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Chris Gay: Atlanta United off to solid debut

Posted: March 8, 2017 - 1:42am

Excitement filled the air Sunday as thousands of fans filled into Bobby Dodd Stadium to watch the first game of Atlanta's Major League Soccer team.

My first thought: Lewis Grizzard must be spinning in his grave. The famed columnist was no fan of soccer, once comparing it to Diet Pepsi. Ouch.

Many of you are soccer fans, though. I've seen your excitement on social media. I saw where some of you attended the first Atlanta United match.

Yamil Asad scored the first goal in franchise history in the first half. That was hard to miss if you were on Facebook or Twitter. More than 55,000 fans witnessed the goal live.

Atlanta United ultimately showed its true Southern hospitality, fitting in with the other pro sports teams in the city. The team allowed two late goals in the second half to fall to New York, 2-1. What'd you expect? An Atlanta team to play well in the second half and win an important contest? If you were looking for some feel-good story, you haven't been paying enough attention to Atlanta pro sports over the past three decades.

The real story of the day, though, was the attendance. The soccer debut featured a sell-out crowd - quite an accomplishment for a new franchise.

It'll be interesting to see if the attendance continues to remain high. Is soccer here to stay? Or is it a novelty? More than 15 years ago, Augusta brought an arenafootball2 franchise to town, the Augusta Stallions packing James Brown Arena for the first game. Then, the attendance kept dropping throughout the season. The next year, attendance plummeted.

I'll admit I'm not the biggest soccer fan in the world, but I'm not against it, either. The main question, though: Is Atlanta big enough for four sports? Soccer season just started, with the regular season running through October. That's a long time to keep our attention when the Braves are playing and when the college and pro football seasons will later start stealing the spotlight.

I wish Atlanta United well. It's always nice to have more opportunities to support pro sports teams. Maybe Atlanta United will be around for many years to come. If nothing else, the franchise is already off to a fast start.

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BRIGHT LIGHTS: Augusta Christian is playing host to Augusta Prep on Friday night in baseball. Yes, night baseball at the school.

Augusta Christian is holding its first game under the newly acquired lights, which were put up in late December. Now, the school will show them off for the first time when they play host to the Cavaliers, with Augusta Christian holding opening ceremonies at 6:15 p.m. The game will follow shortly afterward.

The Lions become the sixth Columbia County high school baseball team to add lights to its field.

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READY TO RUMBLE: One of the most popular sporting events in the world, Wrestlemania, takes place the Sunday before Masters Week. And if you don't think wrestling is a sport, my children will be glad to argue with you.

I thought about wrestling when I read Pam Tucker recently tossed her name in the ring for the Columbia County commission chairman seat in 2018. The longtime EMA director in Richmond and Columbia counties walked into the squared circle, announced her candidacy, and dropped the mic.

I'm just a casual observer of Columbia County politics, but even I can see how this election next year is going to be the main event, one of the biggest elections in recent history in Columbia County. Tucker is a well-known favorite loved by many. But will she have the support to win?

Tucker has a populist appeal à la President Donald Trump. Politics is a dirty game, and I'll be shocked if her opponents don't try to do everything to prevent her from winning (If this were wrestling, they would pull chairs and tables and maybe more out from underneath the ring.). But if she remains steadfast and drops a few metaphorical elbows along the way, she'll be just fine.

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STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT: My wife and I, along with my parents and cousins, went to see Mark Randisi featuring the Motor City Horns Saturday night at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center. Kudos to the fine folks at Augusta Amusements for bringing Randisi and the band to the area - and for bringing many great acts throughout the 2016-17 season.

Randisi sings in the style of Frank Sinatra, and he sings well, too, even sounding like Ol' Blue Eyes himself. The Motor City Horns were fantastic. It was a great show for all of us Sinatra fans out there, especially for my wife and me, who lowered the average age of the audience by several decades.

Augusta Amusements has several other shows on tap for this season. The Glenn Miller Orchestra comes to town May 20. After listening to so much current (not necessarily good) music at sporting events throughout the years, I might make a return trip to the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. You can have Luke Bryan, Florida-Georgia Line and the sort. I'll take real music, like that of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. And I'll be glad to bring down the average age of the crowd once again.

 

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