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The Atlanta Braves celebrate after winning baseball's World Series in Game 6 against the Houston Astros Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston. The Braves won 7-0. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Whole wide World Series

Wow. Just wow.

For a team that was teetering between buyer or seller at the trade deadline — and you could have easily argued either side — last night was one of the more improbable conclusions I can recall in my four decades of being a sports fan.

Again, just wow.

And for all the baseball heroics and Braves memories, moments like last night's 7-0 Game 6 win that clinched Atlanta's first championship since 1995 are the fuel to the fire of our sports fandom.

What a magical moment, and while the movies write scripts with dramatic finishes with come-from-behind fireworks, the anticlimactic conclusion last night in Houston was the tonic on the soul of a tortured sports city that needed this team, this win and this moment more than we may have realized.

From losing Atlanta's biggest sporting icon earlier this year to starting the season in the crosshairs of the controversy of the All-Star game being relocated to Colorado to the injuries to the unknowns, this team felt like it was good but not great, talented but not tough.

Well, the exclamation point that was a franchise-defining run through these 'er' months rewarded the never yielding effort of every Braves fan, be them a first-timer following in their father's faith or a forever fan who still recalls Skip's 'beverages' and bemoans Murph's Hall snub.

Moments like these do not wash away the '71-'91 forgotten summers or the painful shortcomings that became as commonplace with this club as the cursive 'A' or the tomahawk chop.

But that investment makes moments like this even sweeter.

Simply put, it's why we love our teams and love sports. Because sharing in the unbridled joy of being even a tangential part of collective greatness that yields a lifetime memory is bigger than sports and winning or losing.

It's the payoff for an emotional investment that we never know for sure will come. It's the reward for staying true. It's the release of knowing you're the best.    

It's what makes sports great and life worth living.

Amen.

 

Braves heroes

Wow. Again, just wow.

 

And we look around at this improbable run in baseball terms, and a which-way Wednesday query of "Which member of the Braves organization deserves the lion's share of the credit for this?" becomes even more difficult.

Because, think of these non-final-answer candidates.

Will Smith, the much-maligned closer who induced more bellyaches for Southerns this summer than three-day-old coleslaw, was a left-handed Dennis Eckersley in the postseason. Add in Tyler Matzek and what was perceived as the weakest part of the club became an undeniable strength when it counted the most.

Austin Riley won't win the MVP, but he should finish top 3. And I surely would bet on him to win one before he hangs up his spikes.

Max Fried just moved dead-even with Tom Glavine in the 'One game, one time' conversation in franchise history. And that's saying something considering Maddux and Smoltz wore this uniform on their way to Cooperstown too.

As for the choices, well, in reverse order, we'll start with the soul of this team. What else can you say about Freddie Freeman that hasn't been said. Has there been a better teammate in Atlanta sports history?

The runner-up in my book is Brian Snitker, who managed circles around Dave Roberts in dispatching the Dodgers in the NLCS and was aces in the Series too. And while there's a lot to be gleeful about this morning for all the Braves fans and followers we know, it's almost impossible not to be happiest for Snitker, a baseball lifer who has spent a lifetime in this organization. Plus, yeah, somewhere deep down, Snit just minted and laminated his "Wanna second-guess me, huh? Have you seen my World Series ring?" get out of jail free card.

And the winner was not even in Houston last night. Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos pulled every lever and pushed every button. Yes, this team's nucleus was much better than it played from April to the end of July. And again, it would have been very easy to sell when Ronald Acuña shredded his knee.

But AA rebuilt the outfield. Trusted his manager's trust in his bullpen. And let his ingredients simmer until it was a perfect blend at the perfect time.

And it turned out, well, perfect.
 

Right-on rankings

Man, it's high tide for the sports fans in the Peach State right about now.

Not sure if you heard, but the Braves had a pretty good postseason run.

Now, the state's second-favorite team is clearly the A1A honcho of college football.

Georgia was atop the first playoff rankings. Alabama was rightly No. 2. Who other than Georgia is better than Bama?

I'll wait.

That said, the committee laid down the simple truth that the eye test, at least in the first poll, is the most important attribute, because Oklahoma's unbeaten and once-beaten Oregon and THE Ohio State have better wins than Alabama.

The most interesting thing to me is the number of things that will need to happen for Cincinnati to get into the top 4.

And if/how the committee will move the goalposts on the Bearcats before the season ends.

 

This and that

— One more Braves tidbit: Uh, AA time to call Freddie KGB's agent and "Pay dat man his money."

— OK, one more Braves item. This from TFP sports editor Stephen Hargis, sharing his love for the team and the joy of the moment after last night's win.

— May get a little dusty on this one. The NBA on TNT crew of Shaq, Chuck and Kenny paid a tribute to host Ernie Johnson and his son, who died over the weekend.

— So have you had your say on which college football stadium has the best gameday atmosphere? You can vote in the first round here. Don't miss the boat; go vote.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the Vols defense doing work behind the line of scrimmage

— So, former major league manager Bobby Valentine lost a close election to Democrat Caroline Simmons to be the mayor in Stamford, Conn. Naturally, being a controversial and at times crazier former New Yorker, Bobby V says the election was rigged. Perfect.

— Speaking of politics, it was a bloody night for the Democrats across the country, which by almost every measure was a pretty strong indictment of the current administration. There are a slew of theories out there — and I spent way more time watching the Braves (after basketball practice and a softball tournament title game) — and a lot of folks will pick and choose the ones that best fit their narrative. That's how political conversations work these days. But this paragraph in its morning email newsletter from the hardly conservative New York Times screamed volumes to me: "These developments — the pandemic, above all — have caused a sharp slide in Biden's approval rating. 'As Democrats try and make sense of the wreckage tonight, one fact stands out as one of the easiest explanations,' The Times's Nate Cohn wrote. 'Joe Biden has lower approval ratings at this stage of his presidency than nearly any president in the era of modern polling.'"  
 

Today's question

OK, the first 'Which Way Wednesday' is above.

Fire away.

Also, there was a Major League marathon on this morning. Yeah I got sucked in. Which character is the first to run to the set if they decided on a "Major League 4" — Roger Dorn or Pedro Cerano?

Which, after the Braves, is the most popular sports team across the South?

Which member of this Braves franchise right now would you like to have a beer with?

As for today, Nov. 3, let's review.

Hey, Chuck Bronson would have been 100 today. So there's that.

As for a Rushmore, now that Snitker has a title, does he make the all-time Rushmore of coaches/managers in Atlanta sports history? Discuss.

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