It is still impossible to watch the Falcons Super Bowl—I don’t need to specify which one—without your pulse quickening. Even when it’s being presented as clips and a series of charts, the dread mounts unbearably. It is possible to know the end is coming and still, foolishly, hope it won’t.
I knew when Secret Base unveiled Dorktown Presents: The History of the Atlanta Falcons that I’d simultaneously enjoy it for its dissection of the bizarre, frequently entertaining history of the team I love and get really bummed out by it because of That Game. There was plenty to laugh about and actually enjoy through the first six episodes, because this team is a flooded mineshaft, sure, but it’s a flooded mineshaft studded with gems. We love them even if it sometimes seems like they—and maybe the entire unknowable forces of the cosmos—actively hate us. It’s why I’m excited for the season ahead despite the season ahead being riddled with question marks.
I also knew that this series was going to stress me out, because I have been a Falcons fans for 30 years now and have spent a lot of time dusting off the history of the franchise before I started avidly following them. They are a stressful team, one defined by failures that almost boggle the mind. Those of us who lived through the playoff loss in 1980 or 1991 or 2004 or the Super Bowl in 1998 will find plenty to be freshly upset about, of course, and there was ample opportunity in this series. But the promise that we’d be getting to Super Bowl LI made this the equivalent of re-watching a movie you love where all the characters eventually die. You know the ending, and you know it doesn’t end well.
You don’t need a blow-by-blow of this game, and that’s essentially what this provides. It’s quite possible that you can’t bring yourself to watch it at all. But if you make it through, as I did, you may find hearing Joe Ali and Steve Godfrey describe their post-game experiences familiar and a little comforting. We’ve spent so much time avoiding talking about this game that I don’t think I realized how much I needed a reminder that we all suffered through it in similar ways.
You may find it less comforting to see just how many impossible things had to happen for this episode of the documentary to exist in the first place, because it makes it clear that the universe is cruel and possibly worse than uncaring. The number of plays that went wrong by a millimeter or in completely impossible fashion pile up endlessly, with the incredulity in the voices of Jon Bois and Alex Rubenstein growing along with them, and feeling numb would have been a blessing.
Jon Bois absolutely nails the ending of this in holding up the Falcons not as a mockery of a football team, but as one of the most profoundly funny franchises possible for everyone but their fans, who obviously have a less easy time seeing the humor in their seemingly impossible lows. That’s what makes the entire series worth watching—the sense that the Falcons are somehow special in their weird, darkly funny way—even if you can’t quite make yourself re-live one of the worst nights you could possibly have as a sports fan.
You can watch the entire series on the Secret Base YouTube channel.