The heart of Atlanta beats in the Georgia Dome. I should know. I’ve been a part of that heart all season. It has seen triumph, heartache, and bitter disappointment. It’s been broken, healed, shattered, and mended again, all within the span of a few months. It stands up and damages its vocal chords on every first down, third down, and touchdown. It emphatically jeers its rivals as they enter the field for warm-ups. It proudly (even if off-key) sings along with the national anthem and waves its hat/helmet/hand when the word "brave" is held out across a lengthy, wavering note. I ask you, what heart is braver than that of Atlanta? What heart can withstand the trauma of the 2007 season? What heart can witness the pain of a lopsided loss and then come back, confident as ever, loud as ever, the very next weekend to watch its object of affection fight, severely weakened by injury, to the bitter end with a more talented rival? Atlanta’s heart has.
That bravery is felt throughout the city. I feel it when I get a cheery wave and a welcoming honk when I head down Andrew Young. I feel it when I turn onto Centennial Olympic and into a sea of red and black. I feel it when I park my car and hear the anxious whoops and hollers of Atlanta’s heart echoing, reverberating, shaking the concrete I tread upon. I feel it when I walk back down Walton, passing the jubilant tailgaters as they eat, chat, and toss the pigskin. I feel it when I pass the CNN Center and get hearty waves and smiles from brethren dining before kickoff. I feel it as the arrival of a loaded MARTA train shakes the steps above the station between Phillips and the Dome. I feel it as I near the party that is Falcons Landing, its loud music and vibrant atmosphere contagious, pulling in the fan and nonfan alike. I feel it as I enter the hallowed Dome and ascend the escalator, taking in the tried and true scents of gameday: popcorn, pizza, beer, nachos, pretzels. I feel it as I find my seat, watching every step go beneath me, as if without seeing them, I wouldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be climbing them. I feel it as I sit down and get the familiar claps, pats, handshakes, "How ya doin’"s, and hugs from the faces I’ve come to recognize and respect. I feel it as we all stand as one, a Falcon Nation, the heart of Atlanta, to welcome our team onto its home turf.
What are we, as Falcons fans, if not brave? Bravery has defined the makeup of Atlanta from its inception, and it is only fitting for the fans of its pro football franchise to be just as brave as those monumental and world changing individuals who have called Atlanta their home. Atlanta’s heart may falter. It may get hurt, trod upon, shattered, sickened, or stressed; one thing it will never do is abandon. Atlanta’s heart loves its pigskin warriors. Why else would a scrappy group of message board goons gather around in defense of the coach they hold dear and bring about a fanbase altering result? We love our team, America. We, Atlanta’s heart, love our team and don’t, for one blasted minute, think we will ever abandon it. We’ve already been through the mill. We’ve already been through the ringer. We are better for it. We are stronger for it. We are Atlanta’s heart and on gameday, no matter the result, we will stand, for better or for worse, by our team.