Friday, January 27, 2017

Top 10 Reasons to Root for the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI

Yes, I was able to narrow it down to 10. And with most of them, it's less a reason to root for the Falcons than it is to root against the New England Patriots.

This is what Italian soccer fans would call "supporting against." In other words, you may not have much appreciation for the team playing the team you hate, but you will support them on this occasion, because you hate the other team that much.

10. A Sense of Proportion. While it is true that the Patriots are the only NFL team in New England, and they are slightly closer to downtown Providence, Rhode Island than they are to downtown Boston, they're the only team in the big 4 sports that names itself for an entire region. (The New England Revolution, also owned by Bob Kraft and playing at Gillette Stadium, also use the regional name.)

In contrast, the Falcons are the only NFL team in Georgia. They could also claim Alabama, eastern Mississippi, and the Florida Panhandle. Before the moves and expansions of the 1990s, they could also have claimed both Carolinas and most of Tennessee. But they don't call themselves the South Falcons, or even the Georgia Falcons. They're the Atlanta Falcons.

9. City of Transients. Atlanta has more non-natives than Boston. At first glance, this would seem to be a reason to root for the Patriots. Except that it means that Atlanta has more New Yorkers.

8. Disgrace. The most disgraceful figure in Falcons history is Deion Sanders, who is merely an egomaniac. The most disgraceful figure in Patriots history is Aaron Hernandez.

7. Public Transit. The Georgia Dome has a stop on Atlanta's subway. Its replacement opening this year, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be right next-door, using the same stop. Gillette Stadium? The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority runs one train per game from South Station to the stadium. Miss it, and you're screwed: You'd have to take a train to Walpole, and then take an $18 taxi ride to the stadium. And back.

6. The Waiting Is the Hardest Part. When the Patriots won their 1st Super Bowl, it was on February 3, 2002, in the team's 42nd season of existence. Fair enough, their fans, not yet the obnoxious schmucks they are today, deserved it.

The Falcons are in their 51st season, and have never won it. They've only been in it once, and that was 18 years ago. Indeed, since Atlanta became a major league city in 1966 with the move of the Braves and the establishment of the Falcons, with the arrival of the Hawks 2 years later, in 51 years, the city has had just 1 World Championship (the 1995 Braves), 6 trips to the finals of the big 4 sports, (5 Brave Pennants and that 1 Falcon visit to the Super Bowl), and just 18 trips to the semifinals (11 by the Braves, 4 by the Falcons, 3 by the Hawks, and none by either the Flames or the Thrashers before leaving the city hockeyless).

They're not all rednecks who cheer war and police brutality and still call themselves "pro-life." Many of them are decent people who've waited a long time for this.

5. Tom Brady. He's so disgusting, 2 seasons ago, he didn't even let his coach do the cheating for him: He ordered those footballs deflated.

Don't you dare call him "TB12." Terry Bradshaw wore Number 12, and he won 4 Super Bowl rings, and he didn't have to cheat for a dang one of them. He also called his own plays.

Brady's not ahead of Bradshaw. He's not ahead of Joe Montana, the actual greatest quarterback who ever lived. He's not ahead of Johnny Unitas, the previous greatest quarterback who ever lived. He's not ahead of Sammy Baugh, who not only practically invented the position, but was also an All-Pro safety and the greatest punter who ever lived. He's not ahead of Bart Starr, the 1st (and, after Super Bowl LI, hopefully still the only) quarterback ever to win 5 NFL Championships.

He's not ahead of Peyton Manning, who won Super Bowls for 2 different teams. Nor is he ahead of Eli Manning, who beat him head-to-head in 2 Super Bowls.

Until Tom Brady wins a Super Bowl without cheating, he's not even ahead of Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson. Until he gets into one without cheating, he's not even ahead of Joe Kapp, Vince Ferragamo, David Woodley, Stan Humphries, Chris Chandler, Kerry Collins, Jake Delhomme, Matt Hasselbeck or Rex Grossman. And if you're now saying, "Who?" I say, "Exactly."

If you're paying attention, you've noticed that on the list of reasons to take the Falcons over the Patriots, Tom Brady is only Number 5.

4. Bill Belichick. Up until January 2002, Belichick was just the latest in a long line of great defensive coordinators who ended up as lousy head coaches. Yes, there was Tom Landry, George Allen, Don Shula, Chuck Noll and George Seifert. But there was also Bill Arnsparger, Bud Carson, Ray Rhodes, Richie Petitbon, Buddy Ryan and Fritz Shurmur.

Belichick was Bill Parcells' defensive coordinator on 2 Giant Super Bowl wins, and the Patriots' AFC Championship team of 1996 that lost Super Bowl XXXI to the Packers. In between, he was the last coach of the old Cleveland Browns, going 36-44 with just 1 winning season.

