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Familiar feelings surface as Falcons fail in Minnesota

A battle of hope and despair is all we have to help us see who the Falcons are.

Atlanta Falcons v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

One thing I’ve learned in the now-three seasons since 28-3 is that it hurts less now for the Atlanta Falcons not to live up to their potential.

It’s like the otherworldly sequence of bizarre embarrassments and broken mirrors that continually haunt this franchise just aren’t all that crazy anymore.

Falconing has lost its bite.

The Falcons, on Sunday, pulled an Atlanta Falcons. What a shocker.

We all know how this goes, the song is becoming more tired and overplayed than a year-old radio hit. It’s, at this point, beyond even mentioning.

The team saw a blocked punt on its first drive, and everything after that was akin to the scene on Parks and Recreation where poor Jerry Gergich tries to give the presentation on “twout” and farts while ripping his pants. It was horrific, deflating, inexcusable, unexpected.

In other words, just another afternoon in Falconland.

There’s nothing you can do at this point, though, is there?

We all went into this season hoping for the best, like we always do. I dare venture to argue that wishing for the Falcons to somehow overcome their historic habit of disappointing us is becoming like Charlie Brown and the football, and that we’re always going to be sent flying into the air on a whiffed kick.

It’s almost inevitable at this point; we know Lucy is going to pull the football. I don’t even think it’s even necessary to guess why we do this. We do it because we love the team, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Am I arguing that being a Falcons fan is an insane proposition? I’m not not.

I’ll always believe that the football gods don’t actually hate us. On the contrary, I feel as if they simply don’t understand why we keep making the same mistakes, and continually give us ambivalent examples of what’s going to keep happening if we cheer for this team.

One day, insanity will pay off, and they’ll win a stupid ring. I’m not sure any of us will be alive for it, but as of now, we’re trapped in a tired cycle of getting so, so close to something good, only to have it backfire in our faces like a busted tailpipe full of smog. At least the team didn’t wait too long this time around to let it rip.

To be honest, I don’t know what exactly to say about the 2019 Falcons right now, so I won’t try to say anything beyond the obvious.

The team could get better after this, with some definite positives on the tape.

This team could get much better than this, with us all looking back on Week 1 with shocked eyes as to how this great football team flopped so hard.

They could just get a little better, making 2019 another wasted year of a talented roster. This could be just who they are, with yet another coaching staff cleaning house and a front office change to top off another year of Falcony disappointment.

Anyone who seems to know exactly what this team is isn’t being genuine with you. They’re a mystery wrapped in an enigma hidden under cement, and we won’t know anything definitive until the season progresses.

But I hope they get better. And I despair they won’t be good enough.

The Falcons have taught me that hope and despair are strange bedfellows, but two peas in the same pod all the same. Hope and despair are the only things you have to lean on as a fan of the Falcons or any sports team in general, to be honest.

Even fans of the New England Patriots suffer this same affliction. Ask your Pats neighbor fan how he feels about the team.

Titles grow dust fast, you never can win enough to make you truly happy, Tom Brady is in his mid-40s and Bill Belichick is close to retirement. They can only hope for the future because the past isn’t ever going to glow like the potential will, and, deep down, they’re probably as miserable as we are every season, just with rings to show for what happened when their hope fell through.

Thus is the nature of sports. All any of us can do is hope for a positive outcome and despair that it might not be meant to be.

Winning a Super Bowl is the goal, of course, for all 32 NFL teams. All fans are like Falcons fans, pushing chips in on the parts of the roster that look great and drawing blinds on the parts that aren’t. We’re all in the same boat, and hope and despair for the same things.

The greatest lesson the Falcons taught me is that they’re not special, and trying to find meaning in a lot of what happens with them will just give you a headache your 31 fellow fan bases can empathize with.

The Falcons are grating, sure, but I won’t dare forget the happy times, the times when hope was rewarded. This team has given us all a lot of pride and pleasure over their duration, and there’s a lot to be hopeful for about this roster, this coaching staff and the potential to correct Sunday and move ahead.

But there’s also a lot of despair: despair that the team’s unorganized, listless performance is an indicator of things to come. Despair that the great franchise names now won’t see their talents and hard work rewarded with a top prize. Despair that the Falcons might always just be a play short of being where we all want them to be while we’re here to watch them.

But that’s the game for you. Yes, the Falcons’ insistence to muck things up in the worst way possible is getting kind of old, as is the yearly process of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

But none of that looks like we’ll ever be able to avoid. Coaches and players come and go; I’m beginning to wonder if Falconing is just part of the deal.

We may always hope for this team to meet us halfway, just like we’ll despair when they don’t. We’ll celebrate those glorious Julio Jones touchdowns just as we’ll hide under a rock when the Falcons blow another multi-score lead to a team with a backup quarterback.

Sunday proved something vital about this franchise: This is who they are, even when they rise above it. We hope they’ll be better than this, and we all know they have been and can be. We despair that they will fall into their worst trappings. We know the face plants will surface either way.

But that’s what being a Falcons fan, and a fan of sports, is all about.

We’ll see which side of this equation wins out in the end, but one thing, at least, is for certain. Every week, they’ll show up as the Atlanta Falcons.

And we all know what that means.