ATLANTA — Sports gods do not actually exist, so it is safe to curse them when you think they’ve been cursing you or, to be more precise, your favorite team and/or player. It is no secret that Eagles fans feel they have been cursed forever, but perhaps never more so than now.
If only they could find the sadistic being that stuck pins in the tiny voodoo doll with the green No. 11 jersey, they’d have it exorcised to sports hell for all eternity to make sure that Carson Wentz never misses another postseason game.
If it’s any consolation, feeling cursed is not foreign to the Philadelphia sports fan. Here, in the largest city in the Southeast, the sports world was buzzing with optimism all day Monday. Just as in Philadelphia, football was the only thing being discussed on sports talk radio. Except here, they love college football even more than the NFL.
The Georgia Bulldogs were on the verge of their first national championship since Herschel Walker’s freshman season of 1980, and that would have meant even more to the people in these parts than the Super Bowl that got away from the Atlanta Falcons last February when they blew a 28-3 lead to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Instead, the Bulldogs blew a lead of their own against Alabama, surrendering 26 points after halftime to a true freshman quarterback who had never played a meaningful minute of college football in his life before Monday.
Curses. Atlanta has lots of reasons to believe in curses.
No man on the planet is better suited than Atlanta sports talk radio host John Kincade to understand the pain endured by the Philadelphia and Atlanta fan bases over the last 20-plus years. Kincade, 53, grew up in Broomall and graduated from Cardinal O’Hara High School in 1982 and from Temple in 1986. He worked for the Flyers, got his on-air start at WIP, and moved to Atlanta in 1995. This has become his home, but he makes no secret on the radio program he co-hosts with former Georgia quarterback Buck Belue that his sports allegiance remains with the Philadelphia teams.
He has raised his 14-year-old daughter to be a devoted Eagles and Phillies fan. Father and daughter made their first trip together for a game at Lincoln Financial Field earlier this season when the Eagles played the Arizona Cardinals, and Kincade will be back at the Linc on Saturday for his favorite team’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Falcons.
>> READ MORE: Complete coverage previewing the Eagles-Falcons game
“I’m going to sit in the stands and watch the game,” Kincade said. “I just want to be there as a fan cheering on my favorite team.”
He will do so anxiety-free even though he knows he could be ripe for abuse on his Monday afternoon show on 680 The Fan, which he has co-hosted with Belue since 2000.
“I think it’s freeing that Nick Foles is at quarterback,” Kincade said. “I’ve never gone into the playoffs with no expectations, but I don’t think there is any pressure. We’re playing with house money. All the Eagles can do this week is lift me up and put a smile on my face. The pressure is not on the Eagles, and they are playing a beatable team.”
Kincade said Falcons fans suggested tasing him or throwing tomatoes at him if their favorite team beats the Eagles. He insisted he has endured far worse for charity in the past.
“I’m a kid from Delaware County,” Kincade said. “I can take the heat. I love it. I’ve been here since 1995, and I’ve always let these fans know my loyalties.”
While it’s true that Kincade left the Philly area but never let the Philly influence leave him, he does go out of his way to defend the area he calls home now. If you want to make fun of how much the people around here love college football, he will tell you that’s an advantage over the Philadelphia and New York areas when it comes to talk radio.
“When I came here on Jan. 1, 1995, there were 2.7 million people,” Kincade said. “Now there are 6.7 million and that’s not just Southerners replicating at a great rate. A lot of people from all over the South and all over the country have come here. We have more Fortune 500 companies than any city other than New York. This is a young business hub.”
That’s all great, but it is also a frustrated sports city. The Braves won 14 straight division titles from 1991 through 2005 and only had one World Series title to show for it. That 1995 title still represents the city’s only professional championship among the four major sports. Like the Phillies, the Braves are now in a rebuilding phase that just took a big hit when Major League Baseball harshly penalized them for violating the international signing rules.
The Falcons reached their first Super Bowl during the 1998 season and their best defensive player – Eugene Robinson – was arrested in Miami for soliciting a prostitute on the eve of game against Denver. He had been honored with an Athletes in Action character award earlier in the day. In their second Super Bowl last year, they choked away a 25-point lead, a dubious record that is not likely to fall anytime soon.
The NBA Hawks won 60 games three years ago and are now where the 76ers were three years ago. The NHL’s Thrashers are now the Winnipeg Jets while the NHL’s Flames long ago moved to Calgary.
“Atlanta fans do have an inferiority complex,” Kincade said. “Many great teams have let them down. The fan base always feels like Atlanta is the punch line and that their teams don’t get enough respect. You only get respect when you close the deals. Philadelphia fans have felt the same things.”
One of the cities is going to feel the searing pain again around 8 p.m. Saturday. Either way, John Kincade will have plenty to talk about Monday.