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A Falcons Fan’s Lament

Michael Bryan | Friday, August 31, 2007

There are a lot of reasons to be proud to be from Atlanta. Coke, Home Depot, Chick-Fil-A, Hank Aaron, Waffle House? Unfortunately this past summer our city was enveloped in controversy and embarrassed by a star we once embraced – Michael Vick.

When drafted from Virginia Tech in 2001, Michael Vick was a quarterback unlike any the NFL had ever seen. From the day the Falcons traded up to select him with the first pick, Vick was an instant celebrity in Atlanta. I was in attendance at a Braves game a few days after the draft, and I swear the ovation for Michael Vick throwing out the ceremonial first pitch was louder than Chipper Jones’ walk-off homer nine innings later.

We wanted to love Michael Vick, and for the first few seasons of his NFL career we had no reason not to. In his first year starting, Vick led us to the playoffs and beat Brett Farve and the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Even though the Falcons fell to the Eagles in the next round, Michael Vick was the hottest athlete ever to hit Atlanta. The No. 7 jersey was the best-selling of any player in the NFL. I happily unwrapped my jersey Christmas morning and wore it every Sunday of the season.

A season later, Vick signed a huge 10-year contract worth $130 million. The Georgia Dome was sold out every week and had never been so loud – we wanted Michael Vick to be a Falcon for life.

The warning signs began in 2005 with the “Ron Mexico” incident, when Vick was sued for allegedly passing on a Sexually Transmitted Disease. The suit was privately settled out of court, and little was made of the incident in Atlanta. To us, he was still the most talented quarterback in football, and he was our quarterback.

As Vick led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game the following season, we as fans looked past his off-field issue to watch him win. But then last year, the tide turned. While the Falcons struggled and Vick struggled, his relationship with the city and fans grew worse. As losses piled up, Vick gave fans in Atlanta the finger while we booed him going into halftime.

Our former superstar’s demise culminated over the past eight months, ending with the investigation of “Bad Newz” kennels, the indictment, the plea bargain.

It was a tough summer for a Falcons fan because it was the end of Vick’s once-promising career with the team.

His entire career and once bright future have crumbled down before our eyes, all because of some dumb decisions and horrible actions.

If anything, I hope no teams, fans, or cities ever have to deal with players like Michael Vick.

In the mean time, as Michael Vick trades in his jersey for prison garb, I’ll sadly have to make a trade of my own – my No. 7 jersey for the No. 13 of Joey Harrington.