Showing 1 - 9 of 9 posts found matching keyword: falcons

The Atlanta Falcons were up 28-3 over the New England Patriots late in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. No team had ever come back from such a deficit in the big game, and the Patriots didn't look like they were going to be the ones to do it. All Atlanta had to do was keep doing what they had been doing for the better part of 2 hours, and they would be NFL champions.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you who won.

The Falcons were good enough this year; they should have been able to beat the Patriots. But the one thing holding back, the lead weight around their necks, was their own history. The 1999 Super Bowl. The 2011 Divisional game. Now the 2017 Super Bowl. When a few plays late in the game went wrong, you could see the Falcons lose confidence that they could win. If you think you're going to lose, you're right.

I'm not a Falcons fan, but I do consider myself an Atlantan. This loss hurt. It hurt bad. Like a second betrayal by an unfaithful lover, it's the sort of pain you never get over. You can forgive, but you'll never forget. You can only blame yourself for believing she wouldn't do it to you again. A loss like this, in a city seemingly incapable of escaping it's terrible luck at team sports (1 MLB title, 0 NFL titles, 0 NBA titles, 0 NHL franchises), this loss leaves a permanent scar on our soul.

As my friend Keith, a Falcons fan since birth, said at the start of the postseason, "I'll believe the Falcons can win a Super Bowl the day after they win a Super Bowl." After this game, I don't think either of us will live that long.

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Last year, the Atlanta Falcons were no better than an average team, finishing with an 8-8 record. The year before, they finished 6-10, and the year before that, they were 4-12. You might have noticed a trend. After four years of steady improvement, the Falcons are in the Super Bowl.

Why can't other teams do that? Specifically, why not the Miami Dolphins?

Assembling a successful pro football team is a challenge of (1.) recognizing talent, (2.) acquiring that talent, (3.) developing a competitive strategy, (4.) coaching talent to work together to achieve the strategy, and (5.) executing tactics on the field.

In recent years, the Falcons have done all those things well. For the past few decades, the Dolphins have rarely gotten past step one.

But this year the Dolphins broke out of mediocrity and made the postseason. The Dolphins lost primarily because the injury bug did more damage than their opponent, but that the Dolphins have any talent good enough to make the playoffs is a hopeful sign that perhaps the team is finally turning things around.

If the Falcons can make the Super Bowl in four years, I don't see any reason the same can't happen for the Dolphins. Maybe 2019 will be a super year for Miami.

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Ten years ago, tickets to the season-opening Monday Night Football game between the Philadelphia Eagles vs the Atlanta Falcons, went on sale in the wee hours of the morning on TicketMaster.com. My brother, an avid Eagles fan, wanted tickets desperately, so despite being awake for nearly 24 hours, I sat at my computer and tried to get him some.

For hours, I tried. TicketMaster has never been very good at anything, and that morning they were particularly bad. Time out after time out — until finally! The tickets it offered me were expensive, $150 seats, but they would be worth it. Only after I put in my credit card info and committed to buy did I realize that the tickets TicketMaster had offered weren't to the Monday Night Falcons/Eagles. Somehow, in my sleep-deprived state, I had purchased tickets to the preseason Falcons/Ravens game instead.

Of course TicketMaster refused to offer a refund. And by then, they insisted they were sold out of Eagles tickets. So I was stuck with tickets to a watching a team I don't like in seats I couldn't afford at a glorified practice scrimmage. Fan-fucking-tastic.

I tried selling my Ravens tickets on eBay at a loss, but there were no takers. I ended up giving them away to a friend who didn't even go.

Fast forward a decade, and the Eagles were back in town for a Monday Night Football season opener. I had't planned on attending, but while watching games on Sunday, I figured what the hell. I went online to StubHub.com — I never buy anything on TicketMaster anymore — and bought two tickets for $50 each. Since my brother no longer speaks to me, I gave a ticket to friend Brian. We met at the Georgia Dome and had a great time.

Eagles 24, Falcons 26

Philadelphia Eagles 24, Atlanta Falcons 26. I'm really going to miss the Georgia Dome when they tear it down next year.

