This is the Falcons season I‘ve been living for. Not just me, but everybody around town with a hankering for a team you could love. From the second floor at Flowery Branch to the last drop of sweat off John Abraham’s tortured body.
It’s not just Matt Ryan. It’s Todd McClure. Roddy White. Coy Wire. Lawyer Milloy. Michael Turner. Oh, yeah, it’s Mike Smith. Brian Van Gorder. Mike Mularkey. And the one man who turned the key, Thomas Dimitroff. And let’s not forget Arthur Blank, but for a moment let him step to the side. Don’t forget, he was the guy who brought us Bobby Petrino, the signature name at the bottom of a nightmare season. Remember, that was just a year ago.
Whoever would have thought that in that short time this organization could have recovered from such a pit of wretchedness to the ecstasy of the playoffs? So, let’s sit back and enjoy all the bliss that has settled over this precinct. I get a first-hand view of the response just watching my wife watch the Falcons games, as televised from Minneapolis Sunday afternoon. You see, this was set up to be the Falcons’ pitfall. Tampa Bay had lost earlier in the day and if the Falcons could beat the Vikings, they would make the playoffs. The Metrodome is no place to put a cap on your season.
But let us not forget the 1998-99 season, when the Falcons pulled a rabbit out of the hat in that can of noise. There was a difference, though. That was extenuation of the same old tug of war. Morten Andersen kicked the field goal that put them in the Super Bowl, where they were seriously over their heads.
This was different. Everything was new. This was a team being groomed for the future, but finding themselves ahead of schedule. Rookie head coach. Yes, Mike Smith has the look of seasoning, grey and properly aged. At least he looks like a coach – the Vikings coach, Brad Childress, looks more like the company accountant. And the kid, Matt Ryan, as cool and professional as any 23-year-old quarterback you’ll ever see. More like a fraternity brat. Totally unimpressed with himself. Genuine, treats everybody he meets with respect and a handshake.
What has convinced me about this issue of Falcons is my wife. She has a fascination with NFL football, but nothing has moved her like these Falcons. And Matt Ryan. He shook hands with her awhile back and she’s still glowing over it. And so here we were Sunday afternoon, nervously gathered around the TV, fearing the worst for the Falcons, and especially Matt Ryan. It was about over and she had exercised all her mystic influence. She felt the comfort that comes with a lead, and the ball, and the game clock ticking down. She threw her hands in the air, let her emotions take charge and exclaimed, “Now, that, by God, is playing football!”
She is not a cusser, nor one to take the Lord’s name in vain habitually, but when she does, she reserves it for special occasions. And this was one, for all of us. The economy is a mess, but Santa Claus has stuffed our stockings with the Falcons this year, and we are blessed.