Eagles-Falcons NFC Championship Would Victimize Atlanta
When it comes to horrors involving this 174-year-old city, it would rank somewhere between General Sherman torching the place along the way to the sea and somebody deciding to make "Peachtree" part of the name of another street in town.
Eagles versus Falcons.
For Atlanta's sake, I hope it doesn't happen.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, it likely will happen two Sundays from now at the Georgia Dome, where the winner of that matchup in the NFC Championship Game would reach the Super Bowl, and where a city would embarrass itself worse than any city in the history of sports.
All you need to know is that the Latter Day Church of Michael Vick is alive, well and loud. So, if it is Eagles versus Falcons, you'll see the unprecedented combined with the ridiculous. For the first time, you'll see a stadium, ballpark or arena during a championship game featuring large sections of those in attendance cheering wildly for the hero of the visiting team who used to be the hero of the hosting team.
You'll see those folks wearing either a replica of Vick's Falcons jersey or one of his Eagles jersey.
You'll see them pulling for the Eagles despite the Falcons having a chance to make only their second trip to the Super Bowl since their inception in 1966 after spending the regular season among the elite.
You'll see Falcons executives, players and coaches gritting their teeth while trying to act as if they aren't perturbed by it all.
Mostly, you'll see the rest of the world rubbing its eyes and wondering if Atlanta folks have lost their minds by not knowing (or actually caring) that you're supposed to do everything you can in these situations as citizens to help the players within your city limits move to within a game of winning a world championship.
So much for logic.
It has been replaced in Atlanta by emotion when it comes to anything involving Vick. In fact, courtesy of his charismatic legs and strong left arm, he remains an obsession around here.
How much of an obsession? The local NBC affiliate (WXIA-TV) checked with stores around the Atlanta area that sell sports apparel. Shop owners consistently told the TV station that Vick jerseys out-sell those of the Falcons by outrageous margins.
"(The customers are) looking for No. 7 (merchandise)," said David Klingman to the TV station as the owner of the Pro Image store in nearby Lawrenceville, Ga., "It's Vick or nothing."
Klingman told the TV station that he has been out of Vick's Eagles jersey for two weeks.
"We still have (Falcons Pro Bowl quarterback) Matt Ryan. We still have (Falcons future Hall of Fame tight end) Tony Gonzalez. We still have (Falcons Pro Bowl running back) Michael Turner," said Klingman, who also told the TV station that he sells about six jerseys a week of Falcons stars Roddy White, Ryan and Turner compared to 12 jerseys per week of Vick.
How much of an obsession? Well, my barbershop and my church are both in the heart of Atlanta. With Vick evolving this season into the NFL's MVP not named Tom Brady, there hasn't been a time I've entered either place without encountering a slew of wide-eyed persons talking about No. 7 this and No. 7 that while barely taking a breath.
Such an obsession with Vick has been the case since he began his NFL career with the Falcons in 2001. And such has particularly been the case in Atlanta's famously large African-American community, where many still are overwhelmed by the combination of Vick's flash and distinction as the Falcons' first black quarterback.
Thus the Latter Day Church of Michael Vick and its congregation stayed loyal through his various issues on and off the field that culminated after the 2006 season with his dogfighting mess, an 18-month stay in prison and a return to the league last season with the Eagles.
Remember all of that -- you know, when it comes to the possibility of Eagles versus Falcons for Super Bowl rights. Now remember this: The Latter Day Church of Michael Vick did everything shy of the holy dance when its guy returned to town last season. He was just a backup with the Eagles at the time, but he played. And whenever he did more than blink, there were roars from the Georgia Dome crowd louder than any of the ones directed toward the Falcons.
Strange. Very strange.
No, just very Atlanta, America's worst sports town, especially when it comes to professional sports.
During much of the Braves' record run to 14 consecutive division titles, they couldn't sell out postseason games. In fact, when the Cardinals and the Cubs eliminated the Braves from the playoffs at Turner Field during a couple of those years, the visiting fans were more boisterous and colorful than the local choppers and chanters.
Elsewhere, the Hawks have ranked near the bottom of the NBA in attendance for decades, and despite the Thrashers' rise above mediocrity this season, they are among the worst draws in hockey. They also are threatening to become Atlanta's second NHL team to bolt town.
Plus, instead of Falcons fans, you've had Gritz Blitz fans, Deion Sanders fans, Dirty Bird fans and Vick fans, of course, which means once those fads end, so does the local mania over the Falcons.
A Vick lovefest during the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome would be strange even by Atlanta standards.
For one, it would be strange because the host team usually wins these championship games due to the fanaticism in the stands from the hometown crowd -- especially if the setting involves a dome. With the Latter Day Church of Michael Vick in full voice against the Eagles, the Falcons would lose that advantage.
For another, it would be strange because Vick keeps saying that he is prouder of his present in Philadelphia than his past in Atlanta. He says the best thing to happen to him was getting nabbed by the feds for his dogfighting mess, and then going to prison, and then having the commissioner and the Eagles tell him that his margin of error for another screw up was virtually zero.
Vick even mentioned those things on an Atlanta call-in radio show, but you had local callers telling Vick that he was wrong. That his dogfighting mess was blown out of proportion by the haters in the media. That he shouldn't have gone to prison. That he was a victim of a conspiracy that goes back to the Lincoln assassination or something.
That he still should be with the Falcons.
In other words, members of the Latter Day Church of Michael Vick need to move on.
Vick has -- whether they like it.