By Anthony Rhoads
I want to like the Atlanta Falcons. I really do.I first became a Falcons fan in 1980. I became Falcons fan after watching a commercial that featured one of the wide receivers catching a touchdown pass. I thought the commercial looked really neat so I became a Falcons fan at the age of 8. It's been proven television can have a negative influence on kids and that was a perfect example of what the tube can do to an impressionable child.
If it hadn't been for that television commercial, I probably would have stayed a Dallas Cowboys fan.
But at the time, I had fun following the Falcons.
The Falcons played like champions the entire season and won the NFC West Division championship with a 12-4 record.
The Falcons had some truly talented players. On offense they had quarterback Steve Bartkowski, running back William Andrews, wide receivers Wallace Francis and Alfred Jenkins, tackle Mike Kenn and center Jeff Van Note. On defense, they had Don Smith at nose tackle, Fulton Kuykendall and Buddy Curry at linebacker and in the secondary, they had Rolland Lawrence and Tom Pridemore.
They seemed destined to go all the way to the Super Bowl.
Do I have to bring up what happened in the playoffs? That 1980 playoff game against the Cowboys still leaves a bad, bad taste in Falcons fans to this very day.
The Falcons experienced one of the worst breakdowns in National Football League history as they led the Cowboys 24-10 in the fourth quarter and 27-17 with just five minutes to play. But the Cowboys mounted a comeback and won the game 30-27.
I have a theory that the 1980 playoff loss to the Cowboys cursed the franchise. If the Falcons had won that game, I think they would have gone to the Super Bowl and won it all. The loss to Dallas deflated the team so bad, they were never able to recover and the effects are still being felt to this day.
Yes, there have been flashes of brilliance here and there. During the Jerry Glanville era, the Falcons made the playoffs once with a 10-6 record. The Falcons were a very entertaining team but again could not maintain any consistency from season to season.
Who can forget the Super Bowl season of 1998? For a Falcons fan, it couldn't get any better than that. It was so fun to see them roll to a 14-2 record and beat the 49ers and Vikings in the playoffs to advance to the Super Bowl. I was disappointed when they lost to Denver but it was nice to see them at least make it to the Super Bowl.
After that season, I thought for sure things would change. The Falcons would surely not revert back to their losing ways. Boy, was I fooled.
The Falcons again couldn't get back-to-back winning seasons.
In the last 38 seasons, the Falcons have had 28 losing seasons. Even the Cardinals haven't been that bad. Granted, the Cardinals are a sorry excuse for a football franchise but at least they posted some back-to-back winning seasons and they won some division titles in the mid to late 1970s.
Even the Saints have had back-to-back winning seasons. Remember how bad the Saints used to be? It seemed like the motto of the Falcons in those days was ?At Least We're Not the Saints.' The Saints were so bad for so long that they didn't even have their first winning season until 1987.
But since then, they have been more competitive than the Falcons.
Are things looking up for the Falcons? I guess. The Falcons have one of the most exciting players in the game right now with quarterback Michael Vick and they did make the playoffs two years ago.
But as the 2004 season is set to begin, I am not very enthused.
I guess I will watch them a little bit on television and I will listen to bits and pieces of their games on the radio but I'm not very excited about the Falcons this year.
Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .