I recently saw a meme of Chipper Jones walking to the locker room with his back turned to the camera. It was captioned, “My Childhood is Officially Over.” It captures my feeling about the situation almost exactly.
Much has been made of his illustrious career. He’s been compared to All-Time greats and Braves legends. But his impact on Atlanta and Atlanta fans has been scarcely analyzed, even if widely understood. Chipper is a real rarity in sports now – he was in the same organization for 22 years. 22 years! That’s as long as I’ve been alive. There has literally never been a moment of my life that Chipper was not in the Braves organization. And for most of the people my generation, Chipper has defined Atlanta , the Braves, and baseball for as long as they can remember.
One of the reasons that baseball is so great is that it invokes a strong feeling of continuity. We’re watching essentially the same game they played during the Civil War. It’s a game where every current player and event is judged against the ghosts of those who came before. As soon as you start your fandom, you become surrounded by the history (often highly romanticized) of the game. And for Atlanta, Chipper Jones will forever be a part of the city’s historical consciousness.
I think there’s an immense comfort in continuity. As we grow, so much in our lives changes. For me, I saw many of my friends move away from my childhood neighborhood. I moved away myself, and came back to see my old neighborhood completely gone to make place for a strip mall. I experienced a death in my extended family, switched schools 3 times, said goodbye to all my friends after high school, and then said it again after college. I have a job now and a few of my friends I grew up with have kids. Atlanta changed too. Its population has been swelling enormously. Skyscraper and road construction in the city has been constant. Cell phone towers now dot the horizon everywhere. The Olympics came and went. As did the Atlanta Thrashers. Turner Field replace Fulton County Stadium and Atlanta sports won its 1 and only
World National Championship. The Atlanta Hawks and Falcons players of my childhood – Dikembe Mutombo and Mookie Blaylock and Jamal Anderson are long gone. As are former staples of the Braves dynasty: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Andruw Jones, Leo Mazzone, and Bobby Cox.
Chipper Jones was a constant throughout all of that. A piece of continuity that has embedded itself into the heart of Atlanta as much as Cal Ripken did in Baltimore or Robin Yount did in Milwaukee. Suffice it to say that I’m really glad we got to witness his career and that he (as well as Crazy Train at Turner Field) will be missed. Peace, Chipper