Whether you’re pre-/post-gaming down in The Gulch or mobbing with your crew along Northside Dr, you WILL inevitably run into a few clichéd tailgaters whenever the Falcons are playing at home. As they wrap up the season and prepare to move from the Georgia Dome into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it’s a good time to remember that among the Falcons’ most fervent supporters there is a particular class of titans (no, not those chumps from Nashville) who deserve to be identified, celebrated, and yes, laughed at, in love.
This person has the Falcons logos on every single thing surrounding him. He’s not just wearing a jersey -- he is the existential essence of a jersey. His face is painted in red, white, and black. So is his hair, his socks, car, his wife, his children, his dog, and places you dare not imagine. He wants so badly to be challenged for his crown, but he believes that no worthy competitor is coming, although he does remember that jerk who actually brought a Falcons-painted falcon a few years ago, making him bitterly jealous and feeling insecure, as well as incomplete and utterly heartbroken. The evangelist lives to tell the story now, and he feels an obligation to spread the gospel and turn us all into believers. We tolerate him because who knows -- maybe God really is a falcon!
The Corporate Sponsor™
This person is only stuck outside with the rest of us because he or she approved a check from her company, sponsoring something that will benefit the kids and provide some frivolous tchotchkes for whoever is willing to stop by the booth and hear about all the great ways [INSERT GENERIC LOCAL CORPORATION’S NAME HERE] is helping the community. FYI, this person only knows that the Falcons play football but has no knowledge about the team or game beyond that. They only know the warm and sterilized surroundings of one of the stadium’s suites. Yes, they did sanitize their hands after shaking yours. But hey, at least you got a free frisbee!
If there’s any evidence of goodness in the world, it is that there are people who are closing in on being centenarians who demand to be walked or wheeled into the fray outside the stadium with the rest of Atlanta humanity. They were there when the Falcons franchise began in 1965, and have believed ever since that they’d one day see the team win it all. They’ve already paid the license fee for a season seat at the new stadium, personally called Michael Vick to tell him how disappointed they were, and are determined not to die until we’re back in the Super Bowl.
The Grill Master
Obviously you can’t properly gate that proverbial tail without a grill. But this person takes it so seriously it’s no longer fun. A smile is never cracked, and eye contact is avoided at all costs. Seriously, this dude notices nothing other than the rack of ribs he's been working on for the past two days (seriously, he’s been standing there since Friday night), and nobody’s heard a word from him or seen him taste his own damn food. He has basically setup a mobile war room, including grills from Weber, Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg, and some big smoking rig that was probably handmade by a tribe of indigenous people only anthropology majors have heard of. But damn -- have you tasted this dude’s ribs? And holy shit; did he really just grill foie gras?!? Is that... no... WHO GRILLS WATER?!
The Matt Ryan Groupie
This person does not care about the Falcons, but they LOVE Matt Ryan, for better or worse. Remember that time(s) last season when he threw that interception in the fourth quarter? This person does too. But unlike you, they knew that it wasn’t Matt’s fault, because they were right there the previous night, getting their lurk on outside his favorite sushi restaurant and could smell the botulism from the other side of the window. Sure he might overthrow Julio by 15 yards, but maybe Julio should run a little faster, YOU EVER THINK OF THAT?? This is the girl or guy who only chants “We’re No. 2!” at games. They are the reason his Wikipedia page is so well-manicured. They send him lavender v-necks, purchase everything sold at MattyIce.com, and they only drink Natty Ice in the tailgate lot, because there is no other beer.
This guy will fight you in a heartbeat for hating on the Falcons, especially if they lose. He’s jacked to the nipples on the Mountain Dew version of Red Bull, which you didn’t even know existed, and he ate an entire (raw) deer by himself for breakfast, which he killed using only a headlock. He’s always got a weird look of satisfaction on his face when a player from the other team takes a hard hit, and it gets even weirder when he starts looking around at people within striking distance. We give him all the space he needs, not even noticing all those death-metal roars he keeps releasing into the ether, but we can’t look away from the size of his calves. He scares us. But we’re glad he’s on our side.
The Competitive Drinker
He lives for the weekend. At UGA, he was no scholar, but he was a legend. He’ll beat you in beer pong, flip cup, a horse race... you name it, he’ll play it. If you could somehow fill the Georgia Dome with nondescript light beer and connect a straw, he could drink the whole thing and still somehow make it into work Monday morning at 8. He’s broken unofficial records around the parking lot. He might be you. Cheers to your liver.
