The Final Falcon

Everything changes. Even if you don’t want change, it’s coming, one way or another, and those who refuse to accept change usually are swept away by it. When you’re a kid, and the family dog is dying, your parents have to try to explain why an elderly dog just isn’t going to get better no matter what the vet does, and it is time to let go. That’s a hard lesson to learn.

For those of you who missed it, and most of you did, the first Falcons game in 1966 featured a flight by their live mascot, Freddie the Falcon, who was supposed to circle the stadium and then return to his handler. Freddie took off like he was fired out of a cannon and never returned. Freddie saw it coming. Freddie saw the future.

The Falcons lost the coin toss.

The Falcons very first play was a kickoff, which the kicker muffed, and they took a penalty before their first play.

From there, it got worse and worse. I grew up with this team. I remember watching them on Sunday and wondering if the day would ever come where I would no longer feel the deep bite of disappointment and the never ending frustration of being a fan of the Atlanta Falcons.

That day is finally here.

After over fifty-six years of watching, waiting, cheering in those very rare times, and turning the television off early in the first quarter in too many games to count, I’m simply done.

The turning point was watching the Ravens-Chiefs game and realizing I didn’t enjoy football anymore. It has become meaningless. Watching good teams play is like watching porn while dating a virgin. Watching teams that can, and do, play good football is a reminder that the Falcons can, but do not, play good football.

In December of 1972, I was twelve years old, and watching the Falcons play the Kansas City Chiefs, the last game of the season. Dave Hampton, Atlanta’s running back, came into the game needing 70 yards to reach 1000, and become Atlanta’s very first 1000 yard rusher. Late in the 4th, Hampton reached the 1000 yard mark. Exactly. The game stopped. They game Dave the ball and even KC players shook his hand. Then Hampton was thrown for a loss and ended the season with 995 yards.

That was not the first, last, or only time, the hopes and dreams of fans would be crushed.

(Hampton would finally achieve that mark in 1975, by the way)

In 1980 the Falcons were up by 14 in the 4th quarter against Dallas in the playoffs. Roger Staubach, the venerated Cowboys’ quarterback went down injured, and it looked like the Falcons would be headed to the Superbowl for the very first time ever. They let reliever Randy White, who was the punter, lead the boys back, and they lost by three.

But mostly, in 56 seasons, the Falcons have lost, lost, lost, and lost again, and again. They’ve lost, in those 56 seasons, over one hundred more games than they’ve won. Record (W-L-T): 369-476-6. Their playoff record is 10-14 which means they’ve played in the post season only 24 times in the playoffs in 56 years. Both super bowl appearances have been agonizingly embarrassing. If your kid came home from school with a record as bad as the Falcons, you would think tutors and summer school. But after 56 years, it’s time to forget college.

I went from the first grade to the age I was old enough to get drunk legally before the Falcons played in their first playoff game (1978). It was a dozen more years before they played in another. (1991) It was 2008-2009 before the Falcons had back to back winning seasons.

When Julio Jones said, “Nah, I’m outta there; I want to win” He was stating a very simple fact; the current team isn’t going to win. The man who is the team’s all time leading receiver, and one of the best ever, saw the future Freddie the Falcon saw. There is a hell of a lot to be said for this.

At the end of all this, I have decided to simply walk away, too.  Perhaps, I’m thinking, it’s fans like me, who will endure season after season, year after year, decade after decade, of miserable games, double digit losses, and terrible coaches, maybe, fans like me are the problem. Maybe fans like me are enabling the Falcons’ losing ways. Because we keep coming back, we keep getting what we’ve always gotten.

That’s it. I’m done.

Take Care,

Mike

My Date With A Cannibal

She was an angry woman, someone who had been wronged, and clearly, she was one of those people who rather be anywhere else than where she was, no matter who she was with. I didn’t want to do the bar thing, so I signed up on Match and started trying to shed a divorce that had begun to stick to me like a second skin. We were like two in that, she and I. Neither of us knew it at the time, but what we had in common was invisible, and both of us, once we realized it, had to part forever.

We met at Books-a-Million, and from the first few minutes, I thought she was about to get up and walk out. But we had read enough books to find comfort in trying to figure out what else there might be. She wrote poetry, but rarely, and I wrote too much fiction. There was a movie we both wanted to see, so we sat in the dark and in silence, which is what movies are good for, in the final truth. After a while, we held hands and watched the credits roll.

“I hear there’s a good Mexican place in Quitman,” she said, and I offered to buy her dinner there. She followed me to the restaurant, and we drank Margaritas and listened to a couple sing slightly off key.

We said our goodbyes at her car, and she told me it had been a great time but it was the wrong man at the wrong time, and if it was okay, we needed to part ways. I had just paid a lot of money to be shut of a woman so I knew it was a gift to be able to simply walk away.

I pulled into my driveway and she pulled in behind me. “Let not talk about it, okay?” and we didn’t. We smoked a little pot she had, drank Scotch that I had, and very slowly, but most certainly, she allowed me to ease her into my bedroom.

About three in the morning, she got up and dressed by the light in the bathroom, and I propped up on one elbow and watched.

“Left at the driveway, right at the light in town, right?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Don’t call me, please,” she said.

“Why?”

“I’m married,” she said and neither of us spoke again as she left.

It was another couple of months, and I was still adrift in the sea of unhappy people looking for other unhappy people on computer screens, and a text popped up. She showed up at my house an hour or so later, and she looked happier, somewhat, but we still didn’t want to talk about it.

“I got divorced,” she said, “but I’m not looking for anything right now.”

