If this Sunday – The Greatest Sunday of the NFL Season – sorted itself out in the same way as monarchies, dog shows and trust funds, the Falcons would be in desperate straits.
Look at the teams left standing. There’s a whole bunch of high-class breeding in the mix.
Green Bay, a team so historic that the “G” on its helmet might be even more important than the one on Georgia’s. Winners of the first two Super Bowls. Keepers of the Lombardi Legend of abusive coaching. The team that got Desmond Howard a Super Bowl MVP award.
Pittsburgh, a timeless classic, like “The Rockford Files.” A franchise that just speaks to a more solid time, back when automobiles were made of steel rather than plastic. The team whose quarterback inspired the greatest Super Bowl quote of all time. Terry Bradshaw “couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a’,” Dallas linebacker Hollywood Henderson said in advance of Super Bowl 13. Bradshaw, however, could quite readily spell “TD.” The Steelers won that one over the Cowboys in 1979, 35-31.
New England, whose recent virtuosity in the postseason has turned an entire culture against it. Listen to Lenny in a recent episode of the Simpsons, railing against a “Boston” team that was a thinly veiled version of the Patriots: “The only way Boston wins is because they cheat! Listening in on our team’s headsets. Fattening our cheerleaders. You know, for three games last year, Boston used a volleyball painted brown!” So good that even the NFL commissioner conspires to bring down the Patriots. Yet they have stubbornly remained viable in an age of rapid change – kind of like the shopping mall.
And the Falcons.
One of these teams is not like the others.
The Falcons definitely are not to the manor born. They possess a postseason pedigree so common that their ancestry.com report is just a laughing emoji. Theirs is the kind of family tree that usually includes a few uncomfortably close cousins and an uncle you don’t talk about.
Those other three finalists have between them 20 Super Bowl appearances and 13 titles. You may remember the Falcons lone Super Bowl, in 1999. It was the one in which their safety was given the Bart Starr Award for high moral character a few hours before being arrested for solicitation. On the day before the game.
But you know what the best thing is about sport? It’s not anything like monarchies, dog shows or trust funds.
We are dealing here with the ultimate democracy of the game. The absolute truth of the scoreboard. It’s not about your past glories or the championship traits loosely tied to your DNA. It is all about showing up that one day and accepting nothing less than a championship.
Take heart that in this realm sooner or later even the mutts can have their day.