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Falcons Fans Put Hearts On Line Again


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Falcons fans put hearts on line again

By Steve Hummer

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jonas Pate is not a shrink, but he once directed the movie “Shrink,” starring Kevin Spacey. It’s more because of his rooting interests, however, that he is qualified to speak on the dark subjects of pessimism and angst.

For when he moved west to Los Angeles, he took with him his affection for his hometown of Atlanta and all the pro sports teams that wear its name.

So, he can’t help it. Even as he dresses his 10-year-old son up in a Falcons jersey, even as he slips off from a shoot in New York to watch the unbeaten Falcons win at Philadelphia this season, Pate fears what might lie ahead.

Being an Atlanta fan, he said with dramatic emphasis, is like being “a dog that expects to be beaten.”

“I died a little when the Cowboys beat the (Steve) Bartkowski-led team in 1980 (playoffs) but I’ve been a loyal — and cynical — fan ever since,” he said.

Rick Van Haveren is a shrink, an Atlanta sports psychologist, who likes what he sees in the way these Falcons are going about their business.

“They seem to have that confidence, that swagger, that they will find a way to win,” he said. Quarterback Matt Ryan most embodies that, he said.

The conflicting emotions among fans have been shaped in no small part by the legendary flameouts of Atlanta pro teams. The magic of Chipper Jones’ final season with the Atlanta Braves crashed in a one-game playoff last month, adding to the long list of early post-season exits in the 1990s and 2000s. Atlanta Hawks fans experienced but one round of the NBA playoffs a year ago, assuring a 44th year of not advancing even so far as a conference final.

More often than not, dashed hopes and expectations are the price Atlanta fans pay for their devotion to its professional franchises.

The Falcons have made it halfway through this season without a blemish, the only unbeaten team in the NFL. Their fans are caught between delirium and dread. After all, this is the same franchise that on the morning of finally making it to the Super Bowl in 1999 was greeted by the news that one of its upstanding leaders had been busted the night before for solicitation.

“I try to start each season with low expectations because I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed,” said Hiram’s Mark Owens, a lifelong fan.

“I have been let down so many times that I have trouble being too positive. I find a healthy dose of skepticism helps ward off heartbreak.”

Earlier this week, a call was put out to fans on the AJC’s Falcons blog to bare their feelings about their team’s fast start. They responded in bulk, and displayed all the conflicting emotions that come with standing by Atlanta’s often dispiriting pro franchises.

In the Falcons case thus far this season, the victories have not always been high art – they required a desperate last-gasp pass to beat last-place Carolina; they muddled past Oakland at home. They are 8-0 heading to archrival New Orleans Sunday, but only one of those victories has come against a team with a current winning record. They strain against the yoke of history and all those other promising seasons turned to ash in the playoffs.

These flaws have been well documented by media attempting to figure out the Falcons place in the cosmos. Are they are a bona fide Super Bowl contender or just another cruel tease?

One national radio host compared his feelings for the Falcons to those for Ben Affleck. One has lost all three playoff games under the Mike Smith/Ryan regime. The other made “Gigli.” No matter how many good works either has done since, those kind of mistakes are difficult to wash away.

“The national media starts saying things like that and people locally hear it and follow along,” said Dave Archer, the former Falcons quarterback turned radio analyst.

And more than that, there is the wariness and weariness that naturally comes with being an Atlanta fan. If some followers are slow to give their whole heart to the Falcons, it is because the franchise is paying in part for the sins of its own past, as well as those of other Atlanta teams that have foundered in the end.

Why will these Falcons be different from the 13-3 team of 2010, which compiled the NFL’s best record then lost at home to Green Bay in the playoffs?

What makes this team different from last year’s, the one routed 24-2 by the Giants in the postseason?

Here are the Falcons in the midst of their best first half ever and, as running back Michael Turner realizes, “(Winning a playoff game) is what everyone is waiting on us to do.”

The far-flung fans are weighing the present against the past and trying to decide just how much passion they dare invest in this version of the team.

After last season’s humbling playoff loss to the Giants — the Falcons mustering only a safety — Atlanta’s Kimberly Johnson renewed her season tickets, but vowed to buy no more team merchandise until it won at least one postseason game.

“This has been very hard for me, but I have full faith that I’ll get to buy some new gear in January,” she said. She covets a new Ryan jersey.

The Falcons success has set a stew pot of attitudes on simmer out there.

Some choose to live in the now.

“Yes, I have bought into the current Falcons,” said John Loconto of Sandy Springs. “Yes, I am somewhat hesitant about expecting too much, but I have learned to enjoy the moment and savor each victory.”

Some are unwavering.

“I believe you can’t be an off and on fan. Falcons, I have your back no matter what,” said David Sikes of Clarkesville.

