Day 3 of Super Bowl week, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: if this is truly the grandest game in all of sports, with a life unto its own, the city and team representing the NFC this year are the lethal injection.
Atlanta and the Falcons are killing the Super Bowl.
A provincial, close-minded New Englander? You bet I am. Damn proud of it, too. As the Patriots rumbled through a relatively pathetic NFL season — bad Thursday night games, bad playoffs, bad leadership — we here in the northeast corner desperately searched for another team with a combination of clue and cachet. Save for the Seattle Seahawks — whom the Patriots lost to, and at home no less — New England played a dumpster filled with month-old garbage. According to footballoutsiders.com, the Patriots and their suspect defense played the worst collection of offenses assembled on one schedule in six years. Six years. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady could have each downed a bottle of Jack Daniels, snorted coke and abused heroin — at halftime — and still gone 14-2.
The playoffs? The Pats got (snicker) Houston in the first round. Then the Pittsburgh Steelers came in to Foxboro, having gone 2-9 all-time against Brady, and did exactly what they almost always do: play a soft zone. Pretty smart, eh? Brady already had an A on the test, and Pittsburgh still gave him the same questions ahead of time.
But the Super Bowl? The Super Bowl had hope. The Dallas Cowboys and their insufferable fan base would have brought considerable buzz to this week — but they failed. The historic Green Bay Packers would have pitted Aaron Rodgers against Brady — but failed. The gutsy, tough-as-nails Seahawks have stood up to the Patriots and beaten them twice in the last three meetings — but they failed. And the New York Giants — the kryptonite for these Patriots during New England’s dynastic run — partied with Bieber and went poof.
Ultimately that left the Falcons, who have a prolific offense and may yet win this Super Bowl. We’ll see. The Falcons aren’t really the problem. They’re just an unknown until sometime late Sunday night.
No, the issue here is Atlanta, which might be the worst professional sports town in America. Seriously. Is there another place in America with teams in at least three of the four major sports that has a sorrier and less inspiring history? Let’s forget that the city couldn’t support hockey. (Atlanta is hardly alone there.) But the Hawks have never won anything. The Falcons have never won anything. And the Braves, for all of the hype, were the closest thing baseball has had to the Buffalo Bills, a perennial playoff team that went belly-up in October.
The Braves won the World Series in 1995. But they should have won more. People in Atlanta were so apathetic during the Braves’ run that they failed to sell out playoff games. Meanwhile, more often than not, the Hawks and Falcons don’t merely fail to win championships, they fail to even play for them. The Hawks have never been to The Finals. In the Falcons’ only other Super Bowl appearance, the most memorable moment came when safety Eugene Robinson was arrested the night before the game for soliciting a prostitute, which is a nice way of saying he got busted for picking up a hooker.
Let’s make something clear: the 2016 Falcons might very well win the Super Bowl. Only heaven knows. But if you’re looking for the traditional week of Super Bowl hype approaching Sunday’s ultimate game, you’re not going to get it this week unless somebody somewhere does or says something stupid. And if the game this week is anything like this NFL season — again, relatively speaking — then the actual Super Bowl is going to go the way of Super Bowl week.
It will be a dud.
And it will live down to the non-existent hype.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.