ATLANTA — The Labor weekend was a fascinating one for sports fans. Here in Atlanta in particular there were quite a few interesting football storylines that I followed while here on vacation for Dragon Con. And while this iteration of The Sporting Life column is going to be about sports this time, don’t get used to it; the column is always about the sporting life, not just sports, so don’t expect scores and stats.
Thursday night, August 31, the football Tigers of Tennessee State University roared into the newly renovated football stadium, formerly the Atlanta Braves baseball home Turner Field. Georgia State University has developed an FBS level football program over the past decade. In past years, they were using the Georgia Dome for home games. They now finally have a home of their own and invited TSU to come down and help christen it this season, as they have traditionally hosted an FCS HBCU team to open their season. In fact, I attended their home opener game with Clark Atlanta back in 2011, and have supported the idea of TSU playing at GSU ever since.
The TSU Tigers defeated the FBS Georgia State team in handy fashion delivering a stunning victory for the thousands of TSU fans who had come from all over the region, many braving the heavy rains to possibly be outdoors drenched during the game. However, the weather cooperated magnificently, and the sun came out and gave a glorious dry experience for the sold-out crowd. The Aristocrat of Bands delivered their usual high level of performance and the day was a triumph all around for the TSU family. Although I did not attend the game, I did listen in online to the second half on radio 102.1 FM and am happy to report that from subsequent reports I have seen it was a great, fun time for all, at least for the TSU folk anyway.
Across town from the TSU / GSU game, the Atlanta Falcons were hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars for their second home and final preseason game. The big draw for me was an opportunity to both experience their sparkling new 2 billion dollar Mercedes-Benz Stadium and to preview an AFC division rival team the Titans will play on the road their second game on September 17 and close out the season against at home on New Years Eve. I had a similar opportunity last August when the Falcons closed out the preseason against the Jags in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons staff and the M-B stadium employees set high standards for courtesy and professionalism, and match the phenomenal facility for being welcoming and a great place to experience a game. I particularly enjoyed seeing so many, many Black folks working in all areas of the stadium. If you have a chance to see the Falcons at home this season, I highly encourage you to do so. Their Super Bowl in 2019 should be amazing. Hopefully the Titans will be in it, and you’ll see for yourself.
Later in the weekend, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosted two more sold-out crowds, for college football intersectional games featuring FBS schools and their fans from the University of Alabama, Georgia Tech, Florida State and the University of Tennessee. Alabama beat FSU Saturday night and Tennessee survived double overtime against Tech Monday night. Two other big stories in college football over the weekend emerged. Texas A&M collapsed and blew a 32 point lead, leading to harsh criticism of their African American head coach Kevin Sumlin (the only other Black coach in the 14-member SEC is Vandy’s Derek Mason). Cam Newton’s younger brother, Howard University freshman QB Caylin Newton led the Bison, an FCS HBCU team, to a stunning upset at FBS Nevada – Las Vegas, termed “the biggest upset in college football history based on the point spread” and overshadowing TSU’s victory in Atlanta quite a bit in the national media.