There’s no need for me to fib and say “I’ve been a fan of the Atlanta Falcons since they came here in 1966.”
That phrase has been spoken several times in recent days on Atlanta sports radio and, truth be told, only a fraction of the “fans” saying it are telling the truth. Many fans, like myself, weren’t even born in 1966 when the Smith family brought the team to Atlanta.
My earliest memory is 1978, when as a seven-year-old, I recall the Falcons making the playoffs and falling to the mighty Dallas Cowboys, of Tom Landy and Roger Stabauch fame. I vaguely remember my father being upset as the Falcons had a legitimate chance of winning the divisional playoff game after outplaying the Cowboys in the first half. Alas, it was not to be.
Turning the clock and calendar ahead to 2013, Atlanta gave its fans (even those not around in 1966) more heartbreak following a 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. So close the Falcons were in the conference championship. Atlanta jumped out to a 17-0 lead and things looked great. Yet, we’ve all learned the hard way an early lead does not translate into victory. That lesson kept going through my mind Sunday night as the 49ers fell to the Ravens in the Super Bowl.
Maybe I have learned my lessons after following the Falcons all these years. Coaches have come and gone. Players have been signed and eventually they move on as well.
The pain associated with these type of losses don’t hurt me quite as much as they did once upon a time. In my earlier years, every loss hurt. It’s easy to be a good winner, but a gracious loser takes an inner level of character that seems void for me.
Was I disappointed in the loss? You bet. The opportunity to advance to only the second Super Bowl in franchise history was right there in front of us. Only a few more yards were needed. Only a few more plays and we would be talking about the upcoming Super Bowl in New Orleans. So close, yet so far. As Falcon fans, we all know what it’s like.
Through the years there has been some degree of excitement when it comes to being a true Falcon fan. We haven’t enjoyed the same amount of success as the Cowboys, the 49ers, the Steelers or the Patriots, but there have been some bright moments.
This year’s NFC championship had all the makings of being one of those moments. We had the game at home and a team that had a legitimate chance to win despite what the experts were saying.
Once again though, the win, although close, was just out of reach. The line with the carrot dangling from it was pulled away at the last minute. We thought we had it, but, in the end, the 49ers proved to be the team of destiny. A buddy of mine, a Falcon fan since the disco days like myself, sent me a message after the game and summed it pretty well using a different kind of analogy. “It’s like that girl you liked in high school,” he said. “Just when you worked up enough courage to ask her out, you hear she’s dating someone else.”
Disappointment, whether on the dating scene or the football field, is always hurtful. We learned that — again — on a recent Sunday afternoon when it comes to our Falcons.
At least I didn’t ask anyone out on a date.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can email comments about this column to him at
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