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I woke up on Friday to a voicemail message asking if I wanted to attend the Dolphins/Falcons preseason opener that night. I had turned down the opportunity when Mom asked months ago, but in the pressure of the moment, I gave in and accepted fate.

This was all I saw of Stephen Jackson

The tickets had come to friend Brian through connections at his job, and he says he had a hard time finding someone to accompany him at the last minute. ("I said to myself, 'I'll call Walter. He'd never pass up football tickets!'," Brian explained.) Judging by the thousands of empty seats at the Georgia Dome, most people passed on the opportunity to pay $59.00 to watch a glorified practice.

The last time I attended a preseason game, it was to see Dan Marino take about 5 snaps. Not quite a decade back, I tried to get Eagles/Falcons Monday Night tickets, and ended up buying four Ravens/Falcons preseason tickets. (I blame that snafu partly on TicketMaster and partly on sleep deprivation.) I couldn't give those tickets away! The way I see it, going to this game for free is cosmic compensation for that wasted $300 all those years ago.

Preseason games in Atlanta draw about as many fans as reals game in Miami

I got my money's worth as the first-team Dolphins and first-team Falcons looked great last night on their opening drives. That wasn't too surprising. Offsenses always perform better than defenses at the beginning of the year. I considered it a better sign that the Dolphins' rebuilt O-line was able to protect Tannehill for a few plays. (The Dolphins didn't start giving up sacks until late in the game.) Maybe we'll be able to score some points this year.

Others were even more optimistic. "I think we could win the AFC East this year," said the Dolphins' fan behind me. "It's either us or the Bills." Given that the Bills haven't made finished better than .500 since 2004, I'd say those are pretty good odds. I wonder what the Patriots — division winner for nine of the last ten seasons — will have to say about that?

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After Coach Mike Smith's Atlanta Falcons finally won a playoff game last week, the city has gone nuts for the Falcons. Literally. Falcons apparel has sold out throughout the region. Pep rallies have been held at city government buildings. Everyone, it seems, is suddenly an Atlanta Falcons fan. All this excitement points to one thing: the Falcons are going to lose in the NFC Championship tomorrow.

Atlanta has earned its "Loserville" reputation. Our sports teams rarely make it to the big games, and when they do, they lose. Because we know that our teams aren't going anywhere, we don't get easily excited about their performance. It takes something rare, like an NFC Championship Game, to get the masses motivated. Unfortunately, once our "fans" get involved, we turn the pressure on the athletes from 1 ("nonexistent") to 11 ("debilitating"). It's a vicious cycle.

I don't know if the Atlanta players have been listening to the hype this week, but I don't know how they could avoid it. Shunning newspapers, radio, and television is one thing, but now there are banners, billboards, and bumper stickers everywhere! If the Georgia Dome wasn't already red and black, I'd expect to see painting crews hard at work right now.

Despite having the better record, the Falcons are underdogs against the visiting 49ers, who lost last year's Championship thanks to a single bad punt return in overtime. Underdogs should have less pressure to perform, not more. How can the players handle the sudden weight of new fan expectations? Are they to believe that they are suddenly as great as the new fans say? Hopefully the players remember that the only place to prove that is on the field on Sunday.

Maybe the Falcons will find a way to win. Even if they do, we'll just double down on the pressure over the next two weeks as the Super Bowl nears. I'd like to see the team win out, but I expect that there are going to be a lot of barely-worn Tony Gonzales jerseys on eBay next month. We're not known as Loserville for nothing.

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In the past eight days, I've been to four football games, 1 high school, 2 college, and 1 professional. I sure do enjoy football season. If nothing else, it gets me out of the house.

I accompanied Trey to the Atlanta Falcons' prime-time home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday in a game that ended just before midnight. It was a fantastic game featuring a bunch of turnovers, big plays, and lead changes, and I'm quite pleased that I had the opportunity to go.

