It's finally happened.
Like putting that one block too many in your Jenga tower, my vaguely rosy expectations have collapsed for good. I'll still watch, of course. I'll still obsess over every little move the team makes. The difference now, after a hellish offseason and nightmarish season, is that this team has ceased to make me happy in any way, shape or form.
Part of being a fan is finding the silver lining. Tonight, that silver lining was clearly Chris Redman, who looks like the only real choice to start games from here on out. Normally the sight of him slinging actual passes down the field would be enough to make me smile even as I swore a blue streak about every other aspect of the game. As I watched Aaron F'n Stecker dismantle the defense on his way to 100 yards rushing, I couldn't lie to myself.
I'm a Falcons fan, and I'm miserable.
I hate that this whole season was basically submarined before it started because Michael Vick didn't give a crap about the team he played for. I hate that Blank hired the most stubborn head coach I could possibly imagine. I hate that that same coach refuses to give more carries to Norwood than Dunn even though Norwood ran six times for 21 yards and Dunn only managed 3 yards on his six rushes. I hate that we can manage to be embarassed by a Saints team that's notoriously weak defensively and is playing without its two starting running backs. I hate that it's this late in the season and there's still rookies who are inexplicably not getting playing time. More than anything, I hate that the Falcons are so crappy that I can come up with a whole list of things I hate about them.
The Saints are simply a better football team, as are almost all of the other teams in the league. I don't hate the Falcons; as you all know, my heavy man-crushes on some players are an open secret. Still, I can't help but wonder how we keep getting worse. I say we because I've been a fan of the Falcons for 20 years now, and I've rarely if ever been as ashamed of my fandom as I am right now. Living up in the land of Patriots fans has made it so none of my friends even want to talk football with me for fear I might throw myself out a plate glass window. They pity me, and that's an awful realization for any fan.
When this sorry season finally wraps up, I'll take away Chris Redman's sudden emergence, Roddy White's brilliant play and Michael Boley's excellence. I'll hope they all continue into next year, somehow. I'll take some solace in the fact that this season was doomed from the start by injuries and a particularly memorable legal struggle. I just wish I didn't have to struggle to remember those in the face of everything that went so wrong this year. I wish it wasn't a terrible game against the Saints which finally crushed my gentle spirit.
None of it will stop me from blogging and being excited for next year. I just haven't got any smiles left for 2007.