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Tuesday, May 4, 2004
Sometimes it helps to share

By Graham Hays
Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: Page 2, along with ESPN2's "Cold Pizza," is counting down the 15 Most Tortured Sports Cities in America. Today we feel the pain of No. 8, Atlanta, as we present a transcript of an Atlanta Anonymous meeting (below), along with our list of the Top 10 most painful moments in Atlanta's sports history.

Atlanta has a history of getting burned. And we're not just talking about the Flames leaving town.

The city has hosted Super Bowls, World Series, All-Star Games and even the 1996 Summer Olympics. Its fans have cheered a (split) national championship in college football, a World Series title and baseball's all-time home run champ. But for all the success, Atlanta teams seem to produce more malcontents, flops, and genuinely odd human beings than any other town.

THE 15 MOST TORTURED SPORTS CITIES
15. Tampa Bay
14. Kansas City
13. Cincinnati
12. Phoenix
11. Washington, D.C.
10. Houston
9. San Diego
8. Atlanta
7. ???

Want to find out what the No. 7 city is? Tune into ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" next Tuesday morning. Then head back to Page 2 to read all about it.
All of which explains why Atlanta fans are the only ones who need a support group to deal with the city's tortured sports history ...

Ted Turner: All right, people, welcome to tonight's meeting. Before we get started, I see we have a new face in the group tonight. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Terry Stotts: Well, my name is Terry Stotts, and I'm not entirely sure why I'm here.

Turner: Why do you think you're here, Terry?

Stotts: I'm really not sure. My boss, Billy Knight, told me I might want to check out these meetings to prepare myself for next season. So I sort of thought this would be a seminar on zone defenses or the triangle offense. You see, I coach the Atlanta Hawks.

Terry Stotts
Terry Stotts is starting to understand how torturous Atlanta can be.
Turner: Come on now, Terry. Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. Denial isn't good for anyone.

Dominique Wilkins: Um, Ted, I don't think they've actually told him yet.

Turner: You mean he really thinks he still has a future in pro sports? In Atlanta?

Stotts: Excuse me, who hasn't told me what yet? What are you all doing here?

Turner: This is Atlanta Anonymous. We're a group dedicated to helping members cope with unfortunate legacies in this town's sporting history. As you're about to learn, Atlanta is where sporting careers and reputations go to die. Once you've failed here, you can fail anywhere.

Stotts: But I don't understand. What do I have in common with these people? John Rocker? Eugene Robinson? Jeff George? Hey, isn't that Jerry Glanville over in the corner? I mean, I didn't do anything to embarrass myself or the fans ... well, other than give Boris Diaw all those minutes.

Turner: People take many different routes here, my friend. But what you see before you is a jury of the damned, all sharing the unmistakable stench of failure that only this town can produce.

Wilkins: Hey now, I'm still vice-president of the Hawks!

Turner: And your point is ... ?

Stotts: But you're Ted Turner. How did you end up running this group?

Turner: Well, I never quite got my fill of managing a group of athletes, and there's not a damn thing Bowie Kuhn can do about it this time. Speaking of which, how do I look in this Braves' uniform?

Anyway, before we get started with the discussion session, have we made any progress on planning our NBA Finals party, Eugene?

Eugene Robinson: Patrick Ewing and Andruw Jones assure me the Gold Club is still officially closed, so we're working through a list of possible alternatives. I'm meeting with some people tonight to solicit opinions on entertainment options for the day leading up to the game.

Jeff George: Shouldn't we just focus on the game itself? You know, find the person who has the biggest screen and bring over some chips and beer? Maybe throw $5 in a pool?

Eugene: Well, sure, but we've got to have something to keep us occupied for all those hours leading up to the game. It can get kind of boring just sitting around the living room, eating appetizers, playing board games, going over film, sneaking back into the room before curfew ... or something like that.

Ted Turner
Ted Turner has worn the Braves uniform, and a headdress, in the past.
Turner: All right, well, keep us posted. And don't forget, I've got a great deal on some bison meat for the burgers. Now when we left last week, John was on the verge of a breakthrough. Did you work on any of the things we talked about to maintain that progress?

John Rocker: Well, I tried watching a Mets game like you all suggested.

Robinson: And how'd it go?

Rocker: It was going all right until the fifth inning. The camera panned out for a crowd shot and you could see some subway cars passing off in the distance. I tried to flip over to the Spike Network -- you know, to find my happy place -- but I hit the SAP button by mistake and all of a sudden some guys are talking in Spanish about Kazuo Matsui.

Mark Wohlers: Oh no, what happened?

Rocker: Let's just say I need a new television.

Jeff George: Speaking of which, anyone mind if we throw on the game in the background? Hey Mark, toss me the remote?

Robinson: Ouch, the janitor never saw that one coming. You can see the RCA logo imprinted on his forehead.

George: On second thought, maybe I'll just stand up and change the channel.

Turner: Jeff, don't you think we should try and focus on what John's going through instead of watching the Braves?

George: Why? His anger issues aren't my problem.

Turner: But we're all part of the same team here. We're all working towards a common goal.

George: You sure you aren't just mad that you don't get those cushy seats now that you sold the team to Time Warner?

Turner: I'm not going to rise to that, Jeff. We're dealing with John's problems right now, and this is just another manifestation of your issues with authority that we've been talking about for months.

George: All right, all right, we don't have to watch the Braves game.

Turner: Thank you.

George: Besides, I think there's an old Jane Fonda workout video on ESPN Classic.

Turner: That's it, you're out of here. Go see if they want you at Indianapolis Anonymous.

Aundray Bruce: Look, can we talk about my problems? I've been coming for the last two years and I feel like you people don't even know I'm here.

John Rocker
John Rocker's the last person you'd expect to need counseling, right?
Turner: Sorry, I thought you were with building facilities. Bruce? The name doesn't really ring a bell.

Bruce: First overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft to the Falcons? The guy picked ahead of Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe and those guys?

Turner: Oh, Bruce Pickens!

Bruce: No, that was three years later. I went to Auburn.

Robinson: And I thought it was silly when the Falcons brought The Rock to camp.

Bruce: Yeah, thanks, that helps.

Rocker: Aundray sounds kind of French. Are you sure you're an American? That whole NFL Europe thing is ruining football. Next thing you know, kids here will be running around playing soccer.

Turner: All right, let's give Terry a chance. Now that you've had the opportunity to listen to everyone, would you like to tell us about your time with the Hawks?

Wilkins: He slipped out the window about an hour ago, said something about going to see if June Jones could hook him up with a basketball gig at the University of Hawaii.

Isaiah Rider: Hey, is this Atlanta Anonymous? Sorry I'm late. I've been looking all over for you guys.

Graham Hays writes "Out of the Box" five days a week in between moonlighting for Page 2. He can be reached at graham.hays@espn3.com.