It has only happened once before. The Atlanta Falcons are going to the Super Bowl. Today will see the playing of the fifty-first Super Bowl. And of all the first fifty, the team from our area had only been one time. That year was 1999 at the end of the 1998 season. That game was played in Miami. Of course, today’s game will be in Houston.
Of the 32 teams that make up the National Football League, there are four that have never been in a Super Bowl, the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, the Houston Texans, and the Jacksonville
Jaguars. There are nine other teams that have never won a Super Bowl. Of course, the Falcons are in that number seeking their first win.
For us who grew up before there was a Super Bowl and lived in this area, you may remember we could only watch one team play professional football, Sunday after Sunday afternoon, and that was the Washington Red Skins. There were no major league sports teams in our part of the country. Maybe that is why we tend to be a little more attached to our college teams than most of the country.
I can remember sitting in the then new Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium when it was announced the mascot for the new team would be the “Falcon” and the colors drew from both UGA and Georgia Tech as Red, Black, White, and Gold. The dominant colors from the beginning have been the Red and Black. As a Bull Dawg, I am not surprised.
Maybe a part of the reason so many are excited about the Falcons “Rising Up” and going to the Super Bowl, is that none of the teams in our state were ranked this year. And the other pro teams have struggled.
I can remember that feeling of watching a last minute field goal that gave the Falcons a victory over the Minnesota Viking and suddenly realizing that, for the first time, we were going to the Super Bowl. I also remember that feeling when we lost the Super Bowl. This year the Conference Championship was mostly all Atlanta. I hope whatever drama we are saving to the Super Bowl will see us winning our first Super Bowl Championship.
You only have to attend a Falcon game to realize there are a lot of people living in Atlanta from all over the country. And every visiting team seems to have some locals pulling for them. But most of us tonight will be cheering on our Falcons. In a county divided with three high school teams, and a state with several great football traditions, one of which is called “A Case of Old Fashioned Hate.” We are bordered on two sides by the last two national champions in college football. We have only one pro team playing for a championship and today is most of us are hoping they will “Rise Up”.
Most of the nation will be watching tonight. It is always a very highly rated program. So highly rated that companies will pay five million dollars for a 30-second ad. Many watch the ads more than the game. More people will be late for work tomorrow or miss it all together than any other day of the year. More food is consumed than any holiday other than Thanksgiving.
The Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Cavilers showed the nation that a city that doesn’t have a lot of championships can win one. My hope is that the Falcons will add Atlanta to that list of winners. During our over 50 years of Major League Sports, the Falcons, the Braves, the Hawks, and two NHL teams have one championship, the World Series in which the Brave won in 1995. That one was a part of a streak of fourteen division championships. If you look at the all the seasons that Atlanta teams had competed in major league sports, there has been one crown in 168 seasons.
Get you chips and dips ready, and your beverages on ice. The night has finally come to watch the Falcons try again. Let us cross our fingers and watch “Birds” “Rise Up!”
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.