In 2000, he was named head coach of the New York Jets. A day later, he announced at his introductory press conference that he was quitting, having written on a sheet of loose leaf paper, "I resign as HC of the NYJ." Why? To take the head coaching job with the Patriots. A divisional rival. The history of the NFL changed with that sheet of paper.

As Patriots coach? With all the cheating? 201-71, or an average of 12-4. With the Browns, he was 1-1 in Playoff games; with the Pats, going into Super Bowl LI, he's 25-9. To put that into perspective: The Jets head coaches since have been Al Groh, 9-7; Herman Edwards, 39-41; Eric Mangini, 33-47; Rex Ryan, 46-50; and the incumbent, Todd Bowles, 15-17. Total, 142-162.

We saw the real Belichick in Cleveland.

At least when Belichick was caught in "Spygate," instead of continuing to lie about it, like the Red Sox and their performance-enhancing drugs, Belichick admitted it, effectively saying, "Yeah, I did it. Whattaya gonna do about it, huh?"

And yet, while most NFL coaches look good in suits, or at least look like coaches in tracksuits, Belichick has that stupid hoodie that makes him look like a homeless man. Well, I don't care what he's won, or goes on to win: He may not be homeless, but he is a bum.

If you're paying attention, you've noticed that on the list of reasons to take the Falcons over the Patriots, Bill Belichick is only Number 4.

3. The City Too Busy to Hate. Ivan Allen, Mayor of Atlanta from 1962 to 1970, adopted that as his city's slogan, to contrast it, and his policy of racial desegregation, with other Southern cities like Birmingham and New Orleans, which staunchly stuck to segregation until the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s made it illegal. It was through his leadership that major league sports realized that Atlanta was a viable city: The Braves and Falcons arrived in 1966, and the Hawks and college football's Peach Bowl in 1968.

In 1969, Sam Massell was elected Mayor to succeed Allen. He was the city's 1st Jewish Mayor. (He is still alive, age 89.) He established MARTA, which runs the city's subway and buses, and had the Hawks' 1st arena of their own, the Omni, built. (They started out sharing Georgia Tech's Alexander Coliseum, and played there again while the Philips Arena was built on the Omni's site.)

By 1973, Atlanta had a black majority -- in a phrase popularized by funk music maestro George Clinton (although he was referring to Washington, D.C.), it had become "a chocolate city." Massell was beaten in that year's primary election by a young labor lawyer named Maynard Jackson, who became the city's 1st black Mayor. They've had only black Mayors since: Jackson was re-elected in 1977, Andrew Young in 1981 and 1985, Jackson again in 1989, Bill Campbell in 1993 and 1997, Shirley Franklin in 2001 and 2005, and Kasim Reed in 2009 and 2013. Reed is the incumbent, and is term-limited, so a new Mayor will be elected this November.

Now, Boston has an important place in African-American history. One of the victims of the Boston Massacre of 1770 was  Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native American ancestry. The city was among the leaders in the cause of the abolition of slavery. The 54th Massachusetts Regiment was an all-black unit in the American Civil War. Martin Luther King, an Atlanta native, earned his doctorate of divinity at Boston University, and fellow Atlantan Maynard Jackson graduated from BU's Law School. Willie O'Ree of the Bruins was the NHL's 1st black player, in 1958; and Bill Russell of the Celtics was the NBA's 1st black head coach, in 1966.

On the other hand, the Red Sox were the last MLB team to integrate, offering a sham tryout to Jackie Robinson and Sam Jethroe in 1945, and turning down the chance to sign Willie Mays in 1948, before finally bringing in their 1st black player in 1959, Pumpsie Green.

During the 1960s, the integrated Celtics were winning title after title in front of small crowds, while the all-white (except for the 2 brief callups of O'Ree) Bruins struggled until the arrivals of Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, but played in front of full houses every night. Suddenly, when Russell retired as a player, and was replaced as center by the lily-white Dave Cowens, Bostonians couldn't get enough of the Celtics. White Bostonians' reaction to the integration-by-busing of South Boston High School in 1974 was despicable. And they reveled in the 1980s success of Larry Bird, who was so pale he was practically invisible. It wasn't until Mo Vaughn in the 1990s that Red Sox fans truly embraced a black player -- not even Jim Rice in the late 1970s and the 1980s.

I wonder: If Tom Brady were black -- or, if the quarterback who led the Patriots to 4 Super Bowl wins had been, say, Donovan McNabb -- would they support him as much?

