By Doug Gorman
As the Atlanta Falcons prepare to play for the NFC title Sunday afternoon in cold and possibly snowy Philadelphia, many of their fans are being accused of bandwagon jumping.
Columnist, talk shows and internet sites are all having fun at the expense of Atlanta Falcons fans for being so fair-weather in their loyalty to the team.
Those national journalists might as well make fun of me too, because I am also a fair-weathered, bandwagon-jumping fan of the Atlanta Falcons, and I don't apologize for it.
Until Michael Vick arrived on the scene, and until Arthur Blank purchased the team from the Rankin Smith family, I hadn't watched a whole Falcons' game in years. Even when they went to the Super Bowl in 1998, I stayed away, not really paying attention until the playoffs.
Staying away from the Atlanta Falcons made perfect sense. After all, I had been teased by this organization too many times. Every time I thought they were going to have a halfway decent team, they hung me out to dry with several years of losing.
I was not going to spend my hard-earned money to back this team when I knew there was virtually no chance for success. It was almost as if the Smith family didn't care if this organization embarrassed the city.
Staying away from the Atlanta Falcons was just a shrewd business decision. I wasn't about to spend my hard-earned money by buying a ticket to the Falcons' version of professional football, and I had better ways to spend my Sundays than watching them on television.
Now, things are different. Arthur Blank wants his team to succeed, and he will give the organization the resources it needs. Blank had the Midas' touch when it came to turning Home Depot into a successful business, and he is using the same blue print to find success as owner of the Falcons.
Blank has surrounded this organization with great people who share his desire to win. Hiring Jim Mora as head coach was a great move. Bringing in Rich McKay as general manager is going to pay huge dividends.
Atlanta is a different kind of NFL city. Unlike places such as Green Bay, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New England, where fans cheer for those teams becauses their fathers and grandfathers cheered for the team, Atlanta is full of transplants, who grew up rooting for other teams.
It's also a city where college football rules the roost. Long-time sports fans in Georgia will always love their Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets, Tigers, Vols and whatever college team they grew up rooting for, but as fans proved last Saturday in the Georgia Dome, there's also a place for the Falcons' on the Atlanta sports plate.
Even watching the game on television, it was easy to tell the atmosphere inside the Georgia Dome was electric.
Sure, Atlanta beat a team that simply wasn't very good, but it was the most complete victory by the Falcons in years. The Falcons dominated on offense, defense and special teams, and they showed Michael Vick isn't the only talented player on the team.
I'm not sure Atlanta can beat Philadelphia in Sunday's NFL title game, but nothing would surprise me.
Regardless of the outcome of this game, I think the Falcons are going to be contenders for years to come.
This time, I'm going along for the ride.
(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Daily. His column appears on Fridays. He can be e-mailed at email@example.com )