So, I’m cleaning out the laptop and what should reappear but the rough draft of the lead story I was working on the night of Feb. 5, with the Falcons leading New England 28-3 in Super Bowl LI.
As Super Bowls tend to grind on to the brink of newspaper deadlines, it becomes necessary to begin composing ideas on the run, as a theme begins to take form.
Here’s what I was thinking midway through the third quarter (ah, what could have been):
HOUSTON – When after 51 years the Falcons threw off the yoke of irrelevance, when they completed a season of compounding magic and ever-widening wonder, only one question remained.
Never miss a local story.
Who knew it would be this easy?
The soundtrack to the game that would live forever as the Falcons’ crowning moment was never supposed to be a giggle. But there it was Sunday, a Super Bowl laugher. The Falcons took apart the New England Patriots as if their dynasty were made of Legos and won the ultimate game in lordly fashion, (insert score here).
Hello, get me rewrite.
The scramble to recast the Patriots’ epic comeback/Falcons’ epic fail was feverish that night. It was one of those rare nights you wish you had listened to your parents and gotten a real job.
Oh, wait, there’s more from that ghastly game to expunge from the files.
In the event of a Falcons victory, the AJC had compiled a collection of stories from the 2016 season, and was ready to push them out in book form that next day.
There came the order from on high to write a quick forward for such a book, putting in some kind of perspective the mind-blowing thought of the Falcons actually winning a Super Bowl.
Here’s what I wrote, in part. I haven’t the strength to post it all.
The words mock me now:
It took Tolstoy six years to write “War and Peace.” Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in four years. Jonas Salk beat polio in eight.
But certain epic accomplishments, the ones that live on the very fringe of human comprehension – like the Falcons winning a Super Bowl – those take a tad longer.
They were born in 1966, and for too long the Falcons had been a prisoner of their own history. Layer upon layer of losing and small absurdities had been laid down until they all but buried a franchise. Fifty-one seasons, 32 of them losing, a ridiculous streak of no back-to-back winning campaigns through the first four decades of this team’s existence. Victory was an aberration.
Sunday, February 5, 2017 represented a clean break with the slurs of the past. The debacle against Cowboys in the playoffs in the 1980 season. Jerry Rice undressing poor Charles Dimry. Drafting Aundray Bruce. The Eugene Robinson Super Bowl surprise. Dogfighting. Bobby Petrino. All of it. . . .
It was the Braves who delivered Atlanta’s first major title in 1995 and ushered a city rife with sporting self-esteem issues on the first therapeutic steps toward respectability.
Winning a Super Bowl surely takes that process to the next, possibly final, level. The Falcons have done no less than to hoist an entire city upon their shoulders – citizens required to leave all political and philosophical differences behind to join The Brotherhood – and transport them all to a place that for so long had seemed unreal and unreachable. . . .
“Rise Up,” has been the Falcons’ institutional motto, as much a plea as a suggestion.
Consider Atlanta risen.
The only reason I bring any of this up now is to share the act of finally erasing these words. It’s a cathartic exercise. And a symbolically appropriate one here on the week the Falcons open training camp for another season.
Of course, it isn’t as easy to purge memories of that game from the mind. But this is a virtual beginning. Control-A. Delete. There, all gone.
Repeat after me: Control-A. Delete.
Now, on to training camp, moving gingerly on to a new beginning.