Ever since I knew when the Falcons would be traveling to Foxborough, Massachusetts, I had the date circled on my calendar: Redemption Day. I wasn’t the only one. Falcons fans all over were excited for the chance to get payback for allowing the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. Then, we got tickets to the game. To say I was excited would be a huge understatement.
When we got on our plane, I was excited to see many fellow Falcons fans. “Rise Up!” cheers were heard emphatically and frequently. However, it’s important to note that there was probably an equal amount of Patriots fans. Yes, in Atlanta. Yes, on our plane.
The smack talking started early and was plentiful. The favorite go-to was the reminder of the score before the big comeback: 28-3. When we stopped at a bar in the train station on the way to the game, the host told us there was a wait. How long? “3 to 28 minutes” he said. Nice. Even though Falcons fans are used to hearing it, it still stings. Which, of course, is why people do it. It’s OK; I was ready for it.
You can’t go to an opponent’s stadium and not expect trash-talk. Some people do it more than others. I actually, weirdly, enjoy it as long as it doesn’t get mean or violent. But when you’re a fan of the visiting team and we win? Oh, that’s the sweetest revenge. And I just knew that the Falcons were going to get up for this game. No way we’re going to lose again, right? Right? Well, this IS the Atlanta Falcons, after all.
When we got to Gillette Stadium, the scene was amazing: Music, lights, fans everywhere, bars, restaurants, a movie theater and a bowling alley, all before you even walk into the stadium. I discovered that the Patriots made flags that featured the score from the Super Bowl — one side had the score before the comeback, the other had the final. This was apparently a big seller. They were everywhere. And here I was, walking in the middle of all this madness with my bright red Vic Beasley jersey. For the most part, the fans were courteous and polite, despite the flags. However, there were quite a few that took it overboard and as luck would have it, we were seated behind one of the worst.
When you’re a visiting fan, cheering for your team is a must. You want to let your team know that they’re not in that hostile territory alone, right? But when you’re surrounded by Pats fans, the scene can get tense pretty quick. The woman in front of us was very much not a fan of us cheering for the Falcons. So much so that she was talking to her daughter, who might have been 9 or 10, quite loudly (to make sure we could hear) about how bad the Falcons sucked and how terrible we were for cheering for them. Oh, and Matt Ryan is a loser. As true as that turns out to be when we play the Pats, it’s still just a football game, right? Besides, the Patriots were winning by a lot. What did she really have to be so upset about? The only thing I can figure is that the Patriots scoring made her angry. And they scored a lot.
Her comments about my wife and me in our Falcons gear got louder and louder. But, like I said, I expected all this so I didn’t give it much attention. That is, until the Pats scored again, which must have really enraged this woman because she turned around and engaged in a highly intelligent conversation about the competition on the field with my wife. Not really, she yelled some expletives then swung, over her daughter’s head, connecting with my wife’s left eye. Luckily, we de-escalated the situation, and the woman was removed from the stadium. All that because her team was winning.
In case you didn’t watch, the Falcons Falconed and the Pats went on to win the game handily. The ridicule I endured as I walked out of the stadium, through the parking lot and to the train was intense. Then, I had to get on the train. Not only was it full of nothing but Pats fans but there was nowhere to sit. So, there I was with my Falcons jersey walking the aisles of this over-stuffed train of Pats fans. Most of them didn’t say anything. They just stared, which was probably worse. Not only did I now have the embarrassment of the Super Bowl loss hanging over my head, but now this failed attempt at redemption. The only thing I can equate it to is how I would probably feel if I showed up to high school in nothing but my underwear.
But we got through it OK. The Gillette Stadium experience was amazing. They put on a great show along with the game. Fireworks, music, the fan experience and everything was fantastic. The Falcons obviously have their own issues to work through. But, hey, that’s sports. You can either enjoy the games win or lose and roll with the punches. Or, you can take it way too seriously, throw some punches and get thrown out, not being able to see your team crush the hopes for redemption. Personally, I’ll have to wait till next week to see if my team can overcome this malady known as ‘Being the Falcons.’