The Saints Fan
Though you might have to walk around to find her, it’s not like she’d try to hide if you told her Falcons fans had blood in their eyes (she would probably level a sick burn about why Falcons have trouble throwing and catching footballs). The Saints fan is the ultimate Falcons hater, and we hate this person too, but we also love her because she’s only doing what we’d do if we were Saints fans. We’d wanna retain our only reason to be at an NFL game in the first place, because it’s certainly not to cheer on the Saints (LOLOL). You do have to commend her for bravery behind enemy lines. She celebrates all of our failures and mocks each and every victory, but she always has a Crock-Pot full of the best gumbo you’ve ever had. Plus she lives here in Atlanta, so even when they laugh at us for losing, we get the last laugh because ATL beats New Orleans in real life. Well, OK, maybe not always. But still -- screw the Saints.
The Dancing Machine
This guy knows the official dance for every single song that plays in range of his hearing. Whether it’s a fan singalong, something a radio DJ is playing from their remote broadcast setup, or whatever he can pull up on his phone, he has mastered the rhythms of every move in the book. You can’t help but stare and smile in spiritual solidarity when he sees a small jersey-wearing child trying to do the Dab, then yells, “Aw man, that ain’t nothing but The Running Man!” and starts continuously kicking his knees up to his chest with an urgency that lets you know this is all that matters to him. Don’t let him get started cranking that Soulja Boy, or The Bankhead Bounce, the A-Town Stomp, the Gangster Walk, or the Pool Palace. Just be ready to yell “YEEK!” when he hits the final move.
The Human Computer
There’s always that one statistician who knows way too much to be any fun hanging around. He tries to logically out-argue anyone who isn’t prepared with facts and insists on being the on-site ombudsman and arbiter of final judgment in any dispute of Falcons history. He was once cool, back when we all played Joe Montana Football, but then came Madden, and then Fantasy Football, and now he’s just unbearable. What’s worse? He is perpetually single, closing in on turning 50, and instead of reading or watching sitcoms, gets his kicks from watching YouTube-uploaded episodes of Jeopardy when “sports” was the final category. But don’t play yourself -- this is exactly the person you want on speed-dial when you’re in Vegas betting on/against the Falcons, or trying to win back losses on FanDuel and DraftKings. Be a friend. Suggest a single friend you might hook them up with. Tell them she is also looking for some love between the (spread)sheets. Sanitize after shaking his hand.
Yes, your uncle. He’s always there. He always wants to talk about how good you’ve got it, what with you being all young, handsome, eligible, and not-stinky. He loves the Falcons, but he also loves the Patriots, because he’s slimy and has no loyalty to anything but his bowling league. But he did force a vote on naming his bowling league The Falcons, only because he’s a lonely jerk with little more than contrarian rabble-rousing to stimulate his intellect or justify his existence. He always tells you he once peed in the urinal next to Bobby Petrino at The Varsity, and how truly misunderstood that guy really was. He rocks his jersey tucked into his jeans, and he seems to always have a handful of beef jerky handy, though you never quite figure out where he’s pulling it from. He’s still family though. Hug him and move on.
He sells water for $4 and Hawks umbrellas for $40. He still sells tickets to the game in the last quarter, because somebody might be willing to pay up. He will shoot and print a photo of you with equipment tightly strapped to his body. He’s got glow sticks for $3 apiece, which is dumb because it’s daytime. He has Falcons straw hats, even though it’s cold as opposite-hell outside, plus iron-on T-shirts, counterfeit jerseys, “signed” paraphernalia, edible Falcons undergarments, Falcons-flavored electronic hookahs, and even rare copies of a Deion Sanders rap mixtape. Nothing is authentic about him except his money, and even the police don’t have the heart to arrest him, even though he’s quite likely a billionaire. He even sells goods branded with the logos of whatever team the Falcons are playing that day, and accepts credit cards, pesos, and even Bitcoin... Sorry -- no checks.
The Reminiscing Dad
There he is, with his tapered jeans, his detached-but-along-for-the-ride matriarch, and the kids. The whole family is wearing a matching Falcons uniform, and they’re sporting a smile that would look lovely on camera but is super-creepy in person. Dad is doing what he can to keep the family together, even though his daughter is extensively pierced, his son can’t keep his eyes off all the random tailgate-twerking, and his wife is smiling in a way that suggests she’s covering her real face with a human version of one of those Eyes Wide Shut masks. Dad doesn’t care. He’s bringing the tribe out because that’s America, and he remembers the days when Sundays were all about the most important American traditions: church, drinking, and refereed violence. He believes in wholesome values. Judging by the twinkle in his eye when he looks around at the lot, he would never consider trading a day with the Dirty Birdz.
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