Shut up! Shut up! You don’t care about me, you left me for a better job! Your daughter left me for a better guy! Carlotta left me for Guatemala, and my dad left me for a damn war! EVERYBODY LEAVES ME!
What’s wrong with me?
That’s the heart-wrenching transcript of this scene from the show Friday Night Lights, which if you haven’t seen, you should, as it’s probably the best sports-related TV show since The White Shadow, and one of the more underrated shows of the last decade. For poor Matt Saracen, the QB of the fictional Dillon Panthers, it’s a justified reaction. Everybody does leave him. His girlfriend, his other girlfriend, his coach, his father, they all leave him. Everyone but his grandmother, suffering from dementia and unable to look after herself. For two solid seasons, we feel sorry for Matt, but he refuses to feel sorry for himself. Episode after episode, he handles his overwhelming responsibilities, to his coach, to his town, to his family, with a stone-cold demeanor, refusing to crumble.
That’s what makes the “EVERYBODY LEAVES ME!” scene in the bathtub such a harrowing moment. Saracen, the nice boy with way too much on his plate, finally realizes that he should feel sorry for himself, as his life pretty much sucks.
While Atlanta sports fans don’t have it quite as bad as Saracen, it’s pretty damn bad. We don’t have a grandmother with dementia to look after, just a city known for its lifelessness, joblessness, and general emptiness. What we do share with Matt, is the sense of abandonment, the sense of nobody else giving a shit about us, the feeling that something might really be wrong with us.
First it was Michael Vick. He left us for prison. Then it was Andruw Jones, he left us for obesi-er-mediocrity. Now hockey star Ilya Kovalchuk is leaving us, headed to New Jersey after refusing to accept the highest contract ever offered to an impending free agent, effectively murdering hockey in Atlanta. That’s right, a star player wants to leave Atlanta even after receiving the highest monetary offer allowable, as well as the largest in the history of his sport. What is wrong with us?
Now, the anxieties and nail-biting will shift to the Atlanta Spirit ownership group’s other impending star departure, as the Hawks’ Joe Johnson is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. While he hasn’t outright said yet that he’d prefer to leave, Joe turned down a 4 year, $60 Million offer to stay in Atlanta past this summer, and plans to enter free agency. Joe came here 5 years ago because he wanted to be here, and now, after enjoying much individual and team success, it looks like the four-time All-Star might be primed to leave. What is wrong with us?
Sure, Chipper Jones is still here, and Brian McCann and Matt Ryan have long-term deals in place that will keep them here for another decade. But in the city where its custom to expedite franchise players for .40 on the dollar, where star QBs go to Federal Prison for dog-fighting, our coach leaves for a second-rate SEC school in the middle of the season, and franchise players turn down maximum contract offers, the Matt Saracen in every Atlantan wonders if, or when, they might leave us too.