Jeff Schultz's latest column is a deeply insulting masterwork that manages to avoid journalistic integrity like it was venomous. Normally I'm fine with Schultz; I think he's consistently a decent columnist, but that just makes his decision to throw Falcons fans under a bus all the more puzzling. To wit:
"It's going to be like it used to be, an empty dome with more visiting fans than Falcons fans," said David Easley, a 10-year season-ticket holder. "It almost makes me want to go because I hate when that happens. But not for this much money."
Shame on Schultz for exploiting the fanbase with a one-sided article that doesn't even attempt to balance itself out. I realize that columnists are held to a vastly different standard, and I don't necessarily always disagree with that. But it's puzzling as to why a writer assigned to cover the Falcons wants to bury them so deeply. Yes, fans are trying to sell their tickets back...but not all of them. Would it have killed Jeff Schultz to get one lousy quote from a fan who planned to loyally stick by the team and actually use his tickets to go to the game? Are those people really that hard to find?
Maybe they are.
I can blame Schultz for writing a lazy article that slams on the franchise and the fans, but it's not his fault that he can write this column in the first place. No, that fault falls squarely on a group of people who aren't going to be very fond of me after I make this point.
That group is Falcons fans.
Seriously, guys. You'd think the whole team was hosting a giant dogfighting ring in the Georgia Dome every week and throwing the carcasses out during practice at Flowery Branch. It is ridiculous to dump your season tickets because Vick is gone. Some of you spent all your free time on message boards and chat rooms slamming on Vick, and now you want to cry about the tickets you bought? That makes no sense at all. This is why we have a reputation as a whole of being whiny, disinterested fans who bolt at the first sign of a sinking ship. It's not fair to those of us who do care about this team more than Michael Vick to have to be lumped alongside people who couldn't give a damn about the new coaching staff, quality rookie class and the veterans who have been busting themselves up for years for this team.
Yes, I know the conditions have changed. For some of you, the prospect of a winning season has turned into a losing one, and you're upset you spent all that money and the reversal of fortune has been so swift. But that's part of being a fan. Things inevitably go wrong, and this is a franchise that has never really had things go right for an extended period of time anyways.
You can accuse me of being a total homer or sympathizing with ownership, but I don't think that's the case at all. We all know the staff in Atlanta coddled Vick and could've done a much better job digging into his background. There's no going back and repairing that now, though.
Pause, if you will, for just a second to think about other teams. If Alex Smith turned out to be running a crack smuggling ring, do you think that 49ers fans would be moaning to the local muckracking columnist about how unfortunate it is? Do you think Eagles fans wanted their money back when McNabb got hurt again, or when it likely happens again this season? Some will, because that's true anywhere. But somehow they never manage to make themselves look as bad as we do, and that probably has something to do with the fact that the majority of the fans actually give a shit about the team they follow.
So Falcons fans everywhere, I'm making a plea with you. Everyone's going to loosely watch the Falcons this year, and if they see fans turning off their televisions or returning season tickets because of what happened, they will have their suspicions confirmed. The media will turn its back on us and we will be completely irrelevant again, all the lame studies and gleeful Jeff Schultz columns fully supported. I fully recognize that those of you who are already trying to dump your tickets will not appreciate this and will not listen. But the rest of you, please think twice before you give up on this team. Remember the rough times when you stuck with them, and remember the good times that will come again. More than that, remember that we don't have to be the stereotype of a bad football fan. We don't have to be fodder for people who are just out to make us look terrible in the first place.
We're Atlanta Falcons fans. We are--and we can be--better than this.