Man in the Stands

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All magic for Atlanta United debut despite loss

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before: an Atlanta sports team held a firm lead for more than three quarters of the game and failed to win it. Any takers? OK. Well, I’m not going to drudge up or rehash any bad memories – though I guess I just did. Oh well. Instead, I want to talk about some great memories made.

Atlanta United opened up its inaugural season at Bobby Dodd Stadium Sunday night and it was magical! The loss, not so much, but the match, the atmosphere, the passion. It was all – if I may steal some wording from our brethren across the pond – bloody brilliant!

The streets of midtown/downtown were absolutely flooded between the match and Monster Jam, the final event in the Georgia Dome, but the traffic pains were well worth it.

There was an anxious, exciting energy radiating from the fans waiting to get into Bobby Dodd. Once we were all in and set our eyes on Grant Field, turned from Georgia Tech’s gold and white football field into a majestic stage for the beautiful game, that energy turned to a buzz. A buzz of chatter, a buzz of people falling over each other to yell to friends who were in attendance … a buzz of a new family being brought together for the first time.

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Before the match began, one of my friends, who is English (Hi Tom!) and has season tickets with me, turned to me and said, “Isn’t it cool to be at the very first game of a football club? This would be like 100 years ago in England.”

From that moment on the outcome didn’t matter to me – and it’s a good thing because the way we lost was borderline depressing. All that came to the forefront at that point was the experience. Knowing that I was at the FIRST EVER MATCH for a football club – OK, soccer. Whatever – that’s all that mattered.

I paid attention to the game, sure. But I was also taking in all the things around me. The interactions and conversations of people around me I didn’t know. How Terminus Legion was bouncing around from the get-go. The collective oohs, ahhs, boos and collective gasps of the crowd. The smells. It was all a part of the experience and it was the best part of the whole thing. If the team had won the match, that would have been icing on the cake that was a great sports moment.

Over 55,000 people packed into Bobby Dodd – 55,297 to be exact. It was the fourth-largest crowd at a soccer match in the world over the weekend. It more than doubled NYCFC at Orlando (25,527), which was the second highest in the MLS. Arthur Blank has brought something BIG to Atlanta with this franchise.

Of course, the proof will be in the pudding when the novelty wears off and we see how many show up to the home matches.

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United went up 1-0 in the 25th minute – marking the first-ever goal in franchise history – on a cross from Tyrone Mears to a wide open Yamil Asad on the back post. It was a thing of beauty. Then, the Red Bulls drew even in the 76th before going ahead for good in the 82nd minute.

Regardless of the result, I think we put the league on notice: This city his here to support its club and the team showed everyone how good we can play, going toe-to-toe with the defending Eastern Conference champion.

Our attack looked great all night and our defending was pretty solid despite the two goals. There were a few missed opportunities on goal chances, but those things will be ironed out. There’s lots of soccer to be played.

But years from now, when I think back on that game, I don’t know if I will remember the score or whether we won or lost. I’ll remember the ambiance. I’ll remember the deafening chants of “A-T-L.” I’ll remember the raucous reaction to the first goal. I’ll remember sitting at halftime and ONLY halftime. I’ll remember being in the over-capacity crowd the first time my MLS squad took the pitch.

And I’ll never forget it.

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Just another Falcons fan’s thoughts about the Super Bowl aftermath

It’s been six days.

I gave myself six whole days to decompress and get over Atlanta’s loss in Super Bowl 51.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Falcons, but that’s because I’ve never been a fan of the NFL. That all began to change after Atlanta defeated Oakland in the second week of the season. The team definitely had my attention when it won four of its first five games. I started making a point to watch games down the stretch or listen to the games if I was in the car.

I began to care.

The Saturday before the big game, I purchased my first Falcons jersey – yeah, you can call me a bandwagon fan. I’m cool with that – a red Devonta Freeman (Go Noles!) jersey with the Super Bowl 51 logo on the left chest. I donned it on Sunday as I watched.

