Roy Blount Jr., whose article on sporting Atlanta begins on page 74, has sent us an addendum on how things have been going for the city since he left it to its own devices 18 years ago.
"Writing about Atlanta gave me a chance to come to grips with my home downtown. Not my hometown—I grew up in Decatur, right outside Atlanta—but downtown Atlanta, the scene of our major cultural and commercial pursuits. We would shop for reliable clothes at Rich's, eat the best of all possible chili dogs at The Varsity, hold high school formats at the Biltmore and watch first-run movies in splendor at the Fox. The Fox is huge, and when the lights go out, floating clouds and blinking stars appear on the ceiling. I never felt that Atlanta was lacking in delights, back in the '50s.
"No doubt everyone's home downtown changes. You can't go home downtown again. But I thought the settings of one's youth were supposed to seem tacky and shrunken when you revisited them. I walk around downtown Atlanta now and feel as though it is looking at me nostalgically. 'That's the kind of schlump they used to have around here,' chuckles one fantastic new hotel to another. The city has gone from underdeveloped to overdeveloped while I was still learning how to write a sentence that could stand beside a Varsity chili dog with onions. Many of its old glories are faded. The owners of the Fox are trying, in the face of sentimental public opposition, to tear the old place down. Atlanta sports have gone major league and lost their distinction.
"Baseball used to be the Southern Association (Class AA) Crackers. You could buy peanuts in real paper bags, and you could watch a mixture of retreads, striplings and distinguished small-timers play lively local ball.
"Football was Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets represented virtues that I learned to admire at a formative age. Like Brer Rabbit, they were quick, small, wily, mobile, loose and able somehow to beat meaner, more structured and ponderous teams. They would win in small, droll ways. I was at Grant Field the day little Jakie Rudolph tackled Alabama Running Back Bobby Marlow, about instep high, to save a Tech victory. One second Marlow was soaring, outlined against the sky, and the next second, as it seemed to me, Jakie had snatched him from the horizon by the feet.
"During the late '60s and early '70s Atlanta was soaring like Marlow. It seems to me fitting that recession has pulled it back down to earth somewhat, but the kind of optimism that transformed my old minor league downtown is still at work in Atlanta. The President is from Georgia, isn't he? The other day an Atlantan suggested that a major depression was going to hit the nation. 'That's all right.' another Atlantan said. 'Jimmy will stop it at the state line.' "
BLOUNT ON THE PROWL FOR CHILI DOGS