To those who’ve taken the time to view my twitter handle (@mmledz), confusion sometimes follows. How can I be based in Chicago, but die-hard Falcons fan? And yes, I bleed Cubbie blue. Always have.
I just missed out on the pinnacle for sports fanatics everywhere: experiencing two championships for the teams you root for in the same season. But you aren’t here to hear me talk about the Cubs. The question I often get asked is, “why the Atlanta Falcons?”
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Though I was born and raised in the Chicago area, but the Falcons have been my favorite football team since I was a teenager. In 1989, Deion Sanders was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. The bravado & flash that Deion brought to his game made me pay attention. He was electric! I had to watch.
Along with Deion, I became attached to other defensive players, Scott Case and Jessie Tuggle. Case was the hard hitting safety. Tuggle owned the middle of the field. Little did I realize, years later I’d be rooting for his son Grady Jarrett wearing Falcon colors.
With Mike Kenn & Bill Fralic anchoring the offensive line, quarterback Chris Miller was able to sling the rock. That was the beginning of my love affair. Enter a head coach who brought a little swagger of his own.
The Man In Black
A man dressed in black. No, not Johnny Cash. I’m talking about head coach Jerry Glanville. In addition to being draped in black, let’s not forget about the cowboy boots, riding motorcycles (better than Bobby Petrino), and dropping one liners (like “the NFL stands for Not For Long”). He supposedly left tickets for Elvis at each home game (no word on if they were ever claimed).
Glanville preached an aggressive style of play, and the players bought in. His love of black also brought a uniform change, which drew me in even more. Those black jerseys were transforming, edgy. My starter jacket with the Falcons wordmark and logo across the back was worn with pride.
And don’t forget those Falcon Zubaz! M.C. Hammer rolled with the Falcons. Too Legit Too Quit! With “Bad Moon” Rison, “Neon” Deion, and Michael Haynes “cha-chinging” all over New Orleans in that 1991 wild card victory in the Superdome, I was caught like a bass; hook, line, and sinker!
The Dirty Birds, Vick, and Bad Bobby
In the years since first falling in love with the Falcons, they had many up and downs. Eventually, the “Dirty Bird” era came upon us. Lester Archambeau and Travis Hall did their best impersonation of wrestler Scott Hall after a sack. They were apart of a nasty defensive line that featured Chuck Smith and Cornelius Bennett. Leading the charge was Mr. Dirty Bird himself, Jamal Anderson.
Let’s bring back those team end zone celebrations, Mr. Goodell! And it helped to have kicker Morten Andersen split the uprights to defeat the heavily favored
Randy Moss Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFC Championship game.
A few down seasons graced us Michael Vick, the man who made the NFL football field his personal playground. He was a human video game.
I watched in amazement at some of the feats Vick was able to accomplish on the football field. The Falcons also began to receive national exposure due to his awe inspiring plays.
There was a downturn when Vick had his the off field issues, coupled with the Petrino debacle. But the Falcons rebounded as a franchise on the field with Mike Smith, Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner, Julio Jones, and the D-Block linebacker corp! Sadly, the NFC Championship game in 2012 was as close as that rendition of Falcons came to the ultimate prize.
What’s also been a thrill for me in my Falcons fandom has been passing on my Falcons’ allegiance to my two sons. They enjoy and embrace those sideways looks as much as I do from the locals.
My oldest son is Falcons crazy. His days are spent counting down to kickoff. Despite friendly banter from family and friends, he never waivers on his love for the Falcons.
It’s now Dan Quinn’s time to rise up. The franchise is healthier than it has ever been. Winning is expected. The culture is strong, the roster depth continues to be built, the pieces are in place.
Here go the Birds! Here go the Birds! I’m sure we’ll be hearing plenty of Migos on game days on the way to the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.
I’ll be singing the same tune all the way from Chicago, just as I always have. Here go the Birds!