Can’t you see it all now, the nightmare scenario: It’s Super Bowl Sunday in Atlanta. The streets teem with shiny, happy people. Many of them are wearing shirts with the numerical shorthand, “28-3.” The rest have broken out in fleur-de-lis all over their bodies. They look like the wallpaper in a French powder room. Plus, they are afflicted with a Tweety Bird-like speech impediment, shouting, “Who Dat?” at random passers-by.
An Atlanta Super Bowl pairing New England and New Orleans is more than a possibility. It’s a certainty to everyone who lives here and has come to look at big sporting events as some sort of biblical trial.
It’s not enough that the possibility of a hometown Super Bowl was blown up before the leaves turned. As the Falcons faded, their two leading nemeses were gaining the top seed in the NFC (the Saints) and the second seed in the AFC (the Patriots). Throw in an ice storm and the weekend of Feb. 2-3 could be perfectly traumatic.
With the playoffs beginning this weekend, and the process of winnowing 12 teams down to the two bound for Mercedes-Benz Stadium gets serious, it is left to Atlanta to cheer both for and against those teams with which it wants the share the biggest of events.
The perfect Atlanta Super Bowl – if the Falcons can’t be in it – would include the only city among the dozen in this year’s playoff field that shares the distinction of never winning this game. The Houston Texans are a long shot, but they’ve got a quarterback from up the road in Gainesville and a familiar hankering to break through on football’s biggest stage. Atlanta can always use another example of a possibility fulfilled. The Texans would be a hard team to resent.
This being a quarterback league, there are all sorts of other attractive alternatives to Brady vs. Brees. They haven’t cornered the market on the position, you know.
How about a fresh breeze, like Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes? Or someone whose brilliance has gone unrewarded, like the Chargers’ Philip Rivers? Or the comeback Colt, Andrew Luck?
(And while we may harbor no ill will toward the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, it is hard to include him in the rooting-for column. It’s too easy to side against the Cowboys for various Jerry Jones-related reasons. Who wants to spend most of a Super Bowl watching him celebrate in a Mercedes-Benz box, it being some sort of network rule that he get more air time than Ryan Seacrest whenever possible?)
New England looks vulnerable. It really should fall short this year. The years are catching up to Brady and Gronk. Here’s a franchise that has won enough – five times – and yet its fans seem to have taken particular delight in erasing the Falcons 28-3 lead in 2017. They can’t pull the wings off that particular fly enough. They wield the 28-3 thing like a bully does a clenched fist.
The thought of having to play convivial Southern host to those people is almost too much to bear. There are some cheeks no one should be expected to turn.
Now, New Orleans is a fine city and a place we all end up when our moral compass occasionally breaks. It also is the Falcons most committed rival. Some of the back-and-forth between the two tribes is good-natured. Some of it is the stuff of bloody feuds.
Bad enough when the Saints won a first Super Bowl, they immediately employed that as a taunt/truncheon aimed at bereft Falcons fans. Should they win another here in Atlanta, that just might be the end of days.
So, yes, even if the Falcons aren’t in the playoffs, there is plenty at stake in these playoffs.
C’mon, if we’re throwing the big party this year, shouldn’t we have some say in who is invited?
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