Monthly Archives: January 2012

How Falcons Fans Express Disappointment

Corey Peters doesn't like eating it in the playoffs either.

One of the primary reasons that I remain a strong supporter of the Falcons is because they unite a community of family and friends behind a common cause. All of us are cautiously optimistic at the beginning of the season or a game and then we swoon or sigh as a unit.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep focused on a game due to the volume of texts I receive and attempt to respond to during the action. But, it’s also one of my favorite parts of the fan experience.

Here are some of the noteworthy texts (as well as a couple Facebook posts) that I received toward the end of this weekend’s disastrous showing against the New York Football Giants. (Technology-enabled group therapy for birds of a particularly disappointing feather.)

“Equal blame to everyone. Including myself, thinking the falcons could win”

“Props to mocking the dirty birds dance.”

“Offense blew this game. Smitty is an amateur.”

“Why did I let you talk me into watching?”

“At least this will probably seal the fate of mularky.” [Editor’s note: Mularkey wasn’t fired, but rather hired by Jacksonville. Enjoy him, neighbors to the south!”]

“Hold a team to 17 points and we still get embarrassed.” [Ed. note: The Falcons would end up giving up another seven points.]

“We haven’t scored on offense. This is unreal”

via Facebook: “Being a Falcons fan is sorta like waiting for R.E.M. to write another good album.” [Ed. Note: This was by far my favorite comment.]

“I know that there is still time, but Baker hasn’t given up a sack! This is not worse than last year yet only because it is a road game, but its close to surpassing it”

“We’ve quit guys. It’s very embarrassing for our offense. Oh how cute. A reverse on kickoff return”

“At least I don’t have to set aside time next Sunday. Poor tony Gonzalez”

“Tebow is the only football thing I have left to root for now”

“If tebow has a playoff win before Ryan I may have to de-commit from the falcons.” [Ed. note: Tebow would, in fact, notch a playoff victory before Ryan, and in his first try to boot.]

“Heads better roll after this game”

“this is atrocious. I hope Arthur doesn’t stand for this. Smitty looked like he was holding back tears once he realized game was over. str8 embrrassing” [Ed. note: Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he was “angry” with the way his team played.]

“…and for the 153rd time in 154 tries, Atlanta’s franchise in one of the four major sports has to turn its hopes to next season. (must be the fans’ fault.) definitely feeling like a potential falcons’s window for a super bowl closed when matt ryan threw the pick six at the end of the first half of the packer game last january. today was just pathetic.”

“Fans come when you have winning seasons and then they instill this fierce loyalty in their children that carries over generations. Atlanta has a century to go for that process to complete. It’s a good time to start that process.” [Ed. note: This sagacious comment was courtesy of my mom.]


Never Mind the Playoffs … Here’s the Draft Lottery

The Hawks' MVP, from my perspective, is done for the majority of the 2011-2012 season. What does that mean for the Hawks?

Last night, in the first quarter of a game on the road against the Indiana Pacers, Al Horford tore his left pectoral muscle. He’s out for at least three months.

I don’t want to be dramatic, but I’m pretty sure that means the Hawks’ fan base will miss out on watching the team’s annual performance of getting to the second round of the playoffs and bombing out.

Last year, Horford led the team in player efficiency rating. He was second to Josh Smith thus far this year.  Joe Johnson makes more than five and a half million dollars per season than Horford, but I don’t think there’s much of a case to be made that the latter is a bigger cog in any potential Hawks playoff run. (Update, Jan 16: The Hawks one their first two games after the Indiana game where Horford was injured, beating the decidedly non playoff-bound Bobcats and TImberwolves, respectively.) 

I’m drained from another exhausting one-and-done Falcons playoff season. Now I feel like I might not have to waste too much time on the Hawks this year. That said, this may be a boon. Maybe I’ll take up a hobby with my spare time.

With so much money tied up in Johnson, it’s not like the Hawks were going to be able to get the player they need to get over the hump through free agency. Maybe they’ll win the lottery.


Ryan’s Third Time Is no Charm

"How many chances will I need before I win a playoff game? This many!" Matt Ryan in the midst of taking his third playoff strike.

I’m too afraid to tally the number of hours I spent reading ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, listening to NFL-related podcasts, talking heads on TV shows, and former players in online videos; and vacillating between actually going to the Meadowlands in advance of this weekend’s Falcons-Giants game.

I didn’t end up going. That ranks as one of the best decisions of my three decade-plus lifetime. I didn’t show up at Met Life Stadium. Neither did the Falcons offense.

If you spend too much time listening to chit-chat on the NFL network, you have likely noted two main criticisms of the 2011 Falcons: One was that the offense hadn’t settled on its identity between a power running game and the second coming of “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The other was that the defense, while posting more than respectable stats (especially in the second half of the season), was somehow suspect.

