It’s been over 24 hours since the Atlanta Falcons gave the Super Bowl away to the New England Patriots. I’m still trying to work through the heartbreak, so I thought writing about it would be of some help. But I’m actually not going to talk about how they had the game and how they let it slip away. This post is about something a little more pressing.
When the Falcons won the NFC Championship and the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the city of Atlanta came together and rallied behind this team in a way I haven’t seen since the ’95 Braves World Championship team. I listened to sports talk radio throughout the weeks, broadcasting from different venues hosting pep rallies and send offs. It was surreal. It made you proud to be a Falcons fan. But like anything else, there are the deterrents, the critics, the naysayers. It wasn’t so much about the team as it was about the Georgia sports fan.
I’ve lived in Georgia for over twenty years. I’ve seen some good teams, I’ve seen bad ones. Regardless, the criticism is the same when it comes to their fans; there aren’t enough die-hard fans. Quite the opposite. They’re fair-weather fans who settle for futility; they have a “there’s always next year” mentality. They’re quick to blame a player, coach, or person in charge for the decline of a franchise. And ultimately, they will disassociate themselves from whichever team they rooted for and side with another.
The reason being is that Georgia teams have struggled to reach the pinnacle of excellence on a consistent basis. The last Georgia sports team to bring a world championship to the state was the ’95 Atlanta Braves. They failed to repeat since losing to the Yankees in the ’96 World Series. And this has been the case with all the professional Georgia teams. Now there have been flashes of hope and promises of improvement, but they’re fleeting at best. And the fans are sick of it. So much so that it’s gotten to the point of they’re cynical of any glimpses of success; they have the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” mentality. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now there are fans who will look at their teams and be honest with others and say that their teams are not performing as expected. But they will also be the ones who will defend their teams to the end, never wavering in their loyalty. That, according to many sports journalists, is what’s lacking in Georgia. And I imagine it’s not just Georgia that suffers from this lack of support. And I imagine it’s one or more franchises in a given city that gets this criticism. I only highlight Georgia because I live in Georgia and that’s what I’ve heard, especially the week before the Super Bowl.
While hearing this news is disheartening, I have to admit that some of the points are valid. And I’m one of a lot of fans who adopted the “wait until next year” mentality. I have faith that whatever Georgia team I root for will do better. But I’m not one that is quick to see anyone leave without first examining their body of work. That is what I believe a true fan should be. That is what I strive to be.