This week’s Courier Herald column:
It was a banner weekend for soccer fans in Georgia. The World Cup culminated with France as Champions, and the Atlanta United set yet another attendance record for Major League Soccer with the largest crowd to view a single game match. After a generation of promises, Soccer appears to be a sport that can draw fans in the deep south.
Five years ago things were a lot less certain. The lure of a professional soccer franchise was part of the sales pitch to replace the relatively young Georgia Dome with the bigger and glitzier Mercedes Benz Stadium.
I was among those that openly scoffed at the idea that Soccer would be anything other than a rounding error for the new stadium’s attendance. Let it be known for the record that I got that one wrong. With 18 home matches as part of the United’s season ticket package, it’s entirely likely that more people will watch soccer in Mercedes Benz stadium this year than will watch NFL football.
Tastes and preferences change over time. Those my age and younger have grown up playing soccer, while the number of young kids playing traditional football is declining due to injury concerns.
Another observation that I’ve seen regarding the United is that it’s the only team that is truly Atlanta’s. The folks that have moved here from elsewhere to swell Atlanta’s population usually bring a team’s loyalty with them. The United are uniquely Atlanta. They may be a fad, but younger fans indicate they are the future.
I was among the biggest critics of the decision to use public money to build the new stadium. Tying up Atlanta’s hotel tax proceeds for 30 years to replace a fully functional Georgia Dome when the city had so many other pressing infrastructure needs didn’t seem prudent.
Let it be noted loud and clear: I lost that battle.
The taxpayers’ money is now spent (with significant additional funds contributed by the Falcons’ organization) and we now have the new crown jewel for Major League Soccer. Regardless what my opinion was at the time or now, the issue is settled. We move forward, and appreciate the successes along the road that was chosen. It is, after all, the only road we actually get to travel.
Fighting lost battles is folly. The rest of the world quickly moves on. It’s much easier to pick a new cause and influence what can be changed than to attempt to prove to everyone you were right. There is little tangible value in “I told you so”.
I write all of this not to talk about soccer, as I’m frankly not a fan and don’t relate to the game. I’m still a dedicated fan of college football, and note that we’re roughly six weeks from UGA kicking off between the hedges.
I am, instead, setting up a column two weeks from now. One that is mostly written.
We will have primary runoffs on July 24th. Early voting is already well under way. Republicans will nominate a candidate for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Secretary of State. Intraparty fighting will “officially” be done. We will have nominees. Candidates up and down the ballot will have general election opposition.
The primary season has been brutal. While most arguing for their candidate will never want to admit it, there’s very little daylight between most major candidates on substantive policy issues. As is custom, the contrast between candidates become personal. Supporters tend to decide this isn’t a battle over slight material differences, but a final stand of good versus evil.
This isn’t a healthy position from which to start a general election campaign.
There’s a week left to compete for primary votes. Next Tuesday evening, there will be a slate of nominees. This slate will face the most competitive November election against an energized Democratic base this state has seen since 2002.
Partisans backing primary candidates need to do whatever they can this week to support their candidates. They also need to begin to note that November is coming.
Between July 25th and November 6th, losing candidates and their supporters need to decide if they want to maintain their statewide majority, or if they want to say “I told you so”. It’s a real choice, with a very tangible outcome.