…but don’t go planning any parades, either.

I think I’d qualify as a Braves fanatic. I’ve followed the team my whole life. Hell, I kind of work for them now, as a regular columnist for the magazine ChopTalk. I don’t live and die by my team, but I damn sure have a happier day when they win. And I’ve spent most of the past 15 Octobers cheering, rooting, praying, and finally taking The Walk. The Walk, through the dark streets of my neighborhood, is my calming time, the thing that stands between me and homicide every year the Braves fail in the postseason. (Back in ’92, I punched a bar wall and nearly broke my hand, so I’m improving.) I spend the entire walk dissecting the last game, the playoffs, the season…and by the time I get home, I’ve gotten all my fury out and I’m ready for basketball season.

Sometimes those Walks take a looooong time.

Anyway, every year I go into the postseason hoping that this won’t be the October that ends with a Walk, that this year I can watch the final outs and then head out somewhere for a few dozen celebratory beers.

And every year, the Braves lead off with a godawful crapfest of a game like they played today, getting walloped (as I write this) 10-3 by the Astros. Getting 10 runs scored on you by the Astros is like having Clay Aiken bitch-slap you. There was the usual Braves playoff trademark–batting-practice-style relief pitching–though it was good to see some energy and some power out of the lineup this year.

Thing is, everybody outside of Atlanta loves to giggle about how sorry the Braves fans are for not showing up in the Division Series. Friends, THIS is why. Every year, the Braves say it’s going to be different, and every year they make meek little Queen Elizabeth-style waves as a different pitcher–Livan Hernandez, Sterling Hitchcock, Robb Nen, and on and on and on–makes ’em sit like contestants in the Westminster Dog Show. There are only so many times that you’ll go to a subpar restaurant, that you’ll buy a band’s one-good-song CDs, that you’ll hit on a chick that doesn’t deliver…the Braves wouldn’t put up with a player who failed to deliver in the clutch for thirteen years, so why should the fans?

Tomorrow night, the Braves face what might be one of the most important non-elimination games in recent history. If they go down 0-2, if they show that the players change but the culture of close-but-not-quite doesn’t, they’re going to have a hard time convincing anybody of their championship legitimacy anytime soon.

So kick some Astro ass, willya, Atlanta?


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