Atlanta Falcons: The NFL’s new favorite team?


As kids, sportsmanship and class were parts of the game that coaches, families and communities hoped their athletes would grasp and embody unswervingly. This appreciation set the course for how teams and players were viewed and how much respect they earned. But, for the Panthers, they came face-to-face with the effects of the lack of respect they showed for their opponents as the Atlanta Falcons gave them a nice taste of discipline.

All year, it seemed as if the highlights of every week included Cam Newton and company “dabbing” and mocking in their opponent’s faces. Sure, it’s all fun and games in the schoolyard, but, on the gridiron, there is supposed to be an undercurrent of respect and honor between teams that has been passed on since day one of American football and there is little room to deviate from what was laid before the players today.

If you remember correctly to a couple of weeks ago, the Carolina Panthers mocked the Atlanta Falcons by the “dabs”, but what spit in the faces of Atlanta was the team taking pictures, posing for snapshots as the game was continuing. And, if you ask anyone from middle school to adulthood, that sort of mockery is something that is not tolerated and viewed as reprehensible to all those who appreciate the game for what it is: a game.

As the years have been added from the first day of the NFL, there have been many polarizing figures, such as Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Ray Lewis, who tip-toed the line of what was acceptable and unacceptable in the eyes of the football purists. But it was incredibly rare to find an entire team dive into the depths of the murky mockery that the Panthers dove into a few weeks ago.

When the Falcons won the game on Sunday, it was far more than the usual clash of what has now become a tremendous rivalry between the teams. No. This time, it was far deeper than the score on the scoreboard, the jockeying of division standings or even the ending of the perfect season for the Panthers. This time it was far more personal than any of those as it challenged every lesson that these Atlanta Falcons had known since they first began playing in their childhood and the intertwining bond of  appreciation for one’s opponent.

Call it what you would like, but the way the Atlanta Falcons dominated the “mighty” Panthers should be a lesson for all teams who dare to challenge the appreciation and comradery of the football field.

Maybe, just maybe, if the Panthers were less concerned about the chauvinistic performances and more appreciative of the fact that this was still an NFL football team lining up against them, their quest of perfection may have laid fully intact. But, when you challenge the mantra of athleticism that binds every  player together on the football field, it is not outlandish to think that they may have bitten off more than they could chew by their shenanigans.

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For the Falcons, this was a great, team win. But this was far more than just a group of Falcons’ winning. The biggest victor was the NFL that needed help in enforcing the sportsmanship that was slipping through its fingers each week. And, the NFL has to be feeling mighty grateful for Atlanta who sent the prideful, chauvinistic Panthers back to Charlotte with their tails between their legs.