2009's NFL Season saw a lot of milestones reached. The AFC celebrated fifty years of existence. The Saints got to and won their first ever Super Bowl. The Detroit Lions actually won a few games. Most importantly, our beloved Atlanta Falcons found their first ever winning season streak. Such a history making season deserves a good, hard look. I've written over three thousand words of reflection on this long-sought milestone. Below sits about eight hundred of them.
It is an overcast day in Tampa, Florida. Some would call it dreary. Some would call it depressing. In the city of Atlanta, however, it’s anything but dismal. The diminutive (some would say "short") Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes picks off quarterback Josh Freeman in Atlanta’s endzone, robbing the Bucs of what would be their last chance to tie the game. Six plays later, Falcons kicker Matt Bryant is lining up to make it a two possession game with only 1:05 left on the clock. The ball is snapped, spotted, and Bryant sends it through the uprights on a diagonal end-over-end arc. One solitary Falcons fan in the adjacent endzone section stands, two fists raised in the air.
Former team quarterback and Falcons radio color commentator David Archer can scarcely hide the celebratory tone in his voice. "And Wes, did you just hear a forty-four year deep sigh go out of the city of Atlanta?"
The voice of the Falcons, son of the great Woody Durham, play-by-play man Wes Durham responds with a soft "Yup."
Far north of the action in New Hampshire, huddled at his desk at work and nervously watching a slowly refreshing play-by-play feed on NFL.com is Dave Choate. Dave is best known as "Dave the Falconer" on The Falcoholic, a fan-operated Atlanta Falcons blog on Sports Blog Nation. A lone Falcons fan in sea of Patriots supporters, Dave allows himself a moment of reverie and pumps his fists in the air. Thankfully, none of his coworkers catch sight of his jubilation.
"I thought ‘Finally. Finally we leave it all behind,’" he replies when I ask him how it felt witnessing the end of the dastardly forty-four year streak.
Unless the Falcons are playing a nationally televised game, Dave’s normally left out in the cold. Being so far away from the Falcons’ Georgia home is tough for any Falcons fan, but Dave has not let that keep him from creating, writing, and growing his fan blog.
Across the Atlantic, an unlikely Falcons fan is celebrating. Tom Owen, London resident and university student, yells aloud "My prediction was correct! The monkey is off our back," frightening his girlfriend’s family.
"On September 10, 2006, I watched my now beloved Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers 20-6 ... Vick wowed me, Dunn gained 132 yards rushing and Abraham dominated their O-Line. From that day, I was a UK Falcon."
Tom’s been a dedicated Falcons fan ever since. The effort he puts into finding TV coverage alone is more than enough evidence of that.
"The [UK] TV coverage [is] dominated by the Cowboys, Patriots and now the Saints. I have to cruise the internet for links to streams and watch on a tiny netbook until the link ultimately breaks and the search is on again. For Monday Night Football, this means watching from 1am to 4am GMT and getting up for work four hours later."
In Suwanee, Georgia, a town minutes away from the Falcons’ team facilities in Flowery Branch, Kerri Leland’s oldest son is on all fours, chanting "back-to-back" at the television as the seconds tick away. After the game ends, her second oldest son chirps "Back-to-back winning seasons is what happens before you win a Super Bowl!"
"The next day, everyone got new Falcons gear," Kerri reveals. "The boys then said they could now wear Falcons gear back to back days. I’m happy for the [second consecutive] winning season, but I have fashion rules in my house. Can’t wear the same stuff two days in a row. They’ll thank me for that advice one day."
Steelers, Patriots, Colts, and Cowboys fans would likely scoff at an entire fanbase celebrating a nine and seven, non-playoff season so feverishly. Not Falcons fans. Some users on the official Atlanta Falcons message boards even contemplated meeting the team at the Atlanta airport as they stepped into the terminal (a ritual normally reserved for teams winning championships).