A Fan Without A Home
Where does someone turn?
On October 13th after Atlanta suffered a narrow one-point loss at Arizona, I angrily went to Twitter proclaiming that I, for the second time in my life, am putting my NFL Fandom up for Free Agency.
Now as we sit a week away from crowning a champion and starting a new season, I am ready to start the process of finding a new team to support. But first, let’s explain how I got to this point.
Growing up in Wyoming in the mid-80’s, there wasn’t a lot of NFL exposure. There was no Thursday Night Football, or even Sunday Night Football. We didn’t have cable yet, so I didn’t fully understand the depths of fandom for NFL teams across the country when you had maybe three games a week on TV. So really, my only exposure to the game was highlights that would make the local news, or any of the teams that were good in that span being on terrestrial TV.
If you were an NFL fan there, it was most likely the Denver Broncos as they were the only NFL franchise within 700 miles. I accidently met John Elway as a tyke, he was a jerk, and I decided that day that I would never be a Broncos fan.
In the summer of 1990 my mom and I moved to Oklahoma and around then she somehow became a Packers fan, so I by default followed suit. I began collecting football cards and would build “teams” pairing them up 11 v 11 and holding ficticious games on my bedroom floor based off the stats on the back of the cards and rolling a set of dice I stole from the Yahtzee game box. This is before I knew anything about Strat-O-Matic.
My team was always quarterbacked by Don “The Majik Man” Majkowski, who the previous year set career highs for Completions, Attempts, Passing Yards, and Touchdowns en route to a 10-6 season and a Pro Bowl berth in 1989. We wrecked teams, in my imaginary gridiron on the floor between my bed and my bedroom door, this is where first NFL love blossomed.
The next few seasons were a bit rough, but then came Brett Favre. That offense with Favre, Sterling Sharpe, Edgar Bennett, Marc Chmura, defensive guys like LeRoy Butler, Eugene Robinson, and the goat Reggie White.
Perfection for an impressionable youth. A handful of playoff runs, a pair of Super Bowl appearances, and a title, I was in heaven.
Then as Free Agency really began to expand, Mike Holmgren left, players start recycling out. Gone was the Super Bowl combatants replaced by guys like Dorsey Levens, Antonio Freeman, Donald Driver, Ahmad Green, Nick Barnett, Al Harris, and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. All great Packers, and good players, but not enough to help Favre.
I began to learn that the game owed nothing to its players, coaches, or even its fans.
So often, I began to become growingly frustrated with Packers management as they let so many available free agents slip through their fiscally responsible fingers. Never willing to sell the farm to win now. Refusing to get Favre any help when he was at his peak.
Was this team that I had devoted my youth to abandon me as well? I was married, had a good job. I couldn’t keep being the kid playing with cardboard cutouts and plastic dice on my bedroom floor.
I quit being a fan of the team I grew up with.
So where did I go? Where would I turn to? What qualities and attributes did I need in a team to consider myself a fan of?
I wanted a team that hadn’t had a lot of success before. I wanted a team with a young, explosive quarterback. I wanted a team with an up and coming defense.
Enter my adult, grown up team.
The Atlanta Falcons. In 2006 Atlanta was starting to build something and had all of the characteristics I was looking for in a new team. Only one Super Bowl appearance, and increasingly explosive Michael Vick, and a defense that had some swagger with guys like John Abraham and DeAngelo Hall.
I figured this would be an easy transition.
Then 2007 happened. Vick gets arrested for dogfighting and all of his issues, but I couldn’t leave the party I just got to.
I should have known this would only lead to heartbreak. Vick, Bobby bleepin’ Petrino quitting mid-season, a 4-12 record. I don’t know if anyone would have blamed me or jumping ship.
2008 brought Mike Smith in as coach, rookie QB Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Michael “The Burner” Turner, and an 11-5 season with a playoff appearance. I felt justified.