I take issue with the latter, which I think was perfectly illustrated by the playoff game. The defense, for my money, played pretty well—lights out, in fact, for a good portion of the afternoon. But, the offense kept sending them back out on the field after just a few plays. The Giants have a lot of weapons. They weren’t going to stay quiet all day. If the offense had come out and established anything resembling a rhythm

The first critique, however, seems totally on point. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey never seemed to figure out the individual talents of the many weapons they had in their point-scoring arsenal. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. Sunday was one of the best examples:

Matt Ryan: He can manage a game. He is intelligent. They say he can’t throw deep, but he seems to do it so infrequently, who really knows whether he can or not? Here’s what he can’t do: extend plays. When the pocket breaks down, Ryan sometimes ventures toward the sidelines, but, either as a result of his wideouts not coming back to the QB or just because he doesn’t throw well or have great field vision while on the run, those plays rarely result in decent yardage gains. Basically, that means, if you want to win games with Matt Ryan throwing 30 times or more a game, he needs to have a nonporous offensive line.

Michael Turner: A power runner. A tubby load. He can’t cut. He barrels forward. He needs to get the legs going before he can be effective. If he encounters a lot of resistance at or behind the line of scrimmage, he ain’t going very far (most of the time). Not ideal in very short yardage situations.

Jason Snelling: Runs with verve and gets his knees up high. Always seems to get a yard or two more than you think, a la the Saints’ Christopher Ivory. Seems like an ideal short yardage back and was solid catching the ball out of the backfield.

Jacquizz Rodgers: I have to admit, I was so much more excited about the Falcons drafting this lil’ spark plug relative to the Julio Jones pick. I see him as a Darren Sproles-type player whose potential is off the charts. But, we didn’t seem to ever use him unless a play had broken into a million pieces. Or we tried to run him in more traditional situations. I can only hope his development was affected by the lockout.

Roddy White: More like Droppy White this year. Roddy had an amazing season last year. This year, his proclamation that the Falcons offense would be the new “Greatest Show on Turf” was second only to Vince Young’s “Dream Team” utterance in terms of its foolishness. Roddy is perfect for out routes and that curl he likes from the slot.

Tony Gonzalez: Big end zone target. Ideal possession receiver for getting between five and 10 yards. Other than Roddy, when he wasn’t being Droppy, Gonzo was the only largely properly utilized part of the Falcons weaponry.

Harry Douglas: The Falcons forgotten man. Some pundits early on said that he would benefit the most from the addition of Julio Jones. He did. For one game, against the Saints in Week 10. He got open multiple times over the middle in the Saints soft zone as the Falcons clawed back and forced that game into overtime. Then he went AWOL. Why not use him as a Welker-type slot receiver? Why not have Roddy run the curl that every DB that plays us looks for, while sending Julio across the middle, and then bombing to Harry deep? Sound too much like Madden? Take a look at the Saints. The Pack. The Pats. The Lions.

Julio Jones: There were times that I thought the Jones pick was more trouble than he was worth. But, if the Falcons keep him beyond his initial contract, I think he’s going to be one of the league’s premier receivers, so I’m ultimately glad he’s around. That said, Mularkey seemed to call plays as though it was he who was responsible for justifying the kid’s existence on the squad. Matty seemed to force throws to him or in his direction when there were plenty of other options, including running the ball.

Frankly, there’s something to the fact that the Falcons only win against a playoff team came when Jones was injured. That’s not to say Jones couldn’t have been better integrated into the offense. It just seemed that Mularkey didn’t know how to create a good mix of run and pass. It seemed like, at times, he was consciously trying to get people touches, spread the ball. But, if there’s anything one notices when watching the Saints or the Pack, the NFC’s two vaunted offenses, they (and their quarterbacks) don’t seem to care who is at the end of their passes or which back is carrying the rock.

That’s an issue of team identity—suppressing individual egos and stressing whatever serves the team is best. That’s taught from the top down. That’s on the coaches—Mularkey, among them.


What Is “Coming Up Small”?

The inspiration for this blog's name comes from a Sports Illustrated article written after the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. (The authors were pleased with that outcome.)

“Coming up small” is what the teams that the authors of this blog love seem to do annually. It’s Ichiro and the 2001 Seattle Mariners tying a Major League Baseball record for 116 regular season wins in … before managing to take only game from the Yankees in the ALCS. It’s the Cleveland Cavaliers swashbuckling through the rest of the NBA enroute to the best record in both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons … and failing to make it to the NBA Finals both seasons. It’s the Atlanta Braves making it to the postseason every year for 14 straight years, beginning in 1991 … and only notching one World Series victory (and that, in the strike-shortened 1995 season).

It’s losing the Sonics to, of all places, Oklahoma City. It’s handing Baltimore a Super Bowl-ready franchise. It’s failing to adequately support not one, but two hockey teams (the Flames and the Thrashers).

The authors of this blog all live in New York City, home to storied franchises, such as the Yankees, Knicks, and Giants. (Yes, there are some less storied franchises here, too.) Yet, they have held steadfastly to the franchises of their youth and suffered perpetually from those teams’ unfailing mediocrity. They hail from the towns, that according to Forbes’ most recent assessment, are the first-, second-, and eighth-most miserable sports cities in the country.

Coming Up Small  is a venue to discuss what it means to be an expat fan, to honor your vestigial loyalties nearly a decade or more after you’ve left the city where you grew up. It’s a site to document the process of trying to teach your newborn son to love teams from a city he’s never known, that don’t get a lot of media coverage in the Northeast, and that don’t have a track record of success. It’s a corner of the web to discuss the mix of pride and shame that comes from going to a sports bars and having people point and say, “Whoa, a Falcons fan!”

This is a blog about being a fan. It’s also a blog about being a fool.