Forgive me. You’ve heard this story. When I was in the third grade, my father took me to a baseball game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. It was 1966, the Braves’ first season in Atlanta.
I don’t recall who the Braves were playing, much less the score. I just remember squinting against the sunlight in the direction of the scoreboard, where a message read: “Atlanta is Proud to Have the Falcons.’’
“What’s a falcon?” I wondered.
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In the days before Googling, I asked my dad.
“A bird of prey,’’ he said.
Forgive me again, Lord.
I must pray for this bird of prey.
It may be inappropriate, even somewhat sacrilegious, to be sending you a knee-mail about a football game. But consider this a prayer of biblical proportions. From the book of Ecclesiastes: “To everything there is a season.’’
Maybe this is our season.
The Atlanta Falcons arrived in the National Football League as an expansion team in 1966. That was the same season the Green Bay Packers from the NFL and Kansas City (from the old American Football League) went on to meet in Super Bowl I.
Another expansion team that year — the 1966 Miami Dolphins — wasted no time in making it to their first Super Bowl after just six seasons. They lost, but won on their return trip the next year.
This is only the second Super Bowl show for the Falcons in 51 years. The first one didn’t turn out so well, despite all those “Dirty Bird’’ dances.
We have been in the wilderness longer than Moses.
Although you are not one to argue, God, you could point out the Chicago Cubs had a 108-year drought before winning the World Series last fall.
Atlanta football fans have been waiting only about half that long for a Super Bowl trophy.
Maybe we can plea bargain.
I have been a Falcons fan since I was a tater tot. The Braves came South like a foster child, first from Boston and then by way of Milwaukee. Our Falcons were born and bred in the red clay, just like me.
Granted, they have been birds of wobbly flight. They lost the first nine regular-season games they ever played, setting the tone for generations of underwhelming outcomes. They have had a winning record in only 16 of their 51 seasons.
Sorry about all the statistics, God. Let me cut to the chase.
Maybe there is joy in the struggles. Patience is a virtue. Losing toughens your resolve. Victories are sweeter.
In this game — the one played before and after Lady Gaga and between all those $5 million commercials — we are just a little David with a slingshot taking aim at the New England Patriots, that Goliath to the North.
The Patriots have been to the Super Bowl nine times, more than any other NFL team. Shoot, they’ve been six times in the last 15 years, winning four titles along the way. We’ve been sitting at home.
I’ve lost count of all the hapless Falcons games I saw at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, then watched them tear it down. When they moved over to the Georgia Dome, I had the opportunity to cover the first game ever played there — a preseason contest against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 13, 1998. And now they will tear it down, too.
The Falcons made it to the Super Bowl in their first and last seasons in the Dome — all without a title. A few whimpers, even some glory, but never a championship.
Nowhere is it written the “haves’’ versus the “have-nots” is supposed to balance out. Life is not always fair. Or equal.
But as a young sportswriter, still very wet behind the ears, I once found myself in the visitor’s locker room one Sunday afternoon. The Falcons had miraculously beaten the New Orleans Saints that day, on a play that became known as “Big Ben Right.’’
There were dozens of reporters surrounding Saints quarterback Archie Manning, asking him questions. Then, suddenly, they all peeled away and it was just me and Archie — a man who never won a Super Bowl but had two quarterback sons with a collection of Super Bowl rings.
I gulped. I stammered. I summoned the courage to ask him about losing the game.
“Well,’’ he said. “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s (tail) every day.’’
Only he didn’t use the word “tail.” It was a three-letter word that starts with the first letter of the alphabet and appears numerous times in the Bible. I can’t write it here, though. I can only offer a clue, like a crossword puzzle.
But I have thought about it a lot. We have a quarterback named Matthew and a head coach named Daniel. That has got to be a good sign. And I’m convinced somebody probably begat a Julio somewhere back in the Old Testament.
Rise Up? That sounds heavenly to me. I’m also pretty sure that, if there was an 11th commandment, it would say: “Thou shalt not deflate footballs #TomBrady.’’
God, I know you answer prayers. You listen to mine every day. And, once again, forgive me if you consider dismissing this one.
But I’m going to toss it out there anyway.
I hope both teams score a lot of points. I just pray my team scores at least one more than the other.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism and creative writing at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears Sundays in The Telegraph.