Before I start, let me begin by shielding myself from all possible Jesus Jukes or criticisms that I/others put too much emotion into sports. Football (and baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, water polo…) is a gift. It is one of many things God has given to planet earth to pass the time while we wait for Him to return. Football (and baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, water polo…) is a game. It is a gift to enjoy and I enjoy it, but I do not let the performance of my team(s) on Sunday (or Saturday) affect my ability to function in the office on Monday.
Before you continue, there will be no complaining about officiating. There will be no discussion of the NFL overtime rules. There will be no hat tipping to Tom Brady. There will be no ripping into the defense for staying in the locker room for the second half. You can find that anywhere else. All you’ll find here is my love for the city that I’m from.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
I woke up on Super Bowl Sunday having been in Houston for a few days– some of the best I’ve ever had. Before leaving to get downtown for the game, I put a Cuban cigar and a lighter in my pocket. A cigar I’ve had a long while.
I never got to light it. Oh, sure. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about pulling it out at halftime…but there’s plenty of Georgia sports scar tissue that made me leave it where it was. Many words come to mind and could be used to describe what I just watched. But two that I’ve seen repeated many times in the aftermath never entered my head: Typical Atlanta.
Yes, yes. I know. Atlanta is home to one championship. Teams in the state of Georgia too often fall off of the biggest stages. And. It. Sucks. But before you attach the city that I’m from to a losing effort, not good enough, not strong enough, or not loyal enough, listen up.
I’m more than qualified to speak on how such a phrase should have a different meaning. I watched the ball slide under the glove of Brooks Conrad. I witnessed the infamous infield fly. I saw the Falcons get rolled by Green Bay as the #1 seed in 2011. I saw a different Falcons bunch blow a similar lead to San Francisco. I saw Georgia’s trip to the National Championship fall five yards short. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Typical Atlanta? Sure, if you want to make it seem like you have no idea what my city is about. If you know, you just know. Typical Atlanta is the hustle. Typical Atlanta is the grind. Typical Atlanta is me willing to give the shirt off my back to someone who needs it. Typical Atlanta is being offered sweet tea as soon as they open the door. Typical Atlanta is the most southern hospitality you’ll find anywhere, the best fried chicken after church, and home to people who bleed for their city (the author of this happily included).
None of us look the same. None of us make the same amount of money. Not all of us grew up with a mom. Some of us cuss a lot. Some of us can barely keep the lights on. We come from many different places, cultures, and states of mind. But none of that matters when it’s time to play a game. We come together. And when we do, it’s a politics and problem free zone– of which there aren’t many left.
I love Atlanta with all the madness in my soul. The sports teams I have grown up believing in are less about the team, the results, or the players, and more about a city rising together. The city I’m from.
This week I met a 65-year-old woman from College Park who drives a bus for Atlanta Public Schools. By her own admission she doesn’t even have two pennies to rub together, but she wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Her story is one of many that I intersected with this week. The conversations all began differently but always ended with the same shouting for the Bird Gang. I can’t speak for the bandwagon nor those who did not come to Houston, but none of us here regret being part of this playoff run.
And if you think I should regret going to Houston just because we lost, well, in typical Atlanta fashion I’ll just say bless your heart and walk away.
Goodnight, and Go Falcons. (And Braves, and Hawks, and Thrashers [Jets], and…)