A $1 billion stadium and $104 million quarterback won’t buy you victory

Falcons fans: our last Super Bowl hope was January 20, 2013

The curse of being young is that you think you’ll be young forever, and then one day you wake up and realize you’re not anymore. That’s a bad day, and sort of what I imagine the Falcons are feeling right now. Recall that last year they beat the best team in football (the Seattle Seahawks) to advance to the NFC championship, only to squander a seventeen-point lead against San Francisco, which stopped the Falcons at the 49ers own ten-yard-line with the game on the line.

So close! So close that Tony Gonzalez, who’d announced earlier in the season he’d be retiring, deferred his plans. He thought what I imagine many of us Falcons fans thought: We were just ten yards—ten yards!—from the Super Bowl, so surely a few tweaks here, a few drafts there (maybe a running back?), and we’ll make it next year.

What the Falcons now know—what all us now know—is that last January 20 was the Falcons’ last, best hope to reach the Super Bowl. Over the summer, Arthur Blank agreed to pay Matt Ryan $104 million over the next five years. Toward the end of that contract Ryan will be playing in a new stadium. But there’s only so much lipstick you can slather on this pig. When the Jets (the JETS???!!!) kicked their last-second field goal last night after marching fifty-five yards completely unencumbered in less than two minutes, it couldn’t have been clearer than if Blank had worn a sandwich board on the sidelines that said “Caveat emptor.”

Yes, the Falcons now guzzle from the same trough that has kept the Atlanta Braves lubricated lo these many years. For Atlanta sports fans, it’s especially cruel, because these teams tease us with flashes of excellence and promise, and then when they lose, as they do every single time without fail or exception, they shake their heads and take responsibility and people like Fredi Gonzalez talk about how it “hurts,” and then they go off to their Caribbean vacations or their road trips on overpriced motorcycles and come back next year spouting the same empty platitudes.

The Bible tells us the truth shall set us free. In that case, I think I see the light: I need a new hobby.