Mike Bell: ‘Be a part of something! Plenty of space here on the Falcons Bandwagon!’

The Falcons have the toughest schedule in the league and what do we do? We start the season 4-1!

Yeah I said “we”. As in we’re all in this together. As in we’re fans of our city’s team. We’re passionate about the Falcons. We’re in it through thick and thin… It’s called being a loyal fan. A novel concept for some.

We put 45 on our arch rival the Saints in New Orleans. We have Matt Ryan throwing for 500 yards against the NFC Champion Panthers one week, then our defense drops 6 sacks on the Super Bowl Champs in Denver the next.

So… Let’s go crazy! Let’s get nuts! Right?

Not in Atlanta. For every fired up phone call from a passionate Falcons fan Monday we get a fan saying he can’t buy in yet because of last season’s collapse?

Or after 50 years of various ineptitudes or letdowns, a guy “can’t allow himself to buy in” to the 2016 Falcons. Why not?

Then we get the Negative Nelly’s texting in about how the Panthers don’t have Josh Norman or how Broncos’ o-line was jacked up?

Am I living in some bizarro world, parallel candy-ass universe? We have one of the most exciting teams in the league!!!

The Atlanta Falcons just beat the 2 teams that played in The Super Bowl in back to back games. And I have to defend them? On a radio show in Atlanta?

Loyal listeners have heard this rant before. Nothing takes me from zero to outrage faster than fence sitters, nay-sayers or transplants who
have no interest in joining the Falcon fan base.

This is America, of course you can root for whoever you want, wherever you want. Nothing wrong with commiserating with some fellow transplants at a Steelers or Packers bar around town.

Heck, millions of people have moved to our city from The Northeast or Midwest over the past three decades. Atlanta like so many cities in The South is filled with transplants.

They may drink sweet tea but they just cant bring themselves to get sweet on the Falcons.

Some transplants may be part of three generations that rooted for the Eagles or Steelers, Giants or Jets. I understand traditions and loyalties tie hard.

Bless your heart.

But lets keep it 100% real … I don’t know about you… but I’m never moving back North. No one is. No transplant reading this is going back to Cleveland or Buffalo or Detroit. You are part of Metro Atlanta. Because you love it here.

Maybe I’m in the minority. But I love rooting for the home team. Why is it so hard for others to buy in?

Maybe because of technology and fantasy football and the high price of tickets and beer some folks just want to stay home. Me, I wanna see it in person.

Some quick background on me as a Football fan. Born and raised a Giants fan in New York, had season tickets in the family dating back to Yankee Stadium days. Went to Super Bowl XXV with my Dad (one of my greatest sports memories).

When a radio job brought me to South Florida I immediately bought Dolphins season tickets. Not that it required much arm twisting. Don Shula was still the Coach and Dan Marino was still in his prime. Then the Jimmy Johnson years, eh… not so good. But the communal vibe of tailgating and hanging with pals kept me coming back.

When I moved to Atlanta in 1998. My buddy Steve brought me in on his tickets. What a season! I went to every home game of that rags to riches run to the Super Bowl. I was on the sideline in Minneapolis when Morten Andersen’s field goal sailed through the uprights in overtime. Later came the Mike Vick years when Falcons games became the hottest ticket in town.

For the past 16 seasons I’ve shared Falcons season tickets with Fireman Ken & Officer Bob, two brothers originally from Long Island, now also loyal Falcons fans.

I still keep an eye on the Giants and Dolphins, with the internet and Sunday Ticket it’s easy to do. But my passion lies with the Falcons.

I bought in and stayed loyal through thick and thin. Yeah even during the Petrino season.

Ya know why? Partly because you can’t drink beer or cheer in the press box. But mostly because the one team that brings everybody together in this town is the Falcons.

Like Section 124 where I sit at The Georgia Dome. We’ve got dudes from inside and outside The Perimeter. We got Black guys, white guys, blue collar & white collar. And tons of female fans too. Since I arrived here in 1998 I’ve always felt a Falcons game was a true mosaic of the city of Atlanta.

So now after a pretty impressive start to the 2016 season why are so many fans still gun shy?

Maybe it’s a generational thing. Younger fans are just too cool to put time in for a team that may take a while to be a title contender. It’s easy to be a front runner and dust off that Cowboys jersey since they’re off to good start.

Has the concept of fan loyalty been eroded by fantasy football? Some fans root for individual players rather than a specific team?

And sure in the 50 plus seasons of Falcons Football there’s been some real clunkers.

Last year I was ready to jump out a window over the mid season collapse.

But I wasn’t going to jump off the bandwagon.

Like my Father told me when I was a kid. Losing builds character. And so does following a losing team. Like the awful Giants and Mets teams we followed in the late 70’s to mid 80’s. (My Dad said rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for the sun to come up, any phony could do it).

Being a loyal fan isn’t supposed to be easy. If it was we’d all be Yankees or Patriots fans.

Being a Falcons fan builds character. And the way our world looks today couldn’t we all use something to get behind. Something that bonds us together in this town?

So leave that Terrible Towel in the attic. Save the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! for when you’re back on Long Island at Christmas listening to all your High School buddies tell ya how miserable they are trying to survive up there.

Plus it sure looks like the worm has turned. Matt Ryan is playing out of his mind. Alex Mack is the bedrock the o-line is anchored to. Kyle Shanahan is looking like the Patriots Josh McDaniels with his week to week adjustments and game plans.

Plus Dan Quinn’s input in the draft has resulted in some young likeable playmaking studs. After last season’s false start you can start to see what fast and physical is supposed to look like.

Yes the defense is giving up too many points but it’s improving. Meanwhile the offense looks like a Madden game on steroids. Even if we fall to Seattle to go 4-2 we’re still in the catbird seat in the NFC South.

Come on Atlanta get off the fence and jump on the Falcon Bandwagon. No one is talking Super Bowl, but we are talking about one hell of fun team to pull for. Be a part of something!

Or just be too cool for school, sit on the fence, take potshots and continue to believe in nothing.

More from Mike Bell

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