Spencer Hall at SB Nation has a column up about Chipper Jones, his life, times and city. It’s not a biography — you know Jones’ story by now — it’s more about the essence and zeitgeist of Chipper, the teams he played on and the city in which it all happened:
You knew Chipper would work in Atlanta simply based on his face. He could have been the mascot for the Atlanta Crackers … Chipper looked like a walking definition of cracker: slitty eyes, swaggery, slow steps to the plate even as a rookie, and a fondness for Oakleys and sleeveless shirts.You knew he would work for so many reasons. He came to the plate to “Crazy Train,” the precursor to totalling a Camaro, or chugging a 12 pack of Natty Lite before a Jackyl concert, or hitting a baseball with the name “Chipper.” His real name was Larry Wayne Jones, the name of a serial killer, state agricultural commissioner, or budding candidate for the position of cracker baseball pope.
Hall goes on to talk about how, despite this perfect fit — which assumes a lot of stuff about the south and race I’m not sure I’d always assume, but that’s for another day — Jones’ is not the same local(ish) boy makes good tale, mostly because of the unfulfilled promise of the 1990s and early 2000s Braves. How “the metaphorical trophy case” was never filled, and how it compares to the city itself, full of empty McMansions and development that seemed like inevitable successes, went bust just like the Braves’ hopes of multiple world championships in the Chipper Jones era.
Not gonna lie: I’m having some trouble with this one. Why? Because like so many fans who came to the team because of TBS, the Braves are not a local phenomenon to me. Outside of the airport and a few minutes on 1-75 heading down to Florida, I’ve never been in Atlanta at all. Heck, I’ve never even been to Turner Field. To me and so many others, the Braves are a TV-and-watch-them-when-they-play-road-games-nearby thing, and thus the rhythms and the resonances between the city and the team are simply absent in my experience and the experience of so many others.
Which, by the way, goes a long way towards explaining why Braves fandom is the curious and seemingly passionless thing it often appears to be. If you didn’t grow up with a bunch of like-minded kids, if you didn’t pack into bars watching games, everyone cheering for the same thing and if you didn’t high five other fans on the way in and out of the park before and after big games, there’s inevitably going to be something missing. They Braves mean an awful lot to me, but just like the bands I listened to with my headphones on in my room when I was growing up, they’re a personal thing, not a communal thing.
So I read this and I enjoy, if for no small reason than the prose. But I have to admit: the idea of a city thinking about Chipper Jones as a thing is sorta odd to me. He’s always been a little man on my TV. Or that guy I met once at spring training or saw when he came to Ohio to play the Reds. Oh well.
Anyway, worth a read, especially Atlanta people.