I know it is just a game, a spectator sport at that, but as a Georgia native and life-long fan of Atlanta sports, this is yet another brutal loss. Quite frankly, it is a bit breathtaking. Fifty-one years. Fifty-one years, many of them horrid, we Falcons fans have waited for last night.
For me personally it has been forty-one. Having grown up in Georgia, I watched my first Falcons game with my grandpa in 1976. I was already 13 but due to some instability in my home life, I knew nothing about football. On that day, grandpa was patient with me. He explained the rules of the game and it remains a precious memory of time spent with him talking about something that was just for fun. The Falcons lost to the L.A. Rams that day. I believe the score was 56 to 3. Still, I was hooked.
This is far from the first heartbreak the Falcons have given me. The worst came off the field earlier this year. That one was so bad that, for the first time in my life I tuned them out. My reasons are stated here. I remain angry and disappointed by their decisions, but as this year’s team looked better and better, my history as a fan got the better of me. I began to tune in again by game twelve. One would think that at fifty-three years old I would know better than to make such dogmatic proclamations.
My history with the Falcons goes beyond games with my grandpa. Growing up I moved and changed schools often, sometimes in the middle of the school year. One survival skill I learned was to look for a boy or two with a Falcons trapper or maybe a sticker on his lunchbox. I could talk to him. Maybe we would become friends for the few months I would be in that place. It was an icebreaker that served me well.
Two weeks ago I went so far as to travel back to Atlanta. I took my son to the NFC Championship game against the Packers. We had attended other games through the years, the majority of them bitter losses. This time was different. It was different for the entire stadium than any sporting event I have attended. Though it was unexpected, the Falcons were comfortably ahead by the third quarter. The entire stadium was joined in a massive celebration from that point until the trophy presentation. It was as if the fifty-one years of frustration were being released by everyone present all at once. We had a blast.
After the game the celebrating continued into the Marta tunnels and onto the trains. My son and I high fived and even hugged, total strangers. All that was needed was to be wearing the colors. Even as I enjoyed the moment, I couldn’t help but think, “Why am I not like this at church?”
Sports allow us to hide our differences, at least for short periods of time. The Falcons theme for the season has been “brothership” (a word they made up but you get the point) or more recently, “brotherhood”. But sports are only a brotherhood that runs jersey or tee-shirt deep. There can be a brotherhood in Christ that goes all the way to our core. Would that I get as excited about that eternal brotherhood on a regular basis as I did about the Falcons games these last few weeks. I suppose that’s another topic for another day.
Of all the Georgia sports heartbreaks this was the worse. If you follow those teams you know what a mammoth statement that is (Georgia basketball’s recent loss to U.K. is one small example…I am a UGA Alumni).
In the meantime, I wonder what my grandpa would have thought of this year’s Falcon’s season. Then of course, as a believer who passed away in 1995, he has far better things to occupy his time. I wonder if those schoolyard buddies I once knew were watching last night and if their hearts are broken this morning as well.
Now the game is over and I am stunned. I don’t even feel like thinking about next year. Yet I hope this isn’t the end of the good times for us Falcons. I hope the city of Atlanta gets that elusive championship someday. Maybe by next September I will be ready to shout once again, Go Falcons. Rise Up!