One of the goals of the AJT is to be a unifying force for Jewish Atlanta. That doesn’t mean a community that is monolithic in religious belief, political opinion or social interaction, of course; it means a community that operates as a big family — disagreeing and arguing but always maintaining respect and supporting one another.
It’s a nice dream, and while it’s an ideal we can’t ever achieve, I believe that this newspaper can help our vibrant, innovative community keep inching in that direction.
But not as much as the Falcons, apparently.
Most of Jewish Atlanta isn’t from around here originally, meaning that most of us have connections if not loyalty to non-Atlanta teams. But, judging from conversations, social media, and various friendly, charitable wagers and spirited events arranged by synagogues, the community united behind the Falcons with a passion unmatched for any cause short of Israel under attack — and that might be selling the Rise Up faith short.
Even among those who aren’t football fans, the only people in Jewish Atlanta who seemed immune to Falcons fever were those from New England and those from New Orleans. The Boston crowd couldn’t be blamed for standing by Brady, Belichick and the boys, no matter how shady a path they’ve followed to all those Super Bowl titles.
But those of us with New Orleans roots were driven by something purer than a hometown bandwagon: the hatred of a rival.
I’m a member of Who Dat Nation by birth, which means I have hated the Falcons as long as I can remember.
I remember when the Saints blew a fourth-quarter lead at home against the Falcons while seeking their first-ever playoff win in 1991.
I remember an endless stream of Falcons wins on Hail Mary passes and last-second field goals.
I remember the too-few Saints wins with much less clarity — the Falcons lead the all-time series 51-45 — but there have been sweet moments along the way. Most have involved mistakes by the Dirty Birds, as when Steve Gleeson had his game- and season-defining block of a Michael Koenen punt in the Saints’ first post-Katrina game in the Super Dome in 2006 or when the Falcons failed to convert on a fourth down in overtime in 2011.
The point is that I could never root for the Falcons to win any game, let alone the Super Bowl. So on Sunday, Feb. 5, I found myself at odds with most of the community I’m trying to serve.
I usually can understand the viewpoints of people who disagree with me on politics and other issues, but I can’t put myself in the mind of a Falcons fan. How could anyone root for the Falcons, regardless of where they live or who owns the team?
As editor of the AJT, I should have rooted for the Falcons, who were bringing our community together. As myself, I couldn’t do it, despite Arthur Blank and the charitable bets that would have benefited Atlanta causes. I couldn’t do it even though I find the Patriots deplorable and intolerable.
So, for the first time in more than 30 years, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I missed the biggest comeback and first overtime among the 51 Super Bowls. I missed the commercials and the halftime show. I missed the pleasure of watching the team I hate suffer the most crushing loss imaginable.
But I saw and heard the pain of all the Falcons fans around me the day after the big game. And now that it’s over, I hope we all can agree on one thing: The Patriots should never win the Super Bowl again.