A reason to talk about the unspeakable

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There is a word I have not said since Feb. 5 early this year, a topic I have run away from discussing. A reality I have tried to push out of my memory. As football season is descending upon us, I’m having to come to grips with that fact that denial ain’t a river in Egypt.

Many of you have done the same thing. I know it. So I’m going to get things started, because we have to: The Falcons lost the Super Bowl in the worst blown lead loss ever.

It was the biggest punch in the gut I’ve ever encountered in sports. By halftime, I knew we had it won. Then I got a text from my mother asking me if I was taking my boys to the victory parade – what a grandmother thing to do by the way. We’re lost in a lifetime of pent-up exuberant celebration and she’s at home imagining her grandsons at the parade.

Anyway – as soon as I saw that text, that’s when I got worried. Looking back, I’m glad she sent it. It tempered me for what was about to happen.

It pulled me down from the clouds and back on solid ground so I didn’t have as far to fall when everything fell apart. It’s like my mother, who raised her children here, had seen enough Atlanta sports seasons to know that we were setting ourselves up for disappointment.

While others stayed in the clouds, I knowingly watched the Patriots methodically disassemble our hopes and dreams. As soon as the game was over, I gathered my family, walked out of the party we were at and have not mentioned it since.

Well, it’s time to deal with it. And truthfully, I feel better already. I’ve read up on them. We are fully blaming Kyle Shanahan, who is now the head coach of the 49ers. Can’t wait for that game. And now that I’m looking squarely and honestly at the coming season – there is a ton of things to look forward to. We are getting another new stadium folks! C’mon, we are!

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is due to host its first event in two weeks. By now you’ve heard about it: the retractable roof, the world’s largest video board, the 100-yard bar … it’s going to be an incredible venue.

What I’m really getting excited about is what’s going on around the stadium. As you may know, it sits next door to the Georgia Dome. Many of us have wondered what will happen there, and plans have finally been announced.

Renderings were released last week of a new hotel overlooking The Home Depot Backyard, a 13-acre lawn for tailgating that will also host arts and cultural events.

When Arthur Blank first took ownership of the team, you could feel the fresh air and the renewed engagement with the fan-base. We are lucky to have him as our team’s owner.

While he has probably always been a natural dollars-and-sense man, it seems there is no doubt he is in a philanthropic stage of his life. While the Braves built a stadium and a city in Cobb County (closer to most of their season ticket-holders), Blank kept the Falcons intown. And really, in an area of the city with some of the highest crime rates. In seeing what he and others are doing with the City of Refuge (Google it), and with the new stadium plans, he seems bent on reviving the area around the new stadium. The park opens up to the neighborhoods around the old Dome and will serve as something they can use when nothing is going on at the new stadium. The new hotel will have between 800 and 1,000 rooms and will rise up from the southern end of the Georgia World Congress Center. It will for sure provide hundreds of daytime and nighttime customers for new retail and restaurants.

The old Georgia Dome is scheduled to be imploded this November. If ever there was a symbolic event to represent what we want to do with last season’s Super Bowl memory, that would be it.


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