“Why are you here?” I asked. I had almost fallen asleep.

“I thought you’d get a kick out what happened when I left here last time. I went home. I had been gone most of the day, most of the night, and when I walked into the house my husband was sitting in his chair playing some video game with three of his friends, just like they were when I left. None of them had so much as changed positions. I don’t think he realized I had been gone. I sat and watched them play, knowing they would be there, endless hours followed by endless hours. I propped my feet up on the arm of his chair and cleaned my nails by scraping them against my teeth. There were tiny pieces of your skin under my nails. I held each piece in my mouth, just letting it sit there a bit, then I swallowed them. Pieces of someone else inside of me, in more ways than one, and me just a couple of feet away from a man who wasn’t aware who I was anymore,” she said.

“That’s fucked up,” I said, fully awake now.

“That’s marriage,” she said, and I never saw her again.

Take Care,

Mike

Halloween 2020 Part One: Thrown Rocks

I listened to the  message sent to most of the leaders of the world and it was one that left nothing to the imagination; surrender or die. The next message was equally blunt; it was the coordinates of an asteroid the size of a shopping mall. It was going to slam into Earth, somewhere, unless the demands were met. The list of demands seemed fairly benign for the people of Earth. The list included the dismantling of all nuclear weapons of any size, every aircraft carrier was to be taken into deep water and sank. Submarines were to be sank. All ballistic missiles were to be decommissioned. Land mines were to be outlawed and those deployed were to be deactivated. Fighter aircraft, cruise missiles, and battle tanks were on the list of the next items to be destroyed, provided the first list was completed on time. The asteroid would hit in one year. 

NASA was able to confirm there was an object coming in from beyond Jupiter, nickel and iron in composition, heading right towards us. The message, sent in various forms, using wireless technology, was untraceable as to its origin. Unknown to most people on Earth, and actually known to only a few dozen, there were plans to protect the planet from just such and event, as far as an asteroid was concerned. The message was less than twenty-four hours old, and the confirmation just a few minutes from being made, when a rocket lifted off from Russian, with a probe to investigate the incoming object. 

What happened next was as sudden as it was horrible. Much smaller meteoroids, some the size of basketballs, and others the size of houses, began to slam into cities. For a week, hundreds, and then thousands of objects came streaking out of the sky and pounded the most heavily populated areas on Earth. There were stories of aliens coming out of the objects and killing people with weapons that made no sound and produced no light. There were stories about diseases running rampant, and even one about robots landing and killing people. But the truth was much more horrible. Nothing we did anywhere stopped what was happening. On the seventh day, the carnage stopped, with nearly every city on Earth with a population of one million or more, still smoking from the damage. Millions of people were killed, many times that number were fleeing, and the wounded were being lined up and treated in the streets. 

The next message was brutal in its simplicity. “Begin work on the list. We will evaluate your progress in seven days.” 

The next few days were filled with images of huge ships of war sinking under the waves, missiles being cut into pieces, and nuclear weapons being dismantled. But there was something odd about television and the internet now. It seems to be afterimages on the screen, as if a person stared long enough, there was a face, or faces, staring back behind the screen. The reports of robots and aliens did come from usually reliable sources, and those sources denied having ever broadcast those reports. We knew our communications had been hacked and were being manipulated. Accounts on social media began to post comments that read, “This might be the best thing that ever happened to us, maybe we should demand the governments do more to save us!” What they were doing was very clear. Who they were was not as clear. 

The video of an American submarine sinking with its hatch open was hard to watch. My family had more than one relative to serve underwater, and it was personal to see an undamaged ship, paid for with my tax dollars, to simply be destroyed for unknown reasons to an unknown entity. Yet the “Peacemakers” as the social media groups were calling those who were doing this, were not talking to us very much. 

“Good progress, but more should be done quickly, we shall help in our own way, if more progress is not made,” was the message and everyone knew how they planned to assist us in destruction. 

I wondered why they didn’t. Was there a reason they warned us about a rock big enough to cause catastrophic damage heading our way, yet reacted with violence at the launch if a probe? Surely, if they were interested in peace they would have killed one million people in one week, and left thousands homeless and wounded. It was clear they were manipulating social media, random accounts, fake accounts, government accounts, millions of them every day, but to what end? No one knew. I certainly had no idea, but the problems that had begun to mount up when all of this began, threatened to overwhelm me, and my office. 

As the first female sheriff in Brooks County, I knew damn well I was going to have problems, even before the aliens, or whoever it was, started throwing rocks at us. I actually had planned to ride it out, not run for reelection, and move to a place not named for a proslavery Senator who neatly killed a man on the floor of the Senate because that man spoke against slavery. My deputies treated me like I was just passing through, and the Board of Commissioners were useless when it came to trying to discipline my own employees. 

A month after the first message, I was in my office trying to figure out what the hell to do with a budget that allowed me to pay nearly everyone in uniform, and keep gas in most of the cars, and hey, maybe even buy everyone a bullet or two, when the only deputy I could truly trust, Harlow Cox, walked into my office and told me there was an alien in the parking lot. The thing had asked for a meeting in my office in a few minutes. I could hear it coming into the building because it tore the front door totally off the frame. 

Harlow stood behind my desk, beside me, and I wondered if anyone was going to be stupid enough to shoot at it. 

“Good morning, Sheriff Wanda Louise Alexander Morrison,” the thing said, “congratulations, we have appointed you District Manager. In your jail, who is your worst offender? Please bring him to me at once.” 

End Part One.  

Take Care,

Mike