By: Sammy Clough, Sports Editor
Furman University is a melting pot of cultures. 45 states and 49 countries are represented by a student body who have traveled near and far to make Greenville, S.C. their home for four (or maybe more) year.
If you are anything like me, part of your residential identity comes from local sports. While South Carolina is not home to any professional teams in the five major North American sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, MLS, NHL), the options for a local team creates a unique north-south dichotomy.
Greenville is in a unique position as it lies almost equidistant between two of the South’s biggest cities. Charlotte, N.C. lies just 109 miles to the north while Atlanta, Ga. is 153 miles in the opposite direction. This gives Furman students and Greenville natives the choice between four different major sports teams.
To the north, the Queen City is home to the NFL franchise the Charlotte Panthers. The Panthers are led by their quarterback and former NFL Most Valuable Player Cam Newton. Newton and the Panthers reached the NFL’s peak, the Super Bowl, in 2016 only to be embarrassed by an elderly Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
To the south of Furman lies what only tourists refer to as Hotlanta, A-Town or the Big Apple of the South. Standing prominently in their new, state-of-the-art stadium in downtown Atlanta are the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are also led by a quarterback and former NFL MVP, Matt Ryan. Similar to their neighbors from the north, the Falcons reached the Super Bowl in 2017 and gave up a 28-3 lead to an aging Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in heartbreaking fashion.
Both the Panthers and Falcons have experienced recent success, heart wrenching defeats and quarterbacks who have received the highest regular season honors. For Greenville residents, their NFL franchise choice is a toss up.
The sister cities’ NBA representatives are the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks. Both teams respectively have had short-lived playoff flares in recent history, but for the most part find themselves below the league’s average. For Greenville residents looking for a basketball team with small expectations and even smaller results, it is again a toss up between Charlotte and Atlanta.
There are two areas in professional sports, however, that’s fandom should not be left to question. Those two teams are the Atlanta Braves of the MLB and Atlanta United FC of the MLS.
Both the MLB and the MLS have very little representation in the southeast, and local options for Greenville fans are left to the only remotely close teams in the area.
Atlanta United FC, created in 2017, is Atlanta’s first MLS team. Playing in Atlanta’s newest sports temple, the Mercedes-Benz Dome, the Five-Stripes as they are colloquially known, house some of the sport’s rowdiest fans. Atlanta United has experienced unprecedented success for an MLS expansion team, and recently clinched their first MLS postseason berth. A fanatical following and the club’s upward trajectory are just a few reasons for Greenville residents to cheer for Atlanta United FC.
There is truly only one MLB team to cheer for from Greenville and that is the Atlanta Braves. The Braves, a historic team who opened their new fan-friendly stadium, Suntrust Park, in 2017, are arguably one of the most exciting young teams in the Major League. They are led by veterans Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis, but have truly made a splash this year with a plethora of young talent in Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, and Dansby Swanson. The Braves clinched their first National League East title in five years on Saturday Sept. 22, and look to emerge a national force as the MLB playoffs begin in October.
If you attend or work at Furman, or live in the Greenville area and need a sports team, chose one of these. Take your preference in Charlotte or Atlanta when it comes to football and basketball, but look no further than Atlanta United FC and the Atlanta Braves to satisfy your every local fan’s desires.