Commentary: The core problem with Cobb

It’s just not cool enough to be home of the Braves.

It couldn’t have been easy to be a Cobb resident this week. Since Monday’s surprise announcement of the Braves’ impending relocation to a vacant lot near Cumberland Mall, the prevailing attitude from the rest of the metro area has been: Effing Cobb. Those highway-worshipin’, Applebees-eatin’ suburbanites spit in the face of progress time and again, then steal our baseball team.

My friend’s last name is Cobb and I feel bad for her.

A lifelong Braves fan, I’ll admit to indulging in similar reactionary thoughts. I even retweeted some of the best zingers. But after settling down a bit, I realize that our neighbors to the northwest didn’t ask for the new stadium. You can’t blame their leaders for seizing an opportunity. Intowners should dial down the anti-OTP rhetoric (after all, Gwinnettians are just as pissed as Midtowners) and acknowledge that Cobb County is part of Atlanta—the region, if not the city. Atlanta magazine treats it as such.

Having said that . . . as parts of metro Atlanta go, Cobb is not considered even remotely cool. Whether you define coolness as urban density or idiosyncratic charm or an abundance of indie retailers, that part of town loses even marginal claim to it somewhere near the Chattahoochee. (All due respect to Johnnie MacCracken’s pub. Love that place.) No doubt most Cobbians made peace with that fact when they moved there for the good schools, low taxes, comfortable life, etc., etc. I’m not exactly bragging about my own barely ITP address to my Inman Park friends, but I love where I live.

I wouldn’t want the Braves in Brookhaven though. And that’s the throbbing wound beneath not-minor complications of traffic and spending. Braves fans have never gotten much respect but to now lose all the romance of a big-city ballpark, all sense of pride in our traditions? Think of great, storied franchises like Boston, Chicago, Detroit. And great stadiums like San Francisco, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, St. Louis. They’re immersed in urban centers, with skyline vistas that quicken the pulse.

Turner Field is no Fenway and Summerhill is certainly no Wrigleyville, but the Gold Dome has a way of catching the sunlight out past center. A fairly significant sporting event took place there in ’96. The landing place of Hank Aaron’s No. 715 is marked on the asphalt outside. Yes, decades of wasted potential have kept the surrounding neighborhoods from developing into something great, but that’s the thing about potential: It lingers.

This stuff matters to baseball fans. We’re a sentimental bunch. I won’t expound on my own very emotional attachment to the confines of Turner Field because most people reading this have their own: a first playoff game as a kid, or a last outing with a grandparent—memories as golden in our minds as the wheat field in which Roy Hobbs plays catch with his son in The Natural. I couldn’t have been the only one reading the news on Monday morning who felt as if part of my past had been erased.

By now you’ve seen the “heat map” showing the location of Braves ticket buyers. That map needs to go away. Not only does it suggest it’s easy to get to I-75 and 285 from anywhere north of Downtown, but it perpetuates the notion that Schuerholz and Co. are somehow doing this for the fans.

Of all the nonsensical reasons put forth for the relocation, that one is the most absurd. The vast majority of Braves country is in mourning. I hope the good people of Cobb will cut us a little slack.

Related commentary: “Dear Braves fans, stop taking it out on Cobb”