Philadelphia 31, Atlanta 35

It was unclear who was better represented among the fan-worn jerseys in the stadium: current Falcons QB Matt Ryan or former Falcons QB Michael Vick. Ryan outplayed Vick in the game, if for no other reason than Vick's 3 turnovers. Vick didn't even finish the game, suffering a concussion late in the 3rd quarter and being booed off the field by the ever-classy Altanta fans.

It would have only been better if the Dolphins hadn't lost their game earlier in the day, making it look increasingly like another terrible season is in the making. True story: waiting to use a urinal at the Georgia Dome, I was the only person wearing a Miami Dolphins t-shirt in a long line of people clad in Eagles and Falcons apparel. Finally, I reached the front of the line and prepared to relieve myself. Immediately the fellow behind me loudly sighed and said, "we're going to be here awhile. The guy in up here is wearing a Dolphins shirt, and we all know they're slow starters." Smart ass.

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The Atlanta Falcons played like dogs this Sunday, so it was fitting that Michael Vick returned to town to put them out of their misery.

First quarter: Philadelphia 10, Atlanta 0

Michael Vick had predicted that he would receive a standing ovation on his first return home to the Georgia Dome following his eviction due to federal conviction as a canine killer. He pretty much got what he expected. Never have I attended a sporting event that was quite so much a love letter to a single person, an event where a player was indeed bigger than the game, but that was what happened. Very few, it seemed, came for the game. (This was a good thing, as there wasn't one played, at least not by the Falcons.) Everyone was there for number 7. And to his credit as an athlete and entertainer, he gave us what we came to see. Most Falcons fans had justifiably fled by late in the third quarter, leaving only Eagles and Vick fans, whose chants of "Put in Vick" were answered as Vick drove the Eagles down the field for another touchdown. Then everyone went home.

Fourth quarter: Philadelphia 34, Atlanta 0

I'd be lying if I said that I didn't take some vengeful enjoyment in watching the prodigal Vick return to Atlanta with the Eagles and pull the wings off the injured Falcons, 34-7. (Atlanta's lone touchdown couldn't have been less relevant, scored as time expired in the game against a third-string Eagles defense.) I figure the Falcons deserved the punishment it after the ingracious way that they treated the Dolphins in the season opener. So I ask, Falcons, how did you like them apples, because I thought they tasted pretty sweet.

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This post is a little late, but I've had a busy weekend. Saturday night I attended the first University of Georgia football home game vs South Carolina. I was excited because I love night games, and the game had a 7PM kickoff. If I had known before hand that the game was going to take over 4 hours to play, I'm sure that would have dampened my enthusiasm somewhat.

UGA 41, South Carolina 37

Two things slow down a football game: scoring and penalties. And this game had both in spades. Thirty one points were scored in the first quarter alone. There were 24 penalties called in the game, 11 for us and 13 for them, for a total of 206 yards. Six of those penalties resulted directly in first downs. But we won, so I'd be a fool to complain. Besides, the game had just about everything else you could ask for: special teams touchdowns, long runs, long passes, blocked kicks, goal line stands, shouting matches between the coaches, last second drama. It was a good game.

I would not call Sunday's match up between the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons a "good game." The Dolphins flat out stunk. Sure, this was the first game of the season for both teams. The Georgia Dome, even when not full to capacity, can be a pretty hostile environment to opposing teams ("loud" is an understatement). But that's no excuse for four (4!) Dolphins turnovers and an anemic... well, everything. Just two years ago I watched an entire season in which the Dolphins won only 1 football game, and even then they couldn't even aspire to this level of ineptitude. I have a name for this level of failure: Pennington.

Miami 7, Atlanta 19

If you've been paying attention, you'll know that I've railed against Chad Pennington before. (On August 11, 2008, and January 4, 2009, to be exact.) While I have grown to admire his never-say-retire-while-they're-still-throwing-money-at-me attitude, his weak arm and failing body have hurt us in the past just as they cost the Dolphins any chance at winning today.

