Narrated by Atlanta's native son, Christopher Bridges (aka Ludacris), the latest Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl promo video came out days ago. It gave me goosebumps. That little kid in front of the small TV watching Wallace Francis catching a touchdown? Might as well have been me.
I remember those years ... the "lean" years when the highlight of a Falcons season was just being better than the New Orleans Saints when both teams were terrible. I remember the heartbreak of 1980 when those awful, no good, disgusting Dallas Cowboys came back and upset the Falcons in the playoffs. I still believe Atlanta would've won the Super Bowl THAT year. They'd already beaten the next team they'd have played and the team they'd have played in the Super Bowl, too, that year.
I remember Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, somehow coming down with a Steve Bartkowski "hail mary" against the juggernaut of the NFL back then - the San Francisco 49ers. Beating them ... beating JOE MONTANA ... was a big deal to us (because it rarely happened).
I remember thinking "maybe it'll happen" in December of 1987 when I saved my allowance and bought tickets (they were super cheap back then because the team desperately wanted people to show up) for me and my Dad and my best friend, Jeremy. December. Outdoors. Freezing cold but not quite frozen rain ... and a career day for that Montana guy. 35-17 thumping of the home team.
They would, however, "hail mary" the Niners again, in 1991. Again, one of those rare highlights from back then.
I remember 1998 and FINALLY getting to the Super Bowl. I remember being exposed as a one-time flirtation - in that game and in subsequent failing seasons after, too.
I remember the thrill of watching Michael Vick, and the shock, horror and utter disgust when he, too, was exposed for his awful off-season activities. I remember him going to prison while my team went 4-12. Heck, that was probably a team over-achieving, truthfully.
I remember our head coach LITERALLY sneaking away, a day after a primetime TV loss, to take a job at the University of Arkansas when the season wasn't even OVER yet.
I remember this team rebounding behind Matt Ryan, Vick's replacement, in 2008. ROOKIE SEASON, 11-5 and playoffs? Amazing. Then came the franchise's first back-to-back winning seasons (gee, it only took 56 years). Then it was back-to-back-to-BACK and the best record in the conference.
But I also remember riding HIGH that year KNOWING we were Super Bowl-bound; then Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers came to Atlanta and thumped my birds. I'd forgotten; we were Falcons. We don't GET to enjoy success.
They got back to the playoffs the next two seasons, though, and got ALL the way to the NFC title game in 2012. Heck, we led 24-14 at halftime. We'd lose 28-24. Before this season, that was our last foray into the playoffs.
So yeah, I remember a few highs and a LOT of lows; and maybe I'm wrong about this but this season just feels different. All those years we'd get to the playoffs, I never felt like we BELONGED in the Super Bowl like I do this squad. Like Ludacris says "I FEEL it now..."
Will this Sunday be my team's defining moment? "Our time. Our moment"?
Like Luda, I'm ready. #riseup
Oh, here's that video ...