2. Politics. Oddly, Falcons owner Arthur Blank went to Babson College in the Boston suburb of Wellesley, Massachusetts. As co-founder of the Home Depot and a man worth over $3 billion, Blank is a Republican who contributed to Donald Trump's campaign.

But no owner in American major league sports has tied himself to Trump as much as Bob Kraft of the Patriots -- not even Jets owner Woody Johnson, whom the Illegitimate One has appointed to be U.S. Ambassador to Britain. Kraft has called Trump "a great friend." Brady has also supported Trump.

You know who hasn't supported Trump, and refused to even attend his Inauguration? Congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis, whose district includes most of Atlanta. He's supporting the Falcons.

1. "Patriot Fans." As they say in English soccer -- particularly to fans of West London club Chelsea, whose cheating players, bastard managers, post-Y2K success with pre-Y2K failure, and racist fans make them the Patriots of England -- Where were you, where were you, where were you when you were shit? Where were you when you were shit?

As recently as 1992, when the team was scandalous and considered likely to move to Baltimore or St. Louis, the Patriots were the 7th-most popular football team in Boston.

Ahead of them: Notre Dame (which isn't even in the the same part of the country, but, you know, Irish and Catholic), a given fan's high school's team, Boston College, Harvard University (those blue-collar ethnics would rather root for Ivy Leaguers than the Patriots), Boston University (which doesn't even have a team anymore), and the Giants. Yes, the New York Giants. Prior to the AFL's inaugural season of 1960, the Giants were the closest pro football team to Boston, and New England football fans born before 1950 (age 42 and under in 1992) stuck with them.

So as recently as a quarter of a century ago, Boston couldn't give less of a damn about the Patriots. Even as recently as right before 9/11, the Patriots were the 4th-most popular sports team in New England -- maybe 6th, if you count the University of Connecticut's basketball teams.

On October 18, 2015, Thrillist posted an article: "All 32 NFL Fan Bases, ranked by Obnoxiousness." They put Patriots fans at Number 1:

Never before in the history of sports fair-weather fandom has there been a group as obnoxious as the Pats' fans. I’d like to rewind to the year 1993, when everyone was convinced the Pats would move to St. Louis and become the Stallions, and most Boston people COULDN’T CARE LESS. The Patriots were, for so very long, the bottom of the barrel in terms of local fan enthusiasm. The Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and all of the major college hockey teams in the Boston area all enjoyed more support than the Patriots.

And then of course we know what happened. It became the year 2000 (Mike's note: 2001, actually) and Andover and Wesleyan graduate Billy Belichick started coaching, Drew Bledsoe got hurt, handsome Tom Brady stepped in, and the hapless Patriots started winning Super Bowls. And suddenly the fans came out of the Walden Pond woodwork. 

Now everyone from Chelsea to Cochituate to Chatham claims that they’ve been die-hards forever, that they were huge fans during the Grogan and Tony Eason eras, that they know who Dick MacPherson is, and remember when fans used to hold up signs saying “Missing with Sisson” for kicker Scott Sisson.

They shed accusations of cheating as if they are old John Hannah jerseys, even though everyone everywhere knows that Belichick is one of those guys who will cheat even while they’re winning just because it makes him feel clever. And so the calls of “P-A-T, Pats, Pats, Pats” ring out everywhere, and people still head to the town next to the town with the jail outside of Boston to watch their squad cooly go about the “Patriots Way” of mechanically winning games and refusing to sign beloved veterans because they would like to get paid more for bleeding for this team forever. 

But everyone knows you dyed-in-the-wool Pats fans are really just Bruins fans in Brady’s clothing. And deep down, you know it too.  

It's not just 1 article -- which, to be fair, didn't let New Yorkers and New Jerseyans off easy, ranking Jets fans 4th and Giants fans 8th. This one also ranked the Pats Number 1.

This one took a vote, and the Pats finished 1st. This one took a vote, and the Pats finished 2nd, behind the Seattle Seahawks, then defending champions, their fans a little arrogant, soon to be cheated out of another Super Bowl win by the Patriots.

In other words, Patriots fans got a nearly 3-year jump on Red Sox fans for being obnoxious winners, and didn't even have the sympathy they got for being romantic losers. They weren't romantic (in the classical sense, not the sense of romantic love), they were just losers. Now, they act like they're the Yankees of football. Bitch, please, we went through this with the Dallas Cowboys and their "America's Team" bullshit. You're not ahead of the Cowboys, who aren't ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who aren't ahead of the Green Bay Packers.

Where were you when you were shit? When your team was shit, you were in a bar, rooting for an NFL team other than the Patriots. But you? You are shit right now.

1 comment:

Jeff Cherubin said...

In accordance with Reason #3, I would also point out that Red Sox Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams was half-Spanish and it seemed like he kept it from the public.