What transpired over the next 10+ seasons was nothing short of excruciating. Missing the playoffs five times, wasting the career of Julio Jones, 28-3. I was broken, but steadfast. I let myself buy into the “next year” philosophy.
Then I pulled a Petrino and bolted, October 13th, 2019. Unfollowed the team on every social media outlet, removed the “aggressively large” Falcons decal sticker (as my best friends wife called it) off my SUV. I was done.
So now, for the second time in my 40 years on this planet, am opening up myself for ridicule, shame, and the possibility of pain inflicted by a team, coaches, and players who will never know my name.
So where do I go now? What do I want out of a team? Do I just become a fan of certain players, and not so much the team? It’s a whole new world now, and I feel that almost anything is on the table.
Except being a Cowboys fan, or Patriots.
In fact, the Bills, Jets, Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Bears, Lions, Vikings, Broncos, Bengals (although they are the closest team to me, have the #1 pick, etc.), Steelers, Saints, Dolphins, and the Packers can also politely step aside.
On the last episode of Three Point Stance Magazine, I told my co-host and business partner Jeff Lyons that I will have a team in place by the start of the 2020 season. I am going to see how Free Agency and the NFL Draft go before I swing my fate to a new franchise.
So who is in the running? I have the remaining 14 teams grouped below.
Teams that have a legit shot before the Draft and Free Agency begin:
Seattle: Respect the hell out of what that franchise has done in the last decade and a half. Top 5 Uniform in the league. Vastly underrated city.
San Francisco: Solid franchise that’s been down on their luck before this year. The People’s Tight End George Kittle. But I run the risk of being considered a bandwaggoner.
Tennessee: 3rd closest team to me. Decent Uniforms. In the running solely on the basis of the Music City Miracle and the legend of Steve McNair.
Kansas City: Explosive offense, respect Andy Reid, fantastic tailgating, also an underrated city. SERIOUSLY running the risk of being considered a bandwaggoner.
LA Rams: McVay is the main reason. Solid Uniforms. Love Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald. But, I don’t know if I could saddle myself with Jared Goff for the foreseeable future.
Arizona: My late sister’s grandparents moved to Glendale in the late 80s, sent me a Phoenix Cardinals shirt that I basically lived in when I was in 1st or 2nd grade. Love Larry Fitzgerald, my guy Kyler Murray is there, and I think that if they get some offensive help, Kliff Kingsbury can do some things there.
Teams that I can be a fan of IF they make changes:
Cleveland: Get rid of OBJ, and you are in the running.
Baltimore: Can’t put my finger on what would sway me, but there needs to be some more weapons for Lamar to throw to.
Houston: Fire Bill O’Brien, Hire Eric Bieniemy, and I am all yours. Although the thought of trading one cursed sports city for another is troublesome.
Indianapolis: 2nd closest team to me. Get some offensive playmakers, and maybe an alternate jersey, I can be swayed.
Jaguars: Do something. Anything. I don’t have a reason to hate you, but I’d like a reason to like you.
LA Chargers: Best uniforms in the game. Ditch Philip Rivers and I am yours.
Las Vegas: I mean, it’s Vegas…. But it’s also the Raiders. Once Gruden and Carr are gone, I could see this being a thing.
Carolina: Curious to see what they do in the Draft, Free Agency, and what they do with Cam Newton. I really like Matt Rhule, Joe Brady as OC, but man, it would be tough to stay in the division.
Tampa Bay: Very similar to Carolina. Love Bruce Arians, think Byron Leftwich is going to be a star as a play caller, but if they stay with Jameis, woof.
And finally, Atlanta. Like an ex-girlfriend, she goes and starts winning as soon as you leave. They went 6-4 after I announced my departure, including a 6-2 run after the bye week. I don’t know if there is anything they could do this offseason that would make me want to come back, but it felt nice to see them finally put some things together eventually.
Deep down though, I feel as if that ship has sailed. Maybe I am the curse.
I need to move on Atlanta, it’s not you, it’s me and I am ready to swipe right on a new love to break my heart for the next decade or so.