ATLANTA -- Devastated. It’s the closest word I can think of to use for describing how Atlanta Falcons fans feel after Super Bowl LI.
As an Atlanta sports fan, I thought we had felt the worst. Over the years across multiple sports, we’ve been screwed, cheated, let down, embarrassed and had our hearts stomped on.
But this? This is an all-time low.
But, why does this one hurt so bad?
I’m not ignorant to the fact that the Falcons gave up the largest comeback, 25 points, in Super Bowl history. But Atlanta teams have blown leads before in big games. For the sake of time and emotion, I won’t list them, but you know what I’m talking about. We know that pain. It’s there. But there’s something more to this one.
It’s not because Falcons fans were certain that this was their year. After an 18-year drought since their last Super Bowl appearance, the Falcons were finally back in it, trying to get their hands on a Lombardi Trophy. With the team's high-powered, relentless offense that was present in the first half of Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots, it was plausible to think that MVP Matt Ryan, his wide array of receivers and running backs could give the best defense in the league a run for its money. But then, there was a remarkable comeback that can’t be described any better than how Ra’sheed Hageman did after the game, ”It’s Tom Brady being Tom Brady.”
I know many Atlanta sports fans thought this was our year. I’ll admit, the past two weeks, I believed it, too. Now, it’s time to face the facts: It was naive of us to disregard Brady and the giant chip on his shoulder after missing the first four games this season for his Deflategate suspension. The motivation and determination was there for him and the Patriots, and that made it their year. But accepting this reality is not the reason this loss crushes the soul.
As I was outside NRG Stadium, watching James White get the ball barely across the plane in overtime to win the Patriots’ fifth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, I immediately became angry. Here it was. Another year, another Atlanta sports team letting us down in the worst way possible. Maybe if it hadn’t been for all the penalties, I thought, or the failed challenge that burned the Falcons’ final timeout, or the glacial speed the offense moved during the no huddle with a minute left in the fourth quarter. If the overtime coin toss had just fallen in our favor...
As I walked into the Falcons’ locker room after such a devastating loss, it was just how I thought it would be.
Internally, still irate that such a thing could happen, it was something rookie linebacker Deion Jones said that instantly made me realize how ridiculous my anger was and why the emotion I felt was so painful.
He said that the Brotherhood in the locker room is strong no matter what.
The same Brotherhood that has united and electrified the city of Atlanta; it sucks that it had to face such a tough loss. It hurts because, what if something does happens to this Brotherhood?
The Brotherhood will always be there for the Falcons, in good times and bad.
But as a city, we took this newfound love for one another that head coach Dan Quinn preaches and embraced it, and we need to continue to, as well.
In an open letter to Atlanta Sports Fans, I told them to have the time of their lives during these two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Weren't these the greatest two weeks?
Red everywhere, Falcons jerseys everywhere you looked and people doing the Dirty Bird. This team created an excitement that bonded all of us together, a power sports has unlike anything else in this world.
Atlanta needs to continue to embrace that spirit. Just because the Falcons lost to one of the greatest teams in NFL history doesn’t mean it’s time to jump off the wagon, tuck the Falcons jerseys deep in the closet and go into hiding.
Yes, curse Brady’s name. Kick and scream that this defense couldn’t keep up and the offense got fatigued. Calculate the odds Julian Edelman catches a tipped pass against Robert Alford’s leg, lets go of it, and grabs it again in the air for the catch of the year, and then complain that it happened even though its statistically impossible.
It’s OK, be mad!
But don’t lose any of the spirit of Brotherhood, which has put Atlanta on the map as a sports city.
That’s why this hurts so much. We want the Brotherhood to continue to be strong, like it was the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
Don’t lose hope. This may not have been Atlanta’s year, but we sure are damn close to witnessing something great in our city.
And that Super Bowl, it was not… “meh,” as some cocky Boston media members declared it would. The Falcons sure gave the Patriots a run for their money.
Atlanta: We love our city, and we love our teams. The pain is real, it’s heart-wrenching, tear-jerking...it hurts.
Don’t let this destroy what has been built. As I’ve said before, this was just the beginning. The Falcons and Atlanta have a bright future ahead of them.
In Brotherhood we trust.
Alec McQuade is a Digital Sports Producer for 11Alive.
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