The sun has risen on the morning of Super Bowl 51, and the good people in Atlanta are now faced with some hard truths.
The Super Bowl fans of Atlanta have been passing along a euphoric energy for the last two weeks. Since the clock showed 0:00 in the Georgia Dome against the Green Bay Packers on January 22, the people of this much-maligned sports town have been in mood of confidence rarely seen.
And why not? The Atlanta Falcons absolutely destroyed the Green Bay Packers (and the Seattle Seahawks before that), and were hitting their stride at just the right time.
On the eve of the Super Bowl, quarterback Matt Ryan was handed both the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards, amping the volume on the city’s confidence up to 11.
As a 40-plus year resident of this city I can tell you that, for the Falcons, this type of fearless enthusiasm hasn’t been since in over 30 years. Not even leading up to the 1999 Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos were Atlanta fans so convinced they had a winner.
The words “rise up” draw from the lips of fans as commonly as a casual greeting, and the colors red and black adorn city lights, storefronts, cars and front porches.
Now comes the morning of the big game. The sun is up. The game is a mere hours away from kicking off, and Atlanta fans are now faced with the fact that there are no more days left to dream about their team doing what has never been done in 51 years of franchise history…
Win a Super Bowl.
A city who has suffered more close calls and misery when it comes to sports can’t afford to let this one slip away.
Now the reality sets in. This isn’t just the Super Bowl. This is the Patriots. This is the closest thing to a true dynasty the league has ever seen. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are practically invincible in this game (unless your team happens to be named the New York Giants).
The Falcons must attempt to do what only Eli Manning and the Giants have done (twice) and what the Seahawks, Eagles, Panthers, and Rams all failed to do – beat Brady and the Patriots.
Fans in the south’s capital city have been visualizing a win over the Patriots for two weeks. The talk radio and television shows have been jammed with both analysts and fans listing the reasons why Atlanta wins this game. But now that optimism is slowly shifting into a hardened focus. This isn’t going to be easy.
Is the city of Atlanta holding its collective breath? You betcha.
Atlanta fans don’t just believe this win is possible and they don’t just want this win.
They need this win.
The day of the game is here. Atlanta fans are still openly positive and setting tables in preparation for victory, but you have to believe that concern for the other shoe dropping is lingering there amidst the anticipation.
The Falcons and their fans don’t want to endure another endless round of needling and taunting from rivals about not getting the job done; about Matt Ryan crumbling in a big game once again; about Atlanta not deserving a mention with towns whose teams are considered winners.
Fans want Dan Quinn’s team to eradicate the ghosts of losses past. They want to cast aside the painful postseason memories of Bennett, Bartkowski, Andrews, Reeves, Robinson and Chandler. They don’t need additions to that gallery.
No more talk. No more hope. They just want the Falcons to do their job better than the Patriots. Don’t hold your breath – breathe deep, exhale, and stay in the moment, Atlanta. It’s going to be an emotional night no matter what.