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.