Greetings, Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s “Fan Spotlight.” This segment highlights Atlanta Falcons fans from around the globe and shares how they became a fan of the team and their thoughts on the franchise.
This week’s Fan Spotlight is on Terry Tippens. Terry has been a United Methodist pastor for more than 30 years, and an Atlanta Falcons season ticket holder since 1989. Terry and his wife have three children — two sons and a daughter. I asked Terry some questions on the state of the franchise and some of his more personal stories as an Atlanta Falcons fan. Let’s get started.
How did you become an Atlanta Falcons fan?
Becoming a Falcons fan was a family thing. When I was growing up in Augusta, Ga., we watched the games together on TV every Sunday in the fall after church. My dad and I would compete with each other picking the winners of the NFL slate each week, but we lived and died with our home team Atlanta Falcons. The first game I ever saw in person was the 1980 home playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. I was a freshman in college, and my mom called the Falcons ticket office over and over for 30 minutes straight, and finally got through to buy tickets for our family. We drove the three hours from Augusta and froze our tails off at old Atlanta-Fulton County stadium. We had a great time—that is, until the 4th quarter, when the team collapsed and blew a 24-10 lead to Danny White and Drew Pearson. (28-3 was the worst, but it was certainly not the first.)
In my adult life, my family and I have been blessed to live in the Atlanta area, and we have had season tickets since 1989. We’ve always enjoyed the games. But most of the 80’s was a dark decade for the Falcons. In 1989 Rankin Smith, the owner, had been talking about moving the Falcons to Jacksonville. So, our season tickets also felt like a badge of courage—a civic duty, if you will. We were doing our small part to keep the team in Atlanta. During the 2000’s when our kids were growing up, every home game was a family event for all five of us.
Who is your favorite Atlanta Falcons player of all-time?
Football is a team sport, and I don’t really have a favorite player. But if I had to choose, I would choose the one who has been the most influential player in the team’s 53-year history, and that’s Matt Ryan. As a longtime Falcons fan, I can definitely make a clear distinction between the Matt Ryan era and the 42-year pre-Ryan era. Without a consistently good defense and without a consistently decent offensive line, Matt has led the team to the postseason in 6 of his 11 years. No other Falcons QB has had more than three postseasons. From the Falcons beginning in 1966, going through more than four decades, the team never even had back to back winning seasons until Matt’s first two years, 2008-2009. It goes without saying that the team had never been to the playoffs three years in a row, as Matt’s Falcons did in 2010–2012.
What’s your favorite Atlanta Falcons memory?
My favorite Falcons memory is actually an away game that we watched on TV, the 1998 NFC Championship game in Minnesota. The Falcons were 11-point underdogs. We were watching the game at home. (Well, the kids were watching as much as a nine-year-old, a four-year-old, and a two-year-old can.) It was such a see-saw game. This was our first-ever championship game, and you could feel the weight of history—in terms of wins and losses the Falcons existence to that point had been 33 mostly dreadful years. When the Falcons lined up for the deciding FG, tied 27-27 in overtime, I stood up from the couch. Morten Anderson’s kick sailed through the uprights. Commentator Jeff Hullinger exclaimed “The Falcons are going to the Super Bowl!” – over and over again. The moment sunk in. My knees buckled and I crumpled to the floor in tears. Our two-yr-old daughter toddled over to me and patted me on the back. “Awww, poor baby,” she said. I picked her up and said “Oh, sweetie, these are happy tears!”
What are your thoughts on the offseason?
Most years I’m hoping the Falcons will draft for the trenches. While I am concerned about the D-line, I’m excited to see what the O-linemen drafted with our first two picks can do. While we have Matt Ryan, if this team could ever have a consistently good offensive line—I mean year after year after year, not just one year like 2016—then the sky is the limit. I think Dirk Koetter as OC is a plus.
What’s your 2019 record prediction/outlook?
I am an eternal optimist. Every year on the front end I can come up with reasons why the team can go 12-4 and make the playoffs. Injuries derailed 2018. Yes, injuries are somewhat inevitable. And yes, you must win some, even with some injuries, to be successful. One NFL team has been lucky enough to be the only decent team in its division for more than a decade (see AFC East). But if you don’t have that luck of playing in a consistently awful division, certain injuries to certain players can destroy any team’s season.
After the Falcons’ 1998 Super Bowl season, the primary reason for the drop-off was injuries--season-ending injuries to RB Jamal Anderson in 1999, and to LB Keith Brooking in 2000. In 2002 with the electrifying Michael Vick, the Falcons made the playoffs. The very next year in the 2003 preseason Vick broke his leg, and the team dropped to 2-10. When he came back in December the team won 3 of its last 4 games to finish 5-11. In 2004 with Vick healthy the rebound was 11-5 and a spot in the NFC championship (and that was even with Arthur Blank firing a good coach [Dan Reeves] after 2003 and hiring a not-so-good coach [Jim Mora the younger] in 2004). The drop-off from the 13-3 season in 2012 to the 4-12 season in 2013 was due primarily to Julio Jones’ season-ending injury. Injuries make a huge difference. Feel good about 2019.
Where can people find you? Anything you want to say to your fellow Atlanta Falcons fans?
You can find me on Twitter @TerryTippens. As to what I would like to say to our fellow Falcon fans, I love fan enthusiasm! It would be great if the whole stadium could be loud when we’re on defense and quiet when we’re on offense. That does make a difference. The margins in the NFL are so slim. Rise up!
I very much appreciate Terry (@TerryTippens) for sharing his thoughts on the Falcons and for being the focus of this week’s ‘Fan Spotlight’ article. You can really tell based on his answers, that Terry is as loyal a fan as they come. Also, a special shout out to Terry’s son, Nick Tippens (@NickTip) for recommending his dad for a Fan Spotlight – make sure to give them both a follow!
If you’d like to be considered for a future ‘Fan Spotlight’ or know of someone who deserves to be, let me know on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Thanks for reading!