Like every one else, I watched that first half with glee. Freeman’s big run, I went nuts. Coleman’s catch for a TD out of the backfield, crazy again. Hooper’s touchdown just added to the joy.

Again, like every other Falcons fan, my hopes at halftime were WAAAAY up. Then the second half kicked off and the rest is history. Literally. The largest comeback (read: collapse) by a team in Super Bowl history as well as the first Super Bowl to go to overtime.

I had to get off the couch and stand for the final three minutes of regulation and for the overtime period. My nerves were shot.

After the game was over, I headed home in disbelief. I didn’t feel sad. I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t angry. I just could’t believe what I’d just watched.

As I listened to 92.9-The Game all week, the hosts were trying to help listeners and themselves through the stages of grief.

Sure, I went through those stages as well, but I went through them in a matter of hours. By the time I woke up Monday morning, I was just confused as to how. That’s all. I’d already hit the acceptance stage. Just confusion remained.

Honestly, I don’t think I every really hit that sadness or anger about the loss of the game itself. What got me was what the team was able to accomplish. It sucked me in and gave me a reason to watch the NFL (you know, outside of fantasy football). Not only that, it gave the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia something to rally around. We don’t get that too often.

I guess I was somewhat upset about the loss, but that was because I think this city needed that win. We’ve had teams do well and fall short pretty much every time. Atlanta sports NEEDED that win. We needed that parade down Peachtree.

Instead, we got what we always do. We were let down (in a colossal way) in the biggest of moments. We were forced to turn our highest of highs into “acceptance” of a loss. While I don’t feel like any true sports fans who were pulling for the Falcons in that game will ever fully accept that loss, I feel like we can all appreciate the ride. Not only that, we can look forward to what the future holds for our organization.

As I started to think of that, eventually my thoughts started to turn to “thank yous.”

Thank you to the team. Thank you to the city for Rising Up and collectively letting everyone know how this “bad sports town” supports its teams.

Thank you to everyone affiliated with the Falcons, from the hot dog vendor to Arthur Blank, from the cheerleaders to Matt Ryan, from the training staff to Dan Quinn.

I enjoyed the ride and I can’t wait to get back for more.

Braves have a leading question

In last Wednesday’s game against the New York Mets, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward caught a Jonathon Niese fastball to the face, fracturing his jaw in two places.

Heyward underwent surgery to stabilize his jaw on Thursday in Atlanta. Doctors inserted two metal plates into each jaw during the procedure, but didn’t have to wire his mouth shut. That’s the good news. The bad news for the team and its fans: the Braves leadoff man is out for at least four weeks, and possibly six, leaving questions about how Manager Fredi Gonzalez was going to handle the top line-up spot.

Since moving into the leadoff role, Heyward has had a complete turn-around. He’s hitting for a .341 average, which is 103 points higher than his average at the third spot. The lefty has scored 24 runs, hit five of his 13 home runs, and driven in 15 of his 37 RBIs in the number one slot.

Jordan Schafer replaced Heyward in the outfield and in the leadoff spot on Wednesday, as well as taking the first pitch of the game on Thursday in St. Louis.

Schafer is a viable candidate for taking the reins of the top of the line-up card. In the position already this season, he’s hitting for a solid .280 average with two home runs and five doubles. Also, Schafer has tallied five stolen bases when batting leadoff, tying shortstop Andrelton Simmons who batted in the spot for most of the season.

Schafer has been a role player for the team this season, mostly as a pinch runner or playing the outfield to give players a rest. He picked up most of his playing time this season when outfielders Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, and Heyward all ended up getting hurt, but soon the injury bug, too, caught up to him.

Simmons is also a good option to move back to the spot. When he was there previously, he was batting 61-for-275 with six home runs. Fans will have reservations about this move, however, because Simmons is hitting 60 points higher in his average out of the leadoff spot.

B.J. Upton has hit his best this season out of the number one spot, but has only had 55-at-bats there. Two of his eight home runs came when he was hitting at the top of the line-up. He has 11 stolen bases on the year with three as the leadoff batter.