Watching the team warm ups, I noticed that Pennington's longest warm-up pass was exactly 15 yards. Pennington's longest pass of the day was almost exactly 20 yards in the air. My brother was quick to point out that on that pass, Pennington took three big steps forward before heaving the pass, and the ball still wobbled like a lame duck. The Falcons must also have been paying attention, as they didn't bother to cover any Dolphins deep, knowing that the ball would never go that far. As if that wasn't bad enough, every time Pennington dropped back to pass, the Dolphins receivers themselves generally aborted their routes to ensure that Pennington's passes could still reach them despite the fact that this prevented almost any chance of catching the ball past (or in most cases near) the first down marker. Thanks, Chad.

On the upside, on rookie Pat White's first play in a regular season NFL game, he heaved the ball an impressive 40 yards, overthrowing the fastest Dolphin receiver deep down the field. My brother went berserk, amazed that Pennington could launch the ball so far. He was heartbroken when I explained that Pennington had been replaced for that down with another quarterback. Though come to think of it, he may have just been upset that the coaches immediately put Pennington back in and never let White throw again during the game. In any case, at least it's good to know that there's someone on the team who can throw the ball, even if the coaches are determined to keep him off the field.

Tickets, anyone?

I should mention that these football games were the second and third sporting events that I attended this week. I also watched the Gwinnett Braves (AAA affiliate of the MLB Atlanta Braves) lose a playoff game 0-3 on Wednesday night. The Braves would go on to lose the series, and after watching them play in person, I'm not surprised.

The picture below gives a pretty accurate indication of the turnout for the game against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barr (Pennsylvania) Yankees (AAA affiliate of the MLB New York Yankees). There were just enough people in attendance that team mascot Chopper the Groundhog was able to annoy everyone in attendance personally, one at a time.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barr Yankees 3, Gwinnett Braves 0

Why a team named the Braves would have a groundhog for a mascot is explained only once you realize that the main thing that Gwinnett County has of any name recognition is a number of large shopping malls, and they make lousy mascots. General Beauregard Lee, the groundhog at Gwinnett's Yellow River Game Ranch is the state of Georgia's "Official" predictor of spring arrival. We don't care for Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil in these parts, especially if we're going to get beaten by Phil's state baseball clubs.

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As you may have heard, Georgia is in the midst of a drought. Yesterday, our Governor, Sonny Perdue, led a public prayer for rain on the grounds of the state capital. Amusingly enough, the prayer was protested.

Sure, I might have problems with state sponsored prayer. But I've really got better things to do than to protest against people praying for rain. I mean, where's the up side in that protest? If you're right, and faith shouldn't be invoked to solve the drought, how do you propose that we force the atmosphere to deliver us precipitation? If you're wrong, and appeasing a higher power is what is required to make it rain, you've doomed us all. In either case, by raining on this parade, you're not helping to make it any more wet around here.

Now that it's raining a day later, clearly proving that prayer works (sorry all you people who lost loved ones to disease, God doesn't love you as much as he loves Sonny Perdue), those same protesters are no doubt worried that solutions to other local problems will be sought with prayer instead of legislation. Maybe God can prevent a recurrence of the perfect storm that led to Genarlow Wilson becoming national news at Georgia's expense. Or maybe God can decide what to do about the pesky problems with Atlanta traffic jams. Or potential construction costs and controversial plans for the Hartsfield-Jackson airport expansion. Or what to do about putting too much salt on a police officer's complementary hamburger. (Or even police officers who arrest people for putting too much salt on their complementary hamburgers.)

Hell, why don't we just go ahead and put God to the ultimate test: see if he can make the Atlanta Falcons football team have two consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. (That's asking for just 18 wins over two seasons.) Or what if we pray that the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team wins a game in the playoffs? (They were the best team in the regular season last year. How hard can it be to win one post season game?) Or, if we're looking for a real challenge, how about giving the Atlanta Hawks basketball team a .500 or better season. (Not only hasn't this happened this century, the Hawks' playoff record makes the Thrashers appear to be over-achievers.)

I'm not asking for miracles here. I'm just looking for Atlanta professional sports to not suck. That doesn't seem nearly as hard as making it rain, does it?

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To be continued...

 

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