In a city known for its unlucky and dark days of professional sports, Atlanta may have just experienced the darkest and unluckiest day yet.
After leading by 25 points and having the Atlanta Falcon’s first Super Bowl victory within reach, the Dirty Birds lost Super Bowl LI due to the late game heroics of New England Patriot Tom Brady, who was able to secure the Super Bowl’s first overtime victory.
If that seems like a scant description, it’s about all Falcons fans need to read. Or write.
In the 1960s, Atlanta became home to three major sports franchises as the MLB’s Milwaukee Braves and NBA’s St. Louis Hawks relocated and the NFL offered the city an expansion team in the Falcons.
Since then, the city has a lone championship: the Braves' 1995 World Series.
Sure, there have been other close calls. The Braves made it to the World Series four other times in the '90s and the Falcons played against Hall of Famer John Elway in Super Bowl XXXIII, but none had the excitement and anticipation of this year’s Big Game. Though it is possible the memory has faded.
Don’t let this feel like pity party. Atlanta’s been burned to the ground before. She’ll survive losing a football game.
For two weeks this year after the Falcons trounced the Green Bay Packers 44-21 to win the NFC Championship, the city was electric. Fans flew flags from cars, decorated yards and even temporarily changed the name of businesses in anticipation of the game. That’s passion a loss isn’t going to take away.
With the pain still lingering from the defeat, it’s easy to forget the Falcons' previous two season records of 6-10 and 8-8, that they are a young team or that Dan Quinn brought the team to a place they’d only been once in half a century in his second year as head coach.
Like the city they represent, the Falcons are on the rise.
"Doesn’t mean [the pain is] going to go away, but it does mean I understand what we’re about. I understand what we’re looking for going ahead. That’s why I feel like we’re just kind of getting rolling here. That fires me up too,” Quinn said in his first press conference following the loss, later adding, “The foundation has been built. We're not backing off that one bit.”
It appears his players are already taking notice.
“There’s a lot of good things here,” running back Devonta Freeman said on the team’s social media page. “You might not believe me, but I'm already excited about next year.”
Quarterback Matt Ryan, whose MVP award was a first for the Falcons, shared the sentiment on his own page.
“We came up short last night and my heart hurts for you Atlanta,” he wrote. “Hats off to New England they played a heck of a game. We will adapt, we will overcome, we will #RiseUp again.”
So here is to almost, because in Atlanta, it’s not about how hard or far you fall; it’s about how you Rise Up.