My personal pick to be the next test at number one is Chris Johnson.

Johnson is the National League leading hitter with a .330 average. It would be the first time this season that Johnson would be hitting from the leadoff spot and he does lack the speed of a typical leadoff hitter. To me, the positives out-weigh the negatives of this move.

Typically, the leadoff batter is going to see fastballs and few breaking balls. With Johnson’s average, it makes him a perfect candidate. You want your leadoff man on base for your second and third hitters. In the Braves case, they have Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman hitting in those spots with power and great contact as well.

As a contact hitter with the power to hit home runs, Johnson would also do well in making teams pay for making mistakes to the pitcher’s spot.

I understand the speed aspect of the leadoff hitter, but I’d love to see CJ get a chance at it.

If you were Fredi Gonzalez, whose name would you pencil in at the top of the line-up card?

Braves showing promise for a playoff run

If you haven’t already, go give Sean Breslin a read over at Breslanta.com. He has great opinions and stories about Atlanta sports and the city surrounding it!

Breslanta


The Atlanta Braves are rolling with a 61-45 record through July 29, and we have every reason to believe they’re destined to win their division, sitting on an ever-growing 9-game lead over the second-place Washington Nationals.

But once they get to the postseason, a division championship means very little. It’s just a ticket to get into the big dance, where the competition is much tougher.

Every year, we wonder whether our Braves will size up with the best of the National League when we finally get to postseason play. Sadly, they usually don’t. However, in 2013, we have reason to believe they could see more success than usual when the playoffs begin.

Look no further than Atlanta’s record against playoff contenders at home.

(Also read: Big breakthrough for awful Braves gameday traffic?)

Realistically, the Braves have faced five such contenders at Turner Field — the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh…

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Braves top St. Louis, Receive good news

Mike Minor (10-5) was able to lead Atlanta to a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals to snap a four-game winning streak on Friday night at Turner Field.

Minor threw 70 of his 103 pitches for strikes in his 7.0 innings of work, giving up only four hits, including a 2nd inning home run to Yadier Molina, and striking out five batters along the way.

After giving up that homer to Molina in the top of the inning, Minor came up with a single to left to bring home Dan Uggla. Uggla, along with Chris Johnson and Minor, was a perfect 1-1 with runners in scoring position on the night.

Jason Heyward added to the two-run lead in the 5th inning with an opposite field home run off of Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (13-6), his 8th of the season.

Minor’s gem is even bigger when you look at the six players coming into Friday’s contest hitting above the .300 mark. He was able to hold them to a combined 3-21 with one RBI (Molina’s HR).

Jordan Walden was able to come in and pitch a perfect 8th inning, throwing only seven pitches. Craig Kimbrel was able to pick-up his 29th save of the season on 17 pitches and two strikeouts.

Thanks to the Braves official Twitter…

Fans were able to get some pretty uplifting news tonight. Not long after game’s end, the @Braves handle tweeted an update on Tim Hudson. (Both are listed below)

Many fans knew that Huddy would be having his surgery today but didn’t know exactly what for other than a fractured ankle.

The fractured/broken bone was to be expected from any of those who saw the play. What is concerning is the ligament. Even though the team didn’t let fans know exactly what happened to the ligament, those things are tough to judge and fully recover.

Honestly, four months, even though it means he won’t see another game this season, is a happy and exciting thing to hear. It gives hope to fans that we will get him back as strong as ever next year and well in time for Spring Training!

If you’ve ever seen Tim in the dugout, whether on TV or when you’re at the game, you know he’s the biggest cheerleader on the team and a great team leader. The media in Atlanta has already reported that we can get used to seeing him in the dugout for the remainder of the season and that is great for the squad. His presence is a powerful thing for a team that has the largest division lead in baseball!

Follow me @ZackMyers11

4 Essential Skills for Millennial Leaders

Everyone needs to give this article a read. It is a write-up about millennial leaders that we should all strive to embody!

