On those previous trips, we've come away disappointed because they've come away disappointed. The only charm of those previous three times has been the players; the scoreboard has seemed more of a curse. But we still left those fields in Arizona and New York and, yes, Atlanta, with our hearts singing even as they were stinging. We knew our guys were smart and strong and fast and fun and funny and capable and ready. They were ready.
They are ready again.
This is a roster full of professionals that has spent another season having their credentials questioned. Entertainers who have been told they're more B-List than A-List. Athletes who've been asked to defy science by winning a play-off game during the regular season. Men who've been treated like boys by broadcasters and armchair Twitter-hacks alike.
The underdogs despite their unparalleled record. The narrow favorites despite their bye-week and home-field advantage. The question mark despite their exclamation points.
I don't care how many more press conferences these guys give saying they're not listening to the criticism. I'm no longer moved by quotes that they're focusing on what they can control and ignoring the noise the can't.
If the Atlanta Falcons football team does not have a chip on its collective shoulder, I'll carry a boulder on mine. Like all of its other fans, I will take offense at the constant doubting and the tired discounting. I will add to the mix of pride and loyalty and devotion a healthy dose of "Up Yours, World" to the Rise Up cheer I tweet Sunday morning and pray Sunday afternoon.
Because it's time.
It's time for Matt Ryan to erase the asterisk next to his name, as if he's the Barry Bonds of football and his banned substance is a low QBR come playoff time. It's time for Tony Gonzalez and Mike Peterson and Todd McClure to know what it feels like. It's time for Julio Jones and Thomas DeCoud and William Moore and Asante Samuel to demonstrate the dazzling derring-do of their in-traffic receptions, be they from our quarterback or theirs. It's time for everyone to take note and start spelling names like "Biermann" and "Jacquizz" correctly. It's time for Matt Bryant to give a three-dimensional definition for the word "clutch." It's time for Spoon to use a shovel. It's time to give Harry something to dance about. It's time for Roddy to do Roddy. Show 'em what you've got, what you've got, Roddy.
I wish I could be there in the Dome to add my voice to the chorus of chants and the roar of celebration. I won't be. I'll be sitting on my lucky couch in my lucky spot wearing my lucky red zip-up LL Bean fleece, fingers crossed that my son takes a long nap and my daughter really gets into her coloring book.
To the fans that will be there, I'm putting my faith in you as much as I'm putting my faith in the team. Hoot and holler when we're on defense. Drown out the Seahawks band-wagoners. Introduce Russell Wilson to reality, Marshawn Lynch to Beast Modification, and Golden Tate to rust. Prove to Pete Carroll that cheaters never, ultimately, win.
Then when we're on offense, watch in respectful silence. You should be able to hear the Seahawks' hearts drop as Matt audibles, Julio and Roddy crunch the turf as they run their routes, and the football slices the air to land in one of their hands. Once that ball is caught for a big gain or a touchdown, you jump out of your seat, and you go crazy. I want to feel the good vibrations from my perch in Maine.
When the game is over, hoist the boulder-sized shoulder-chip in the air, smash it to the ground, and do a little dance on it for all the skeptics.
In an interview this fall, Matt Ryan told Coy Wire that one of his motivators is contained in the following quote: "If you want something you've never had, you need to do something you've never done."
I think it's safe to assume Matt wants the playoff victory that has, to date, proven elusive. Hopefully, he's added the secret ingredient to his preparation that will help him keep the offense on the field and marching to the end zone so that the scoreboard reflects a favorable number at the end of four quarters. I trust that he has, and that he will. I also trust that his teammates, on both sides of the ball, are ready to join him in building on their old success to take it to new heights.
Let's help them get there.
Rise Up, Atlanta.
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