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The Best and Worst Sports Seasons in Atlanta History, and Other Stuff

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A few days ago, Jeff Schultz pondered the worst collapses in Atlanta sports history. If this year's Hawks somehow lost four straight to a Bucks team that was down to its 10 worst players, that would surely be worse than the 1980 Falcons' 14-point fourth-quarter choke in their first-ever home playoff game. Wouldn't it? (That 1980 implosion preserved here at Hulu for all time, in case you ever need to bum yourself out real bad. A 10-point lead with four minutes to go! Snap the ball when the 6'9" giant crosses the line of scrimmage if you want to win!)

As I was rooting for the downfall of the Mike Woodson/Joe Johnson administration (don't even give me that look -- Peachtree Hoops was doing the same thing) and the Braves were losing nine straight, I was thinking up a great blog post about how it's all up to the Falcons now; this year can be a sports success for this town yet. The Falcons will save Christmas for this town! I put onnnnnnnnnnn! Bear with me...

Since then, the Braves have won some for the Gipper and the Hawks ensured we'll remember their season as Very Good, Not Great instead of Sprawling Dry Heave. So there goes my epic blog post. However, I did wind up spurting a bunch of sports-reference.com data on the seasonal winning-percentage records of the Braves, Falcons, and Hawks* into some Excel charts for you to consider. We're not all Hawks and Braves fans here, but we can still see what happens if we think of the Falcons in the context of Atlanta sports. (You're asking how the Hawks beating the lowly Bucks led to me making charts on 45 years worth of sports data? You're right, I'm wondering the same thing. This is the internet, man.)

* Sorry, Thrashers. Chart's pretty crowded already.

The chart up up top grabbed your attention, but I'll be danged if we can make anything of it. How about we group them up by decade instead:

The Falcons had the three worst decades in city history, but wait a minute! They were also the only team that actually started here. The Braves and Hawks were all-grown-up franchises by the time they reached Atlanta. The Braves only put together winning records for their first four seasons (pathetic!) and the Hawks' first 10 years, spent in Milwaukee and St. Louis, featured a dismal .258 winning percentage one year and an NBA Finals championship in anot- OH COME ON.

The actual lesson here is it's much harder to break into an established league, as the NFL was in the '60s, than into a n00bfest like 1870s baseball. Anyway...

The best year in Atlanta sports history?

So if you rolled together the win % of all three major-sports Atlanta teams, which year would rule them all? Around here we'd be inclined to say '98 for obvious reasons, and according to the numbers we'd be right:

It's not even close -- apparently the post-Olympics buzz took more than two years to wear off.

  • In 1998, the Braves had the best regular season in franchise history (and remember, that's the longest franchise history in American sports at 135 years) and reached the NLCS for like the 73rd time in a row.
  • And the Hawks reached the Eastern Conference semifinals (which they've only done 10 times since moving to Atlanta), posting their sixth-best-ever win % as ATLiens.
  • While the Falcons danced to the best single-season win % in town pro sports history and tied for the 5th-best regular season record in NFL history on their way to the Super Bowl. 

The worst season (not counting '67, as the Hawks hadn't joined us yet) came in '75, when the Braves went 67-94 in advance of four straight NL West last-place finishes, the Hawks held down the Central Division cellar at 31-51, and the 4-10 Falcons finished 8 games out of first in the NFC West. At some point, a space geologist played by Tom Hanks informed Vice President Hoover Coolidge and fictional detective Alvin Einstein that Atlanta is not "west" or "central" by any definition commonly associated with American sports, but is actually located in the southeastern portion of North America -- all was righted, and here we are today.

One last, Falcons-only chart:

Falcons Wins by Half-Decade

The Falcons we love are not known as beasts of consistency. (First Google result for most consistent beast: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_of_the_Beast.) Going more than four decades without consecutive winning seasons will do that. However, here's a nice sign that things are looking up:

The past three half-decades have been among the four best in team hist'ry, with the past two being our only >.500 quinquennials ever. It would take a pretty huge disappointment for the current decade ('06-'15) to not go down as the best yet -- we'd have to average about 6 wins for the next 6 years for that to happen.

As I'm now mathed-out, it's your turn. What conclusions have you drawn from this bizarre presentation?