4 Essential Skills for Millennial Leaders.

An Engine for your wallet and your world

By: Zack Myers

“Direct injection is designed to get a better fuel economy so it would save the consumer money, but fuel injection was designed to do that,” said Marcus Smith, lead direct injection service technician at Cobb County Kia. “The way we’re going now, direct injection is the way to go.”

The next big thing in automobiles may already be powering the vehicles you see on the road every day, and we are not talking about ethanol. This is about gasoline engines. Direct injected (DI) gasoline engines, to be exact.

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(A view under the hood of a DI engine.)

For an engine to work, three things are necessary: fuel, oxygen, and a spark. Both, standard and DI, engines work this way. Where the difference comes in is the delivery of fuel and how the fuel mixes with the oxygen. Though this sounds very simple, the efficiency of the two types is vastly different.

The standard engine, as the world has come to know it, takes a roundabout way to get the fuel into the combustion chamber to burn. First, gas is pumped from the tank, through the fuel line, into injectors that are mounted in the engine. Those injectors spray the fuel into the air intake manifold. Here, the fuel and air make a mixture of a fine mist before a piston descends, sucking the mist into the combustion chamber. Then the piston ascends inside its cylinder to compress the air-fuel mix until it is almost nine times as dense as it began. The cylinder’s spark plug ignites to create an extremely pressurized, intense blast. The pressure pushes the piston down again with incredible power, triggering a turn of the crankshaft to send power to the wheels.

Direct injected engines work much more efficiently by skipping the air intake manifold step. The fuel is pumped straight from the tank, into the injector, and into the combustion chamber. This causes the fuel to be burned where it needs to be burned, helping with fuel economy and emissions.

“As far as emissions, the design is to get better emissions,” said Smith.

“From what I’ve read, direct injected engines are supposed to burn more completely with more air, so there are fewer emissions,” said Ethan Shirley, owner of a Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

Standard engines use a “rich” fuel mixture, meaning that there is a lower ratio of air to fuel in the mix. Direct injected engines allow for a “leaner” mixture, using a 40 parts air to one part fuel, or 40:1, ratio. Standard engines burn a mix that rations out to about 14.7:1. Fuel is burned more cleanly in a leaner mix. The cleaner the fuel is able to burn, the better gas mileage your car will get in the long run according to HowStuffWorks.

“To be honest, it doesn’t burn cleaner,” said Smith. “Like I said, it just directs [the fuel] directly into the cylinder versus into the intake. It’s a faster injection instead of having to go mix with the air and then come in. That’s how it gets better fuel economy.”

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(Marcus Smith showing the intricacies under the hood.)

“I have noticed better mileage since switching to a direct injected engine,” said Shirley. “The TDI model, on average, gets a little over 10 more miles per gallon than the non-TDI model Jetta.”

“I didn’t know that the car was direct injected when I bought it, but found out after doing some research,” said Shirley. “My favorite thing I found out when doing my research is how durable the engines are. This engine should be able to take more abuse than a standard engine. Because of how durable these engines are expected to be, I would definitely recommend them.”

The computer systems that run the direct injected engines are running completely different, more sophisticated software than their counterparts.

“We’ve been using computers in cars since, like, 1983. Of course the software gets newer because it has to run different programs especially with the emissions that we have now. [The computer] plays a bigger role but it’s basically the same concept,” said Smith. “The computer regulates how much fuel [is delivered], it times the engine, it puts fuel in at a certain time, it runs a lot of things. They’ve been there for a long time, but it plays a bigger role now. Between the two different engines, the computer is probably the same, but the programming is different because of the timing and the fuel injection.”

Many car manufacturers are introducing lines that use DI engines. General Motors is adding them into its 2014 models of the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and even in the Chevy Silverado full size pickups. They currently have the 2013 V6 models of the Chevy Camaro using DI technology. Another GM manufacturer using DI technology is Cadillac. Cadillac’s entire line of vehicles, with the exceptions of one sport wagon model and any of its Escalade models, is using direct injection. Ford, another American car producer, has a full line of vehicles using DI. Any of the cars that boast to have “Ecoboost” technology have DI engines in them.

