The Atlanta Falcons are us. They are not the Patriots, achieving a bewildering and frankly unrealistic amount of success. They are not the Browns, putrid and sitcom bad. They are the Falcons, who build and build and build and find they’ve forgotten the roof. They are human.
The loss today did not spell the end of this Falcons season, or anything close to it. At 1-2 they are in the divisional hunt and need a lucky break or two to climb back in it, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply wallowing in this loss. Of course, it’s hard not to wallow in it.
Again, that’s because the Falcons have been a mirror to our moldy souls for way too long. I was born in 1984 and became a Falcons fan in earnest in the very early 90s, and here’s a short list of the things that have happened to this team since then:
- After 25 years of disappointment, the Falcons beat the hateful Saints in a playoff game in 1991. They promptly lost to Washington, who won a Super Bowl.
- The Falcons made the Super Bowl after the 1998 season in triumphant fashion, and then Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and they lost to Denver.
- The Falcons drafted arguably the most physically gifted quarterback in NFL history and made the playoffs multiple times...and fell well short of the Super Bowl.
- The Falcons drafted Matt Ryan and lost in humiliating fashion in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 despite having a big halftime lead.
- They fired Mike Smith, their best coach ever, and made it to the Super Bowl in 2016. They promptly blew the largest lead of all-time to the Patriots, who can’t be bad no matter what since Tom Brady showed up, and ruined us all forever.
- They followed that up with a 2017 season where they struggled and scuffled and still made it to the second round of the playoffs, managing to blow an incredibly favorable situation to the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles.
- A crushing loss to the Saints in 2018, partly due to an uncharacteristic run of bad defense and injuries.
That last one doesn’t matter—how many of these losses have we seen?—but it’s emblematic of what this Falcons team does. They do all the things they’re supposed to do, build a team full of talent, and watch a quality opponent, poor fortune and injuries ruin it regardless.
Unless you’re insanely fortunate and/or wealthy, the basic outline of being a Falcons fan is very similar to the basic outline of living: You do your very best, you find reasons for optimism, and ultimately you confront a series of overwhelming and almost comically-timed setbacks. This is not to say that life or Falcons fandom is not worthwhile, because it is. It is to say that you will come to wait and wait and wait for a triumph that seems as though it will never come. It’s easy to look and say “it’ll be better next week” or “Takk will be back” and keep moving ahead, and I know that because I’ve been doing it since 1998 at least.
And that’s human, too. We’re an optimistic species, even if the whole of human history doesn’t really suggest we should be, and thus the Falcons are more the team of the populous than America’s team. We’ll all be back here in a week talking about the ways the Falcons can beat the Bengals, even if nothing in the last five decades suggests we should subject ourselves to that, and just knowing we’re going to continue to invest in this team is a celebration of life in and of itself. We find a way.
All that said, see you back here next week. To live and to root is to move ahead, despite it all. Let’s celebrate hope.