With custody of Hank Aaron’s statue finally resolved, can we consider the divorce between Atlanta and the Braves complete?
It’s been more than two years since the Braves filed the initial papers declaring the relationship was on the rocks. The differences between them had become irreconcilable. Moreover, the Braves had found someone else, someone more attentive and understanding – Cobb.
From the Braves’ perspective, Atlanta never made much of an effort to hold things together. For its part, Atlanta blamed the Braves, saying the team simply expected too much.
I can’t say who was right. Is anyone ever blameless in these things? Does it really matter?
Woody Allen once said that a relationship was like a shark: It constantly has to move forward or it dies. What we had on our hands here was a dead shark.
Even so, it’s hard to forget happier times, when the Braves loved Atlanta and Atlanta loved them back. For about four decades, through richer and poorer, thick and thin, loss and win, love bloomed and matured.
Unsurprisingly, it was, in the end, mostly about money. Cobb simply offered more. Kasim Reed wished them well. “We are simply unwilling to match (Cobb’s offer),” he said.
After months of wrangling, the Braves consented to surrender claims on the Aaron statue — perhaps the most prized of their possessions the two had accumulated over their years together. It represented history and a memory the two will always share.
In giving up its claim, the team noted tartly the “divisive conversations” that marked the custody dispute. The team said it will now get its own statue to sit outside its new swankier home it’s building with its new partner on a once-wooded Cobb lot. The Braves went a tad passive aggressive, hinting at doubts about its former partner’s parental fitness. “Our sincere hope is that the existing statue will continue to be preserved and displayed in a manner befitting his legacy as the greatest Brave of all time.”
It was not exactly magnanimous, but this messy separation hasn’t the kind of spectacle that inspires grand gesture.
I read once that there are three key things to keep in mind when going through a divorce: Be kind, be reasonable, be brief.
We can just skip to brief — or at least brief-ish. The wounds in this breakup — which deepened over time — aren’t healing easily or quickly. But can’t we call an end now?
It won’t be easy. This nastiness has been going on for a while, and things haven’t been made any easier by the very public nature of the separation and, frankly, the sense that Cobb hasn’t always been totally above board in its wooing.
And the Braves couldn’t have found a partner more likely to incite the worst in Atlanta. Cobb and Atlanta long have had a tense, even bitter relationship. Atlantans often have viewed Cobb as a mix of Southern hicks and right-wing white flighters. Cobb has viewed Atlantans as a mix of snooty, self-absorbed leftists and dangerous members of the “criminal element.”
Cobb stopped MARTA at the county line. The Chattahoochee River, it was often said, was a border that Atlanta should never be allowed to breach. Its politicians - from Lester Maddox to Joe Mack Wilson - rarely had kind words to say about the folks across the river - and vice versa. Atlanta even excluded Cobb from participating in the 1996 Olympics after the county’s leaders declared their opposition to the “gay lifestyle” that seemed to be taking root on the other side of the river.
For years, Atlanta worried about Cobb and others seducing its sports teams. The Falcons once looked at a site in Gwinnett County, but stayed when the Dome was built near the city’s heart. The Olympic stadium was designed with the Braves in mind 25 years ago to keep the team’s eyes from wandering.
In the end, it wasn’t enough. Secretly, the Braves began a summer romance with — the final humiliation for Atlanta — Cobb.
When the affair became public, Atlanta was already out of the picture. Acrimony ensued. Ultimately, Hank Aaron’s statue became the final, contentious symbol.
But now it’s over. After the Braves are gone, the Aaron statue will remain to recall the faded bliss and a great man’s achievement.
There’s nothing left to fight over (fingers crossed).
Isn’t this the moment in these ugly breakups when you yearn for some reconciliation? To be sure, no one expects these two to start holding hands, but surely both recognize they are stuck with one other forever. Atlanta needs to make peace with the cold reality that the Braves have moved on. It isn’t as if they left the state, for Chipper’s sake; their new home is less than 2 miles from Atlanta.
And Cobb must understand that no one will ever utter the words “Cobb County Braves.” The Braves are keeping Atlanta as their name.
Cobb and Atlanta now have joint guardianship of the Braves’ past and future. Never before have the two shared something that so many people care about so much.
So, can’t we all just get along?
And when on a happy spring night two years from now an Atlanta Braves pitcher tosses the first pitch, who will even remember or care about all this?
Above all, if the 2017 Atlanta Braves perform remotely like the 2015 Atlanta Braves, then the GPS coordinates of the ballpark won’t mean a thing to anybody.
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