Marcus Smith also said that he has yet to see any more problems out of direct injected vehicles as opposed to their standard counterparts, which is good considering how many manufacturers are beginning to implement these motors into their lines of cars.

“All cars have issues,” said Smith with a smile.

The American automobile producers are not the only ones implementing the use of these engines. The manufacturer of Mr. Shirley’s Jetta, the Volkswagen Group, headquartered in Berlin, Germany, has been using the technology for some time now. They produce Volkswagen and Audi, among others. The difference in these models that use DI is that Volkswagen and Audi use clean diesel as opposed to gasoline. They list their lines as “TDI,” or Turbocharged Direct Injection. By turbocharging the engine and using direct injection, the company is able to use smaller engines to increase fuel economy. For example, the base model of the Volkswagen Passat TDI SE uses a 2.0 liter engine, allowing the car to get 43 miles per gallon and 795 miles per tank.

Why does Smith say that DI is the way to go? For him, it is about the long term savings at the pump.

“Overall, over a year, you’re going to save more money on your fuel,” said Smith. “It doesn’t get a better burn, per se, but it runs better.”

Smith does give one way that everyone can gain gas mileage with the car they already have.

“The way to get a better fuel economy is to use a higher grade of gas. The higher grade gas burns better because you don’t have all of the additives in it. The 93 [grade] is the best thing you can get. It’s a pure gas. That’s how you really get better fuel economy.”

How do you feel about making the switch to a direct injected engine against the standard engine that you are already driving? Would you make the switch or just use Mr. Smith’s advice and use higher grade gasoline? What reasons do you feel are worth switching for?

Belmont flexes muscles as new kid on the block

The Belmont Bruins are conference champions for the third straight year, but, this time, it’s different.

A year ago the Bruins had just won their second of back-to-back Atlantic Sun Conference championships. Tonight, they took the Ohio Valley crown with a 70-68 win over Murray State and clinched a spot in the big dance later this month.

With just one second left on the clock in overtime, Kerron Johnson hit a fade-away shot from inside the paint that proved to be the game winner. Johnson also hit the shot that sent the game into the extra period.

The game was one of runs and Belmont had the biggest one when it counted.

Murray State missed out on its third OVC championship in four years, as well as its 1,500th win, with the loss.

Selection Sunday (March 17) is just a week away and the Belmont Bruins are sure to be in the among the seeds to choose from when filling out your brackets

Brett and Zack’s Sports Chat 11/2/2012

Brett and Zack’s Sports Chat 11/2/2012

Brett Mixon, lead Auburn writer for the Bleacher Report, and I talk last week’s hot topics. We hope to bring a video to you each week. Follow Brett on Twitter at @TrueBlueAU and also at the bleacherreport.com. Follow me on Twitter at @ZackMyers11.

Jurrjens moved down to Gwinnett

Braves starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens has been sent down to the minor leagues after a rocky start to his 2012 season with the team.

JJ has started four games this season and has an 0-2 record to show for it. Including last night’s three inning outing against the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers, Jair has totaled a whopping 16.1 innings and is carrying a 9.37 ERA to boot.

Maybe “rocky” isn’t the word to describe this start for Jurrjens. Maybe “disastrous” is better suited. Within his 16.1 innings this year, he has given up 30 hits, 10 walks, and 17 runs, all of which were earned. Opposing batter’s average against him is at .411. JJ does have eight strikeouts on his stat sheet but that pales in comparison to his other numbers.

The right-hander hasn’t just had a bad game or two, he’s been consistently bad: home and away. At Turner Field, Jurrjens has an ERA of 9.00 in nine innings. When visiting other ballparks, a 9.82 ERA in 7.1 pitched.

Braves fans all know that this is not the type of play we normally see from the five-year veteran. Especially after last season, where he had a combined ERA of 2.96 in 152 innings pitched.

Everyone would be happy to see JJ back on the mound in Turner Field later this season, but they want him to be back to himself and having another All-Star-type season.

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