Whether you were born into it, or for some twisted reason you have adopted it; when you are an Atlanta sports fan you willingly enter yourself into a contract. The rules of the contract are simple. You are guaranteed heartbreak and disappointment of monumental proportions on behalf of every team every two to three years. And in return, maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a championship before you die. But don’t count on it.
As I watched my Falcons slowly have their grip on the Lombardi Trophy wrestled away from them over the course of the fourth quarter on Sunday, I had only one thought. This is so Atlanta.
We were up 28-3, I texted a friend and said, “I still don’t think it’s enough.”
Some people might call this pessimistic, others may call it bad mojo. I call it experience.
As a true Atlanta sports fan, alongside so many others like me, I’ve seen this show before. Granted this was the worst episode in history, but the show remains the same. I saw it when the Falcons started 5-0 last year just to finish 3-8 and miss the playoffs. I saw it in 2012 when they gave up another massive lead to the 49ers in the NFC Championship. I’ve seen it the last two years as the best Hawks teams in memory got swept by Cleveland in the conference finals. I’ve watched the Braves win the NL East almost every year of my life, and while they gave us our sole championship in 1995, with all due respect – it isn’t enough. I’ve seen the same teams lose the same big games to the same big-name teams over and over and over.
But still, I come back.
And that my friends, is why Atlanta sports fans are the best fans in the world. Because we always come back. Guaranteed embarrassment and disappointment on the grandest scale, we still come back.
There’s not a soul outside of the city who’d agree with me. That’s fine. In fact, so many other cities have gone out of their way to point out how poor of fans they think Atlantans are. ATLiens have been through it, time after time, gut-punch after gut-punch – but still, we come back.
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe encapsulated a common, yet wrong, assumption about Atlanta and its fans in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. ESPN actually paid someone in 2015 to walk the streets of Atlanta on a random Tuesday and belittle the city because he couldn’t find any Falcons fans. We’ve been called fake, fair weathered, nonexistent and underwhelming. Cities like Boston, LA and New York would have you believe that we hardly exist.
I wouldn’t know, but I’m assuming it’s a whole lot easier to be a fan when your teams’ win championships nearly every year. What would happen if Boston went 20 years without a championship across major sports? Would they be as loud as they are? Would they get unending favorable media coverage? Would their fans exist like they do? Or would they lay low, practicing patience, faith and hope like so many of us in ATL? We’ll probably never know because they, unlike us, win. And quite often.
But that’s the precise reason why I think Atlanta fans are the best. We fully acknowledge and expect the impending heartbreak. WE KNOW WE ARE GOING TO LOSE – in dramatic, gut wrenching fashion no less. We expect the worst, every time. We know we’re going to walk away feeling like we were sucker punched. We know that the most airtime we’ll get over the next month is going to be on the opposing team’s highlights. We know every other city thinks we’re fake and nonexistent. With a 25 point lead in the second half of the Super Bowl, we can never assume victory. We are proven right in that regard.
And yet, we come back.
We roll with the punches, we take last year’s heartbreak and raise you another one. We rise up, every time, and cheer on our teams. No matter what. Find me another city that continues to go all in with their teams for literally no reason but to be let down time after time.
I wish other cities actually knew what we go through, because if they did – they would show us the respect we deserve. But Atlanta doesn’t need any other city or any media outlet to define our fanhood.
Atlanta’s got Atlanta.
And until our happy asses are mobbing down Peachtree, going nuts at the parade for whichever team just won the championship – that’s all we need.