Hello again. We’re nearing Big Event Time in the A-T-L, and you know what that means. It’s time to dust off our trusty Gloom ’n Doom Meter, for which we always keep fresh batteries on hand – because you never know what ills will befall this city just as the world turns its eyes toward us.
For late tuners-in, this will be our first time hosting a Super Bowl since Jan. 30, 2000. The participants that year were the St. Louis Rams, who have since exited St. Louis, and the Tennessee Titans, who have since hired/fired Mike Mularkey as head coach. (He’s now back with the Falcons, tutoring tight ends.) The game itself wasn’t bad. The weather was. We got an ice storm on the Friday-into-Saturday ahead of SB XXXIV, and it took the NFL nearly two decades to forgive us.
Arthur Blank bought the Falcons in January 2002, and like all NFL owners he longed for the time when he could play host to his 31 peers. Trouble was, many of those 31 still hadn’t forgotten how Atlanta’s ice put a crimp in their weekend partying, and they kept awarding the big game to more exotic locales. Like Jacksonville. Like Indianapolis. Like East Rutherford, N.J.
It took replacing the Georgia Dome, which stood only 25 years, with a much bigger and spiffier stadium to convince the NFL to bring the Super Bowl back here. The cost of that stadium was $1.5 billion, $0.5 billion of which was spent on a retractable roof that, in its first year of operation, didn’t retract. Though it did leak, as dampened patrons noted on the first truly Big Event held therein – the College Football Playoff title tilt of Jan. 8, 2018.
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In grand Atlanta fashion, the CFP experience was a calamity. That Monday dawned with a chance of freezing rain, which didn’t really arrive. The President of these United States did, though, and his presence caused ticket-holders seeking to gain entrance to wait two hours in the not-freezing-but-still-cold rain.
Our president made it inside just fine, whereupon he demonstrated familiarity with several of the words that make up our national anthem. He left at halftime, at which point the Georgia Bulldogs were leading 13-0. They lost in overtime. (Oh, and MARTA had a rough night, too.)
The CFP final served as a test run, which we surely needed, but nobody can predict everything. To wit: Who knew that, come January 2019, the federal government wouldn’t be up and running?
The front page of the ol’ AJC has been awash this week with reports of the lengthening wait times at Hartsfield-Jackson, which will trouble only those seeking to leave Atlanta, but come the morning of Feb. 4, there will indeed be a slew of such outbound travelers. What happens if the government remains in shutdown mode then? (Oh, and MARTA has had a rough week, too.)
As for us locals: If we were picking the teams we’d least like to see grace our fair city, we’d name the Saints, the Falcons’ biggest and sassiest rivals, and the Patriots, who marked us forever as the city of 28-3. There’s a chance both could lose Sunday. There’s also a chance neither will. Oh, and if the Saints are indeed the NFC champion, know where they’ll practice during Super Week? At the red-brick complex in Flowery Branch, the street address of which is 4400 Falcon Parkway.
As much as I’d like to think that we’re way overdue for the law of averages to kick in and bless us with a stress-free Super Week, I’m also a student of grim history. This is Atlanta, where the Olympic buses got lost and we displayed the Canadian maple leaf upside down during a World Series. This is Atlanta, where a tornado hit the Dome during an SEC tournament and a traffic jam clogged Peachtree and closed Lenox Square on NBA All-Star weekend. This is Atlanta, where anything that can go wrong will.
Oh, but there is one ray of sunshine, as it were. According to Accuweather, we’re not supposed to have snow/ice on Super Bowl weekend. It is supposed to rain, though. Might want to stock up on caulk for that roof.