Georgia, historically a state of disappointing and underachieving sports teams, has been home to two championship teams in 2021. The Atlanta Braves stunned the Houston Astros in the World Series after an emphatic 7-0 victory in Game 6, and just a few months later the University of Georgia Bulldogs took home the collegiate national football championship for the first time since 1980 with a 33-18 upset over the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. To say that Georgia fans were elated is an understatement.
The World Series win was the Braves’ fourth title in franchise history and only the second since their move to Atlanta. The long drought wasn’t the only reason behind the unexpectedness of their victory. During the regular season, the Braves won the least regular season games of any playoff team, being the only one to tally fewer than 90 victories. To make matters even worse, injuries and subpar efforts led Braves fans to lower their expectations early on in the season. Ronald Acuña Jr., undoubtedly the team’s best player, tore his ACL in early July, and underperformance by big-time players such as Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler contributed to the team’s poor record and fans’ waning enthusiasm. With the cards seemingly stacked against them, the Braves earned the World Series and showed that nothing is impossible.
Although it took six games for the Braves to prevail, the final game was a total sweep. Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson and Soler were clutch players during this game, hitting homers that ultimately led to the Braves’ first World Series title since 1995.
The city made sure to bask in the glory and honor of the long-awaited achievement. Legendary celebrations in Atlanta commenced the night after Game 6 and continued well into the following morning. The reactions of fans and the festivities demonstrated the pride and loyalty the city felt for its baseball team.
In an interview with Fox Sports immediately after the Game 6, Freeman, the 2020 National League MVP, expressed his honor and excitement after this life-changing accomplishment.
“This is everything you work for,” Freeman said. “We’re in November right now and we’ve been doing this since February and we’ve had so many ups and downs this year and for us to be world champions … that is awesome to hear.”
Just when things couldn’t get any better, the University of Georgia dethroned the Crimson Tide, the reigning College Football Playoff champions, in January. Going into the game, the Bulldogs were confident that they could compete with the titans after playing them earlier in the season, but how much confidence could they really have with the weight of a national championship resting on the shoulders of walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett? Georgia had an arsenal of weapons to rely on, boasting the top-ranked recruiting class coming into this season that included Kelee Ringo, a highly-sought after five-star defensive back, and several other talented youngsters. The coaching staff’s savvy game strategy was also a major part of their win, as Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart made defense their winning mechanism.
Given that Alabama had beaten Georgia 41-24 in the SEC title game just a month prior, there was a huge amount of buildup for both teams when they met to determine who would be crowned the season’s champion. The game was tight until 54 seconds remained, when Alabama quarterback Bryce Young threw an interception that landed in the hands of Ringo, whose 79-yard run into the endzone clinched the title for the Bulldogs. Smart ran alongside, screaming at Ringo as the cornerback ran for his life to what would be the winning touchdown. Emotions ran high, with Bennett breaking into tears as Ringo crossed the touchdown line.
People flocked to Athens for the celebrations and parade that followed. A total of 92,000 fans in the stadium plus thousands more outside chanted Smart’s name in unison as he entered Sanford Stadium to bask in the glory of being a national champion. The legendary celebration that occurred post-victory was deemed one of the largest and most memorable in the history of Athens.
Overall, Georgia cleaned up during the 2021-2022 sports season. Both the Bulldogs and Braves had endured prolonged droughts of disappointment before this year’s championships, and the state went all out in demonstrating its pride and vitality with memorable celebrations. This year’s outcomes have set the bar high for Georgia sports, and fans across the state are eager to see what next season has in store.