O.K., I'll admit that I wasn't always a Falcons fan, but being a 22 year Georgia Tech Alumnus who's had more team-induced heartbreak than one should have to endure, I must have been drawn to the self loathing that's part of the Atlanta Falcon experience. Having moved here from St. Louis more than 27 years ago, I used to laugh at all the local sports franchise(s) like I did the football team that I'd left behind - Bill Bidwell's (my younger brother had gone to school with that owner's son back in Clayton, Missouri) muddled mess that used to stink up the same name of that city's hallowed baseball team. But then I got caught up in all the hype and excitement that surrounded the team when it drafted a certain Virginia Tech player as the number one pick several years ago, and the rest is my sad history.After making it to the NFC's Championship game in 2005, last year was miserable. We'd started the season with so much promise, posting a 6-2 record before our collapse, going 2-6 to finish 8-8. But some teams might actually be happy with such a result. I mean, it's not like we had a losing record, right?Well, this year too began much the same, two straight wins over conference rivals, the first was a road victory over a team that (preseason) was projected to go to the Super Bowl this year! Then we came up lame in an emotional loss to New Orleans during their Monday night return to the Superdome, but things got better in a hurry because we won 3 of our next 4 to find ourselves at 5-2, one game behind the Saints, with our next two games scheduled against a couple of patsies, the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns.Oops, two straight demoralizing losses later we have to play at Baltimore (naturally, another loss) before another home loss in a rematch with the resurgent Saints, which gave us the losing record 5-6. Somehow, we managed to beat the <sarcasm on> mighty Washington Redskins and the stellar Tampa Bay Buccaneers <sarcasm off> away, to earn a 7-6 record and the chance to control our own destiny with three games to go.But that's when the real emasculation begins - not only does our team lose to America's most hated team - the Dallas Cowboys - on national television just days after our coach Jim Mora has said emphatically that he wants a college head coaching job that's not even vacant, but we're then “forced” to root for Eli Manning (who might actually be a worse quarterback than Rex Grossman!) and his Giants to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in order to keep our playoff hopes alive. But I couldn't help myself, despite wanting the best result for my team, I think my scream was near gleeful when Manning's tipped pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown sealing his team's loss.But wait, it gets worse! This past weekend, we somehow manage to lose to a down-and-out Carolina Panthers team, again at home - making that four straight for us (the first time in seven years; should be longer but, after all, it's the Falcons we're talking about) - quarterbacked by someone (Chris Weinke) who had previously managed just one win in his 17 starts; we scored an anemic 3 points. This loss actually meant that we'd have to root for, that's right, the dreaded Dallas Cowboys against, you guessed it, those same Philadelphia Eagles. And, of course, the result was what it was (and I actually don't feel too badly about it, if you want to know the truth of it;-)While a playoff birth is mathematically possible, causing some on our team to actually dare say that we'd be the scariest team in the postseason mix if we made it in, I refuse to consider the possibility. I mean, we've had field goal kickers who couldn't kick (rectified, thankfully - Morten Andersen's record setting year is one highlight; Michael Vick's 1,000+ yards rushing is the other), wide receivers who can't catch (or try to do it with their bodies as if their elbows were sewn to their sides), an offensive coordinator who calls cute plays in the Redzone (especially when we're inside the one yard line), a cornerback (another former VT player) whose mouth runs better than he does, and some highly paid (defensive) free agents that can't stay healthy.While I'm ranting, let me add - if Vick hater Howie Long says our quarterback should have been the NFC's Pro Bowl pick over Romo's half season, that's good enough for me; Shannon Sharpe talks like he's got marbles in his mouth; and wouldn't it be nice if the booth commentators stopped repeating inane things like “so and so runningback gets stronger as the game goes on” (hint, it's actually that the defense gets more tired).
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