bricklayer Brooks Conrad and a ground ball with playoff implications. This will be a polished Disney-esqe, generic turd of a ballpark and atmosphere.  The neighborhood bar & grill will be Applebee’s and Margaritaville, not Wrigleyville, Cobb Parkway is not Yawkey Way, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond is not the Cask & Flagon.

A tasty nugget of excellence from Cobb Count Chairman Tim Lee, speaking of some sort of factory that must have a strong union, given that it has such solid transportation options, “So let’s say you go to Cumberland Mall and you’re having dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and you want to go to the game,” Lee said, “Instead of driving over there, you leave your car where it is, you get on the tram, and it goes and drops you off right in front of the stadium, and at the end of the day you go in reverse.”

Some sort of train that moves masses of people? Yes, go on. So we know how he’s getting to the game, not sure of everyone else.

And it’s quite poetic that he ends his ridiculous quote with “at the end of the day, you go in reverse”

Reverse indeed, Mr. Chairman. All the way back to the 1960’s.

More comedy and hypocrisy from the Altanta Braves- they claim another reason for the move is because of the congestion of cars getting to the stadium… and that they need more parking. It reminds me of the Woody Allen joke, “This food is terrible… and the portions are small!”. So the Braves will fix their concerns of traffic by moving to the top end of 285, to a county that took much pride in voting against TSPLOST and have successfully kept MARTA out for 40 years. Maybe the Keystone Cops will direct traffic on game days for this comedy of errors. At Cobb County’s expense, no less.

Head of the Cobb GOP Joe Dendy has it figured out though, “It is absolutely necessary the solution is about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”

And still more confusion from this comedy/tragedy. This farce will be mostly financed by the home of Newt Gingrich, the Mecca to all Tea Party freedom fighters. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars will be handed over to a parent company with revenue of 18 billion a year. Their CEO, welfare queen John Malone makes more annually than the entire Braves payroll. This money will appear magically even after Cobb County couldn’t find 9 million and had to lay off teachers. Where’s the Tea Party when you need them? Most likely looking for parking at the Cheesecake Factory before they hop on an imaginary tram that will take them to Candy Land. Taxes are fine, just as long as they benefit the right people. You know, not the type of people that would have to come in on a train from Atlanta.

Atlanta is a world class town. But it’s our southern drawl that is charming to people- our southern sprawl is what people find disgusting. Our city is amazing despite that fact that some peoples backwards thinking try to have us move “in reverse”. This is an absolutely mind blowing, tremendous deal Cobb has handed to the Atlanta Braves. It’s the deal the Braves have been wanting ever since Ted was ousted by his buddies at Time Warner. But just as the name “Atlanta” comes before “Braves” on the 755 Hank Aaron Way stationary; my allegiance follows the same way. I root for my city before my team. Uncle Ted would’ve never let this happen.

Imagine if the concrete parking lots that sit at Turner Field now were redeveloped into a mixed use area, with a couple parking decks, a MARTA spur, bars, condos, and a beautiful diamond of a center piece of green space around the old Fulton County field highlighting where Henry Aaron broke the home run record. All this gently mixed into the Gold Dome of the State Capitol, GSU, Grant Park, Summerhill, and Mechanicsville. It’s actually not hard to imagine because there have already been 3 conceptual plans drawn up by the Braves and the City. Something that’s been hushed over because the egos involved can’t come to terms because the Braves wanted full control. And because all the money has already been sucked up by fellow welfare queen Arthur Blank. This is exactly what the Braves have wanted for the last decade. Well played, boys.

This new ballpark will have about as much real culture as the stucco mural of Sicilian grapes in a Conyers Olive Garden. And this is what stirs the blood the most. The In Reverse thinking of the 1960’s that will have this White Flight of corporate greed full steam ahead to clean and pure suburbia. The close mindedness of the heat map that the Braves released, which is basically just a map dotted with where white people live in this town. And if you can honestly say this move doesn’t have racial implications, then brother, I’ve got a ballpark in Summerhill I want to sell you. I’ll even throw in a bridge in Brooklyn.

Atlanta is the birthplace of Civil Rights, with Hank Aaron as the pinnacle of integrated sports in ’74 when he broke the homerun record after surviving, scars and all, what he had to endure as a black man in the south. There’s something about a privileged country club kid coming in from his gated Duluth community and seeing a little black kid his same age out there hustling $1 bottled water to fans coming into the game.

Baseball is different. It’s romantic and sentimental. It’s our national pastime that has helped us through 2 World Wars, integration, and even 9/11.  It has an elegance of brains over brawn. And with its history, more so than other sports, it has the magic and saying to someone, “I was there when…”

The summer of ’86 was a long time ago, and my heart has taken a beating. The Spring of 2017 won’t feel eternal.  Sad that one day I won’t have my son’s tiny hand in mine and be able to say, “This is where I saw Chipper and Maddux. This is where I watched baseball”

The boys of summer are leaving, and they’re leaving the boys of Summerhill behind.

-J. Winter