I have been a sports fan since about the age of six. I grew up in Georgia, and became a diehard fan of the two main sports franchises in Atlanta, the Braves and Falcons. I don't count the Hawks, because, well, it's the NBA. The Dominique-Spud-Doc years were fun, but.... Also, I met Tree Rollins in the Macon mall when I was a kid. Let me tell you, he's not called "Tree" because of his extensive root system or coloful foliage.
So, it's been Falcons, Braves or bust for over thirty years now. No wonder I have so many complexes. Let me give you a quick rundown of these teams highlights since 1978 or so:
The Falcons we all set to go to the NFC championship game in 1980 (?). Their defense had spent most of the day pummeling Roger Staubach and the hated Cowboys into submission. Staubach's kids were crying and calling the police to see if anything could be done. Finally, the Falcons knock the quarterback out of the game and in comes rookie Danny White. Two touchdowns later, the Falcons are out of the playoffs.
The Braves start off the 1982 season 13-0. The finish the season losing 19 of 21. The first game of the playoffs (which they made only because another team lost) gets rained out with the Braves winning. The next day the game is started over for some reason. The Braves get swept.
In 1991 the Braves shock everyone by not only being good, but by catching and passing the early nineties answer to the SS, the Dodgers. They seem nondescript now, but trust me: in 1991 the Dodgers were unadulterated evil, like American Idol winners are today. The Braves lost the series in seven games to the Twins, but the future looks bright. They go on to win their division thirteen years in a row. They win one World Series though, and are looked at largely as failures.
The Falcons years of suckitude finally pay off when they draft an honest-to-jeebus future Hall of Famer in Deion Sanders. He is everything he is billed to be (covers receivers like a blanket, tackles like one too). The Falcons make the playoffs a couple times in there, but nothing comes of it. Deion flees to greener pastures for lots more money. The Falcons sink back into the mire.
In 1998 the Falcons make the NFC Championship game against Randy Moss and the Vikings. Every Green Bay fan I know is in my apartment rooting on Atlanta in a game they were supposed to lose by thirty-two touchdowns (despite being 14-2 going into the game: Vegas understands the Falcons). Doesn't matter. The Falcons pull the upset in overtime. The Falcons are dancing, the Vikings are crying, and the parking lot of the Twinkie Dome is littered with thousands of those annoying car window flags that every car in Minnesota was legally required to display in 1998. On the the Superbowl -- where Eugene Robinson gets arrested for soliciting an undercover cop the night before the game. Whew -- I almost rooted for a championship team there for a minute.
And here we are today. The Braves are good-but-not-good-enough. The Falcons have followed up their great 2008 season by having to win against Tampa Bay today to finish 9-7. If it happens, it would be the first time in the history of the team that they have winning records in consecutive seasons.
At least the Hawks are pretty good.
Updated at 3:36 PM: They did it! 20-10 over the Buccaneers, in 2010 no less. A single ray of heavily filtered sunshine on the cesspool of Atlanta fandom. Feel the excitement!