Putting down an animal is always depressing. However, the “Dirty Bird’s” time has come. Bear with me, but I am suggesting that we put it out of its misery. The dance, song, and alternate nickname are silly, overexposed, and don’t deliver a mature message to the fans, players, and opposition. The biggest issue I have with celebrating the “Dirty Birds” is that the nickname was chosen by a very implosive team.
I’m sorry, but I must now rehash some bad memories because some seem to have forgotten. In the Falcons’ 1998-99 season, Jamal Anderson popularized a touchdown celebration dance known as the “Dirty Bird.” The Falcons went 14-2, and with an incredible come-from-behind overtime victory over Minnesota, they went to the Super Bowl. Their opponent was defending champion Denver. This was a great opportunity. John Elway and the Broncos had their championship thirsts quenched the year before in Super Bowl XXXII. The Falcons should have been the hungrier team, and that should have been enough to give long-suffering Atlanta Falcons fans at least a moment or two of Super Bowl glory. The very least that could be said for that talented team is that they had a fighting shot, but that was the problem. The Falcons never fought for that title. Off the field events in the week prior to the big game revealed that the “Dirty Birds” were satisfied just to make it to the Super Bowl.
As soon as the Falcons’ plane landed in Miami for Super Bowl XXXIII, they were creating off the field distractions. First, one player decided to firmly challenge Dan Reaves when the head coach suggested that veterans and pro-bowl players deplane first. Hours later, another player guaranteed a Super Bowl victory, continued to talk trash all week, and concluded by saying that “Shannon Sharpe looks like a horse” and wearing a dog collar to a pre-game press conference. Another player chose that week to open up to the media about a past drinking problem. To top it all off, approximately 24 hours before kickoff, a key starter was arrested for soliciting an undercover cop for prostitution. That player didn’t sleep that night, and many others lost significant amounts of sleep while “consoling” him that Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Perhaps the one most affected was head coach Dan Reaves who got very little sleep and was about two months removed from quadruple bypass surgery. The best that can be said for that loss is that it was easier to stomach than it should have been because we saw it coming the entire week.
According to the final score of 34-19, it is possible for one to infer that the Falcons played admirably but just couldn’t quite overcome the talent of the opposition. However, the Bronco’s built a 31-6 lead before they allowed two meaningless touchdowns, and it was perhaps the most unsuspenseful Super Bowl ever. The game was over before it began. Bronco’s lineman Mark Schlereth and John Elway were told of the prostitution arrest as they ate their game-day breakfast. Schlereth was later quoted as saying, “If I’m completely honest, I was like, ‘Oh well. Looks like we won this game’. How do you do that to your football team?” The Broncos repeatedly targeted the arrested Falcon and benefited greatly from doing so.
That was all a long time ago. Can’t we just move on and have fun with the nickname? No. The “Dirty Bird” himself, Jamal Anderson, was arrested again last week on DUI charges. I’ve lost track of the number of drug and alcohol arrests for Mr. Anderson. New York Giant Hakeem Nicks “did the Dirty Bird” after scoring a touchdown in last years playoff victory over the Falcons. Nicks piled on the humiliation in what was already a humiliating loss. Nicks has put the “dirty bird” theme on its deathbed, and I thank him for that. I was never a fan of it. For one, it’s silly. The Falcons aren’t the dirty birds anymore, no matter how many times the media calls them that. However, my biggest objection to calling today’s Falcons by that name is that it celebrates an immature and unprofessional team culture that gave rise to Atlanta’s most disappointing, self-defeating playoff run.
The good news here is that Arthur Blank began a culture of maturity and integrity when he bought the team in 2002. Following the Michael Vick Scandal of 2007, he cleaned house of any traces of “dirty feathers”, and hasn’t allowed any to linger since. The Falcons no longer have a dirty team, period. We should be proud of that. While it may be impossible to get rid of the name now and forever, I hope that my column will draw attention to what is being celebrated, and that fans will think twice about using the moniker in the future. When the national media use the name, I see it as either knock on our team, or as the commentator having no idea what he is talking about. Just because we once were DB’s (Dirty Birds), it doesn’t give you the right, Mr. National Commentator, to also be a DB.
So, if we don’t call them “dirty”, then what will come of Blogging Dirty? As a Junior writer here I am making a bold suggestion that we change the primary URL for the website.
Fortunately, I don’t just make a big fuss without offering any solutions. In part II of this article (upcoming) I will offer several alternative celebrations that are aggressive without being dirty or self-defeating. Finally I’ll give the readers the opportunity to participate in a poll that could rename this website.