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What is being called the best Super Bowl ever in its 51-year history has also been referred to as the worst flop in NFL history. There has been nothing but remorse throughout the city of Atlanta, who watched their team, the Falcons, mismanage a controlling 25-point-lead late in the third quarter that ultimately cost them Super Bowl 51 to the New England Patriots.

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To most people, this was just another Super Bowl. But to those real die hard Atlantans, this meant so much more for the city. It was a chance for their team to triumph in professional sports: something they have waited for since 1999 when Jamal Anderson and the Dirty Birds came two touchdowns short in Super Bowl 33 against the Hall of Fame Quarterback John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

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A game where the Atlanta Falcons were seen as the “underdog.” And as predicted by sports analyst, they were correct, which confirmed the underdog name as a perfect adjective for the organization. Seems to be a usual thing to root against this team.

For over 20 years, fans have waited and stuck by this city in sports. Even while sitting through some of the worst seasons a team can have, fans never gave up. The grit and style that Atlanta sports franchises bring to the sports world are like no other. At some point, you have to wonder, “What the heck is going on?”

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In a city that has endured sports disappointment after disappointment, how do you continue to love these teams?

“With pride,” replies Stacey Adams, a nine-year-old College Park Ga. native. Not only did she answer my question but she responded with such conviction and confidence about the Falcons. Adams later states, “It’s not the end of the world for the franchise. It’s just the beginning of a dynasty.”

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Those words put a smile on Adams’ father’s broken spirited face. The heartfelt moment resembles how patriotic these fans are. What would a Super Bowl 51 win have done for the city of Atlanta?

Money maybe? Increased team support by fans or just to validate why the team is deserving of a new Georgia Dome with no track record of success. Most importantly, this win would have brought together a city through sports for the first time since 1995. Fans are outraged and broken by this loss. I’ve heard everything from this game was rigged to fans alleging they’ll never trust an Atlanta team again. The little hope this city had was taken and stomped on by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, considered by many as the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time).

So many questions and not enough good answers. Why would anyone not run the ball more than five times while up 21+ points with Freeman in your backfield? What happened to the defense in the second half? Why was Julio Jones only targeted four times during a 60 min game? Was Kyle Shanahan’s mind on his new head coaching job? There is just no explanation for these questions to help ease the pain that is hanging over the city of Atlanta.

The city has become the main topic of every sports joke since the Super Bowl loss.

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This outcome was clearly the one thing the city of Atlanta hoped to avoid. The memes continue to plague the city in what we see is a time of need. But looking to the future this team is young, talented and has shown great resilience through every doubt this season.

After the game, Falcons safety Ricardo Allen reminds us that, “The success is in the struggle and now that we have tasted the struggle, we can only succeed.” A statement that correlates to what 9-year-old Adams stated earlier, “Just the beginning of a dynasty.”

Maybe this was just the trial run for these Falcons. Next year we could see one of the most prolific offenses come back to Super Bowl 52 behind MVP Matt Ryan.

And we shall see.

 

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Henry Clopton, a senior journalism major and speech minor who attends Georgia State University. A native Atlantan with aspirations in becoming a Sports Analyst. Currently, he serves as an ESPN Ambassador, Intern for the 100 Black Men of America, The Male Mentorship Director for the Collegiate 100 of Atlanta and also a member of the Sports Package team for Georgia State University. His favorite quote to live by is “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth” spoken by Muhammed Ali.