Dr. StrangeBird, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Live with 28-3

By Cory Woodroof

There’s no use in trying to talk about it, trying to make sense with it, trying to come to peace with it, trying to banish it away like an otherworldly monster terrorizing your small town.

The Atlanta Falcons, yes, our guys, blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl to the most hated sports franchise of all time, in front of everybody, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.

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This public display of unbridled embarrassment is kind of like if you diarrhea-pooped your white pants at a big party while trying to do the splits. After a night of impressive dancing and cajoling in front of that one girl you’ve been trying to ask out for ages, you have boom-boomed in your britches in the most ferocious way while in a compromising position, and the sight and stench of this horrid act is now on display for everyone to see.

You’re the dude who crapped himself at that one party, and you’re never going to live it down. You’re the Chocolate Split.

That’s what 28-3 is – it’s a menacingly-funny meme for everyone who doesn’t watch the Falcons every Sunday, a wart on your forehead, the spirit of Nelson Muntz “ha-ha”-ing you at every step. The Tweets, the jokes from your friend from college, the gentle chiding from public announcers (you’re dead to me, Collingsworth! Dead! Do you hear me!).

28-3 is a scar you can’t get rid of. But, you know, dang it, it’s ours. The Super Bowl is a blatant embarrassment and will forever be a defining factor of the franchise, but gracious, it’s something that is ours.

I can’t scrub February 5th from my mind. Neither can you. I was convinced this was it. This was the night the Falcons would pop the balloon that’s seemingly one pace ahead of them in the wind – Charlie Brown would finally kick Lucy’s football.

The first half was a miracle – a full-blown, non-stop miracle. The Falcons absolutely, positively skunked Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on national television. Robert Alford sent Brady flailing into the Houston grass after picking off his pass and taking it back home for seven. That image – the one of Brady starring down the most humiliating moment in his professional career – could have been iconic. It could have been a dad gum statue outside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons – yes, the freaking Falcons – could have been the Giants magnified. Forget David Tyree. The Falcons could have stomped out the Patriots Super Flame before it even got going. New England didn’t even keep it close – they got thrashed, courtesy of Dan Quinn’s Brotherhood of feisty footballers.

Obviously, 28-3. Lucy was always going to pull the football. C’mon, man. We’ve seen this movie.

The second half isn’t worth mentioning. It never is. Outside of Julio Jones making that amazing catch that is now discarded from Super Bowl lore because of that Julian Edelman catch that I’m still unsure didn’t involve some kind of dark science we’re not sure of yet, it was a travesty.

Instead of “The Disorienting,” Marky Mark and the Bostonians celebrated “The Comeback” Thursday night – the obnoxiously improbable 25-point march to evening the score that defied logic. The Falcons so badly bungled their momentum – not helped by Matt Ryan’s headset going out, RB Tevin Coleman and T Ryan Schraeder going down with injuries and an ailing C Alex Mack fading fast into the game, the young defense putting out more snaps during the half than is reasonable and gassing themselves to “E,” the play calling so defiant during a time of situational football, the resurging Patriot-ness likely inspired by Bill Belichick grumbling some dumb thing about doing your job.

The Falcons slowly crapped themselves while doing the split in front of all of us on the world stage, with every sack-fumble, holding call, missed opportunity, miscalled play and Patriot-y Patriot thing yet another partygoer noticing the big, brown stain and grotesque poop-fume searing from the back of our pristine white pantaloons.

28-3. What a dang way to go out.

Throughout the second half, I was hopeful but increasingly nervous, because the Falcons seemed bent on ruining this most wonderful of moments – every encouraging step during the comeback set ablaze by an injury or bone-stinging mistake. My uncle chided me that the Patriots were going to come back and win this thing. My mom would peer in every few minutes to ask me what was happening with Atlanta. But, you know, surely, they weren’t going to blow this.

Lol, Cory, you know the ending.

The ensuing hours that followed involved me leaving my grandmom’s before even saying goodbye to anyone right as the game ended, tearing through her front yard like a love-sick teenager in a John Hughes film, a random drive around my little sub-sect of Nashville to, I don’t know, think, a reassuring call to Mike Aprile to try and process what the heck just happened, slowly-and-surely responding to Tweets and texts making sure I had not dissipated into the air, coming home and venting into the ceiling, and churning out a 2, 000-word column about how it was all going to be okay and that better days were ahead, getting to work the next day and hugging my co-workers like I had just lost a family member, buying a Matt Ryan MVP shirt to have something to commemorate whatever the 2016 was, which I’m still not sure but view it as good and also bad but mainly good and fun but also what in the world but also it’s good and also not but ok I can live with it, decided I would become a Georgia fan and bought a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion and then worked all day and recorded a podcast when I got home, lamenting on holy cow what just happened.

The months ahead would involve cringing every time I heard 28-3, thinking I had finally gotten over it, then figuring out well, no, of course you won’t because it’s impossible to get over something like that, and then, coming to the inevitable conclusion that even I, at one point or another, will laugh at a 28-3 joke, because if we can’t learn to accept, own, and even laugh at, our worst moments, they’ll never leave us alone.

I’ve decided to own 28-3 this season. I’m owning the poopy white pants. Every time someone cracks a joke, shows a Super Bowl highlight reel, tries to slide into my metaphorical DMs with one of those stupid “28-3” box scores that are so original and hilarious, a regular day Mark Twain of graphics, I’m going to slide it on my plate. They’re my disgusting Brussels sprouts. Want a bite?

The Falcons are not a boring franchise. When we lose, we flabbergasting-fail. When we win, we pull out a Speilbergian moment of wonder. There is no middle ground, no slow day at the races, no ham-fisted mediocrity. The Falcons are either going to lift you up as high as the Sun or bury you as deep as those weird sea creatures that lurk at the most bottom of the ocean.

I have no idea how 2017 is going to go. I think they win the Super Bowl next year. I truly do. We went through the worst of collapses. The only logical way for this to end, in my view, is with a dramatic finish in Super Bowl 52 (in Minnesota, the place where all your Falcon-y dreams come true). All the pundits were lazy and picked the Patriots, Packers and Seahawks mainly, which makes me feel better, because early season predictions usually don’t come true anyhow and those ideas are just like dogs returning to their vomit.

If they don’t, it’ll be in another pain-staking agonizing way – it won’t be just because another team was better, or Matt Ryan just wasn’t on that day, or homefield advantage for the other team. No way, no how. They’re either going to rise like the phoenix or go down in flames once again.

So, 28-3. The most recent thing. I own it. I’ll wear a dang shirt. You should too. If we’re going to suffer, why not be proud that it’s *our* burden to bear? The Cardinals don’t get 28-3, nor do the Rams, Chargers, Bills, Bucs or stupid Saints (wearing the shame badge of 7-9 is way more indicative of a team sucking anyway). We get it. 28-3 is ours, in all its shaming, annoying brilliance.

What other football team gets the chance to win a Super Bowl, and promptly bungles it so badly it becomes a life-long running gag?

Even if we win the next 30 Super Bowls, you really think 28-3 is going anywhere?

So, embrace it. Laugh at it. Make it one of our crowning jewels.

We’re the team who blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. Come at me, bro.

Your bizarre pride might lead to your eventual healing. It’s working for me. Maybe you too.

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