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Barry Hirstius

After Super Bowl CHOKE JOB, Saints-Falcons Fan Rivalry Heats Up

28 to 3. If you're a fan of the New Orleans Saints, then you know exactly what those numbers imply. However, if you happen to be a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, then you also know what the numbers 28 to 3 happen to imply as well.

But for many people besides Saints and Falcons fans , the numbers 28 to 3 simply comes down to one's perspective.

For fans of the New England Patriots for example, they represent the joy and exhilaration of winning a World Championship, after overcoming the greatest of odds by making an unprecedented comeback from a 25-point deficit with 2:12 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter of Super Bowl 51.

And for at least 29 other teams throughout the National Football League, the numbers 28 to 3 are a symbol that the team whom essentially has been the sport of Pro Football's one true "dynasty" of the past nearly 20 years, has once again managed to get their grubby little hands on yet another Lombardi Trophy.

Photo courtesy of The Sporting News

Again, it's all about perspective.

Nevertheless, 28 to 3 has evolved into much, much more for the previously mentioned Saints and Falcons fan-bases. In fact, it's become the source of a new level of hatred between the two hated and despised arch-rivals, that may be unparalleled in the rivalry's nearly 50-year history.

Clearly, 28 to 3 has now become one of the "watershed" moments of the two teams' hatred for one another that has spanned not only decades in passage of time, but even whole generations of fans --- fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and even Grandparents and their Grandchildren --- on both sides.

Watershed moments such as the 62 to 7 'beat down' of the Saints by the Falcons at their home inside the old Tulane Stadium (I was there in attendance as a small boy), back in 1973. As the much older Saints fans who attended games in that era will recall, it was a game in which the visiting Atlanta squad blatantly "ran up the score".

And then of course, who could ever forget "Big Ben".

Some of the persons well-versed in the rivalry's long history will quickly tell you that it's the events of November 12th, 1978 (I was there in attendance for that one, as well), that would really set the tone of the rivalry from that point going forward, to the status of the relationship between the teams and their fans, of the modern day in 2017.

No one game in the rivalry's existence had as big of an impact, that the "Big Ben" game had.

"Big Ben" was much more than a 'fluke' play ("Big Ben Right" was the actual terminology used by the Falcons coaching staff, for their 'Hail Mary' pass formation) that helped the Falcons walk away with a stunning and miraculous 20-17 last second victory on that day.

It was significant not only to the two teams' ultimate success (or failure) on the field that season, but it also signaled a new level of acrimony in the relationship between the respective fan-bases; which quickly escalated into incidents of violence within the concourses of the Superdome that day following the game's conclusion --- sparking a new level of dislike and even hatred between the two "sides" that would last for decades.

However, now with the arrival of this latest watershed moment of 28 to 3, the 'state of hate' could potentially reach a new level of discourse unseen in the rivalry's storied past.

For Saints fans, 28 to 3 is a way to "stick it" to Falcons fans, as a way to constantly remind them of the fact that they managed to squander a 25 point lead in Super Bowl 51 just a few short months ago, with 2 minutes and 12 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Long story short: the Falcons were only 17 minutes away from winning their first ever World Championship in their team's 52-year history --- but instead will now go down in NFL and Professional Sports history as having committed the BIGGEST "CHOKE JOB" EVER.

For Falcons fans, it's a constant reminder of the agony they experienced, while watching their team lose a game that they should have -- by all accounts -- won with virtual ease. And not just any game mind you, but the Super Bowl itself.

But to have their faces "rubbed in it" by Saints fans, their long-rime hated arch-rivals, has now triggered a new level of animosity between the fan-bases that's been exaggerated through the mediums and means of Social Media.

Saints fans now have the ultimate "bragging rights" thanks to the Falcons' collapse of monumental proportions, despite the fact that the Falcons currently lead the All-Time series between themselves and the Saints in the 96 times that they've played each other dating back to 1967, by a tally of 51-45.

But the ultimate "measuring stick" of success for any NFL franchise is the amount of World Championships won; and a look at the current Super Bowl win-loss records shows: New Orleans 1-0, Atlanta 0-2 (the Falcons lost their previous Super Bowl back in 1999, when they were thrashed by John Elway and the Denver Broncos following the 1998 season).

As a result, Falcons fans have resorted to throwing a variety of "insults" back at Saints fans, in order to retaliate in kind for the 28 to 3 insults.

Among them: reminding Saints fans that they've finished 7-9 for the last 3 seasons, the Bountygate controversy from 2012, or even a topic considered "off-limits" by Saints fans: the devastation of New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina nearly 12 years ago.

However, as Saints fans have been quick to point out: no single insult used by a Falcons fan in retaliation against a Saints fan, can equal or surpass the stigma of blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.

If nothing else, Falcons fans' attempts to deflect from the 28 to 3 stigma, even borders on the downright comical.

Case in point: their never-ending narrative from Falcons fans that the NFL literally "gave" the Saints a win in their only Super Bowl, by somehow managing to convince the Indianapolis Colts and their QB at the time, the ultra-competitive Peyton Manning, to PURPOSELY LOSE to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV (and yes, I know that sounds incredibly far-fetched and approaches stupidity).

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Falcons fans' conspiracy theory that the NFL simply decided to hand over or "give" the Saints a Super Bowl win following that 2009 season just might be the most ridiculous thing that you will ever hear used in an argument.

If that were the actual case, why then did the NFL wait 3 more years to do it, when they simply could have done it after the 2006 season?

2006 was the year right after Katrina, the first season under then-new head coach Sean Payton and then-new starting QB Drew Brees. The Saints won the NFC South division title that year with a 10-6 record, and advanced to the NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears.

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Bears, 2006

If there really was some "conspiracy" at hand, would the League have let the Bears blow out the Saints in the NFC Championship Game that day? Wouldn't they have "given" the Saints the win so that they could then go on to win the Super Bowl after just one year removed from Katrina?

Obviously there isn't a whole lot of forethought or logic that's used in such a ridiculous statement, although it probably isn't all that far-fetched to say that Falcons fans at this moment don't possess the capability to use either one even if they wanted to.

Which is because quite simply that the 28 to 3 issue is DRIVING THEM CRAZY.

And with Saints fans already planning to wear 28 to 3 t-shirts printed up purposely to antagonize Falcons fans even further via Social Media and specifically for when the Saints play the Falcons IN Atlanta inside their new stadium on December 10th, it only promises to get the rivalry "stirred up" even further.

The rivalry between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons fan-bases has always been a contentious one.

There's been plenty of 'hate' to go around for supporters on both sides now for many, many years.

But thanks to the arrival of a few months ago of the 28 to 3 punchline and the BIGGEST CHOKE-JOB in Professional Sports history, the rivalry between Saints fans and Falcons fans will be heating up this Summer --- and it's going to get even hotter than its ever been, once the 2017 season finally rolls around.......

Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 50-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports editor and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of Sports Talk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, attended games at the old Tulane Stadium and grew up as a long-time Saints fan; following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......


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