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Holloway: Braves fan brings intense passion

POSTED: May 7, 2009 10:48 p.m.

Blame it on the rain.

Blame it on the economy. Blame it on a losing record, offensive impotency or a seeing-impaired All-Star. Blame on it Bobby Cox, that’s the flavor of the week.

Ask Bob Barr and he can probably figure out a way to blame it on socialism.

Whatever the reason — or excuse, depending on your perspective — attendance at Atlanta Braves games is sagging into Seattle Mariner territory. Through 14 home games, Braves attendance is down 20 percent compared to the same span a year ago and it’s in the bottom third of the league overall. Fewer than 20,000 fans have showed up for half of those games.

Something, or somebody, must be at fault.

You can’t blame Ken Silvers, though.

Silvers and his family are the kind of Braves fans some people don’t believe exist. Their’s is a devotion that might seem mad to an outsider, but to a true believer, it’s the duty of the faithful.

Silvers has been a Braves fan since the 1970s when a fishing buddy got him started watching games on TBS. For 30-plus years, that was the routine.

Ernie, Skip and Pete.

Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Chuck Tanner and Bobby Cox again.

Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.

A whole lot of losing seasons, followed by unprecedented successes.

Silvers watched it all on television from his home in in Marianna, Fla., about 50 miles southwest of Bainbridge, Ga.

“Two or three times a year we’d come up for games,” Silvers said. “But that was about a six-hour drive for us. We couldn’t come to as many was we wanted, that’s for sure.”

Then TBS started cutting back on Braves games, and more, to Silvers’ disbelief, were being blacked out in Marianna.

Eventually, the Silvers got a satellite package, but that wasn’t enough anymore. So a little less than a year ago, Silvers, his wife Kim and their two teenage children — Christian and Matthew — packed up and moved to Gillsville.

“The main reason we moved up here was simple,” Silvers said. “We love the Atlanta Braves.

“My whole family, we love them. We wanted to get out to the country anyway, and we couldn’t have picked a better excuse to do it.”

And with that, the decision was made. The house that Silvers grew up in, the house he raised his kids in, is now a winter retreat.

They found a spot in Hall County. Kim got a job at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Ken, who’s retired from emergency medicene, stays at home to be with the kids when they get home from school in the afternoon.

So far this season, the whole crew has made the trip to Atlanta for six games, and they’re hoping to catch at least a couple more during the next homestand. But when they can’t get to the games, they’re decked out in Braves gear in front of the TV.

In the Silvers household, your Sunday best includes red Atlanta home jerseys. When the team is on the road, it’s navy tops.

“We’re absolutely loving it,” said Silvers, who remains optimistic despite a so-so start to the season. “If we can just beat the guys in our division, I think we’re going to be good. That was what killed us last year; we couldn’t beat the Nationals, which drove me nuts, and the Marlins. I swear the Marlins just play to beat the Braves.”

Sure, the Braves need more power in the lineup and more consistency in the field, but they also need more fans like Ken Silvers.

When half the seats are empty, the atmosphere at Turner Field can be humdrum. Too many of the best fans get tired of fighting traffic and overpaying for bad food. Too many patrons that do show up are more interested in the kind of singles that are getting ripped in the Chophouse, instead of the kind that get ripped into center field.

A return to the postseason could cure some of that. But if the Silvers are willing to pick up and move their lives six hours north just for the Braves, maybe more of us should be willing to suffer $6 nachos and a couple of hours on I-85.

Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. His columns appear each Friday. Write to him at bholloway@gainesvilletimes.com



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