Others are plain demanding.

“I love my team and will root for a win every game, but show me the postseason victories,” said Darryl Millard of Acworth.

The search for hope is on again. Pate, the Falcons expat living in California, found some again in the innocence of a child.

“My son’s optimism about our chances has begun to weaken my time-worn doubt,” he said. “Maybe this is the year.”

http://www.ajc.com/news/sports/football/falcons-fans-put-hearts-on-line-again/nS245/

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Pretty much covered the gamut of Falcon fan feelings there.

I think at some point - I've had every one of those feelings.

I'm excited this year - and scared. I'm hopeful and fearful. I'm enjoying the crap out of the season so far though - and my hope is building and the fear is staying just below the surface.

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Pretty much covered the gamut of Falcon fan feelings there.

I think at some point - I've had every one of those feelings.

I'm excited this year - and scared. I'm hopeful and fearful. I'm enjoying the crap out of the season so far though - and my hope is building and the fear is staying just below the surface.

Amen! For many die-hard long-term Falcons fan, the ride has been like an emotional roller coaster. I've gone from agony to ecstasy, and everything in between.

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what a great article......I do pretty well with just being excited right now, and enjoying the ride.....

I don't have to worry about whether we win a playoff game or not to enjoy being 8-0 for the first time ever....

I have been a fan since the 78 season and have been through all of the ups and downs since, for me that history makes it easier to just enjoy this week/month and deal with january when it happens

I will say that I personally see something different in this team than ever before.....but then again I am a fan and want my team to be superbowl champions.....maybe I see what I wanna see....but....8-0 is a f*ckload of fun!!!!!!

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I'm past the whole playoff win thing. I've seen this team win playoff games. I will appreciate a winning season with or without playoff win. However, nothing short of a championship will satisfy me. If we lose the first playoff game, or the Superbowl, it is pretty much the same to me. We've won playoff games...I've checked that one off my list. On to bigger fish!

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When the Falcons stunk, I just wanted them to win more games so I could enjoy being a fan. Mission accomplished.

Now that they don't stink and they win half or more of their games every season, I look at the season in two parts. Kind of like international soccer, where you play games all the dang time, and watching your team win is great fun, but all that really matters during that time is that your team wins enough to qualify for the World Cup. The tournament.

As of today, the Falcons are guaranteed to be at least 8-8. Period. I've enjoyed the games. Very nice. But now that we don't stink, what matters is the Super Bowl tournament that begins in January.

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I died a little when the Cowboys beat the (Steve) Bartkowski-led team in 1980 (playoffs) but Ive been a loyal and cynical fan ever since he said.

I was at that game, and remember it like it was yesterday. Heart-breaking loss to watch Dallas get 3 TDs in the 4th quarter to win the playoff game by 3 points. That 1980 Falcons team was one of the best, and had a real shot at a Super Bowl win when the playoffs began. The Offense was loaded with talent: Bartkowski at QB, William Andrews and Cain at RBs, the Alfreds at WR: Jenkins and Jackson, as well as, Wallace Francis, Junior Miller at TE, with Thielemann, Van Note, and Kenn on the OL. The Defense was a 3-4 with outstanding LBs: Joel (pronounced Joe L) Williams , Buddy Curry, Kaptain Krazy Kuykendal, and Al Richardson. The Safeties were solid: Pridemore and Glazebrook. About the only weakness of that team was at CB: Lawrence and Johnson. I believe it was Rolland Lawrence that gave up each of those three 4th quarter TD passes in that Dallas game. I also remember that it was bitterly cold that afternoon/evening, especially when the sun went down.

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I'm so tired of every article I read saying the same tired crap. We have won in the post season before. We've had few bad outs lately but seriously get over it. Every year is a new dynamic. It has been a fun year so far and I'm going to enjoy being the best team in the league while it lasts. None of us are guaranteed another day of life so please enjoy what we have in this very moment.

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I'm so tired of every article I read saying the same tired crap. We have won in the post season before. We've had few bad outs lately but seriously get over it. Every year is a new dynamic. It has been a fun year so far and I'm going to enjoy being the best team in the league while it lasts. None of us are guaranteed another day of life so please enjoy what we have in this very moment.

Amen!

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Isn't the OP's thread prevalent throughout pro sport though I mean I to have riddden the up's n down's of this franchise but I subscribe to the fact if you keep knocking on the door it will eventually open.I just gotta think we need to be a little more optimistic about this Falcon team embrace the fact that yes realistically there is a very good chance we could go all the way.There is evidence to support this as we have learnt from our mistakes,some will say proof is in the pudding but I for one am very optimistic that this is our best shot in the last decade that we are looking very likely.

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