LOOK AWAY. TURN THE PAGE. Whatever you do, do not read this column.
Instead, search for something happy and maybe shiny. Find something that will make you smile and feel good inside. Unless you enjoy wallowing in misery and reliving past failures, stop reading now.
If you’re still reading, don’t blame me. I warned you.
This story begins on a cold winter day in January in 1981. I sat with rapt attention watching the Atlanta Falcons take a lead over the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs.
The best team Atlanta had fielded to that point, carried a 24-10 lead into the fourth quarter. I then watched in abject horror as the Cowboys scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to Atlanta’s field goal, giving Dallas the 30-27 win.
I pouted. I screamed. I yelled and I’m sure I cried. My father patted me on the back and turned me to face him. He then uttered the harshest and truest words I’ve ever hard.
“Son. If you’re going to be an Atlanta sports fan, you better be ready to be disappointed.”
The day after the most recent version of the Falcons blowing a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, I recounted this story. As can be expected Atlanta sports fans protested. “Prove me wrong,” I responded.
I smiled a smug smile and then thought for a moment. My dad wasn’t wrong, and I’ve learned time and time again to take a step back and try to check my emotions at the door when an Atlanta sports team plays important games.
Perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong.
What if Lonnie Smith scored that run in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series? What if Jeff Reardon didn’t serve up those pitches the Blue Jays hitters turned into base hits and runs in the 1992 World Series? What if the 1993 Braves reached the World Series instead of falling flat against the Phillies in the NLCS?
If all of these or even one of these events transpired, then when the Braves knocked off the Cleveland Indians in the 1995 World Series the celebration wouldn’t have been as sweet.
Yes, Atlanta and its fans would have celebrated, but that series and those games wouldn’t be as cherished if the Braves already owned a couple of World Series Trophies.
And let’s not even get started on the 1996 World Series debacle against the Yankees.
What if Atlanta had held off the Cowboys rally in the 1981 playoffs or held off the 49ers rally in the 2012 NFC Championships game? What if the Falcon’s pass defense remained strong, and John Elway didn’t hit those big passes in the 1998 Super Bowl? What if a few weeks ago the Falcons closed the deal, held onto the lead and handed the city its first Super Bowl Championship?
When an Atlanta sports team reaches a cham-pionship, we are subjected to columns from far away sportswriters reminding us Atlanta has little to no championship pedigree. They are right. At-lanta isn’t Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, St. Louis, et al.
But what we Atlanta fans are is faithful. Do we cheer the Falcons, Braves and Hawks any less? Maybe, but there we were glued to a television watching this years Super Bowl meltdown.
A friend on Facebook posted a smiling photo while decked out in Falcon’s gear moments before kickoff. In the photo, she wore a huge smile and wrote underneath how she loved football.
Sometime in the fourth quarter she posted another photo. She appeared to be lying on the floor, wearing a desperate expression. This time she wrote she hated football.
I’m pretty sure every Atlanta fan in the free world felt something similar.
The point my dad failed to reinforce to me more than three decades ago is that yes, as Atlanta sports fans we may be in for suffering and misery. But there is a flip side. When the Braves broke through and won, it was beyond cathartic.
The Braves, the Hawks and the Falcons may nev-er be dominant franchises, but they will compete and they will one day break through.
And I’ll say to my children or my children’s children a modified version of what I heard as a young boy. “If you’re going to be an Atlanta sports fan, you’re going to have some big disappointments. But when they win, it’s going to be amazing.”
*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.