Bell: Falcons' fans need to learn gameday rowdy from United' fans

Mike Bell
July 23, 2018 - 12:48 pm
Atlanta United fans

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After a raucous come-from-behind victory by Atlanta United Saturday I tweeted:

My take elicited a wide range of responses. And I've heard some of the excuses before.

Atlanta has been my home for over 20 years, and I understand the history of letdowns, the transplant culture and the cost of attending Falcons games. Full disclosure... I have no kids and no basic grasp of fiscal responsibility. I have a PSL (Personal Seat License) and season tickets. I love attending NFL games in person, I come to sit in my seat and watch the game. That's kind of a novelty these days.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium was built with an eye to the future. The logic behind all the bells and whistles and creature comforts is you have to make the game day experience worth getting off your couch for. Don't get me wrong I've walked through the AMG private lounge, it rivals any club you'd find in Vegas. But I couldn’t care less about standing three deep behind the Falcons’ bench when the game is going on.

But that's part of today's NFL, catering to the big shots and fat-cat clients of the companies that shelled out a fortune to have that access. But many of those folks are indifferent to the game being played.

Atlanta United games are attended by fans that have grown up playing the sport and salivated for years over the prospect of a pro team of their own. And it is our own. Everyone wearing Five Stripes gear has gotten in on the ground floor.

I'll never forget the night at Compound in Midtown West when Arthur Blank introduced the logo and thousands packed in to the indoor/outdoor club. There were folks lined up down the street for a quarter mile to get in. It was an indication of how ripe this city was for an MLS team.

The passion which is on display at United home games rivals that of college games in the Southeast. Actually, it's better.

The energy in the supporter groups' section is amazing. Marching into The Benz, leading the chants, the Viking clap… it's pure energy that drives the rest of the crowd to stay engaged with the game.

ATL Cast is a Falcons fan support group that in their mission statement declares: They want to make Mercedes-Benz "the most intimidating and feared field of play in the NFL." They are trying to cultivate the kind of fan culture for the Falcons that makes United games the most entertaining and intense sports experience in Atlanta.

Good luck with that, snarky cynics will say.

But I know there are hardcore Falcons fans. We see them at Flowery Branch, watching practice under the sweltering sun. We see them tailgating in The Gulch and off of Northside.

Unfortunately there are many diehards that just can't afford season tickets. Maybe they can attend one or two games a year. It's a shame because The Georgia Dome in 2016 was electric. We really had created a true home-field advantage. Aside from moments like the Packers home-opener on that Sunday night last September with the roof open or the Saints game, we rarely maintain intensity as a home crowd at The Benz.

I have heard the excuses: Soccer games have no time outs, it's a shorter game. And that's true, no one expects a Falcons fan to stand up and cheer for three hours plus, not to mention the TV timeouts and official reviews that suck the energy out of the building. But when it's third-and-long for the Saints, you’d better get your butt out of your seat and make some noise.

That's my biggest beef when comparing a United game to a Falcons game.

How 'bout fans maintaining some situational awareness? Why are you getting up to grab a hot dog when we're in the red zone? Let’s just chalk it up to the ADD culture we're all part of. I'm guilty of it too. But at least I'm checking my fantasy stats during a timeout.

Let’s just assume that nearly 10,000 fans at The Benz are not going to participate in creating an intimidating home-field vibe. Let’s not forget the opposing fans who gain access. Many fans will scalp their big-game tickets (like Cowboys, Giants this year) to recoup their PSL investment. Hey it's a free country and it makes financial sense in most cases.

It's the collateral for asking fans for collateral.

I sold my PSL in Section 120 because I was sick of yelling at opposing fans in the four rows of seats next to me in section 121. Hope I'm surrounded by Falcons fans in 342, the way I'm surrounded by United fans in 208!

For people who love the Falcons like you and me, it's up to us to generate some home-field advantage. So when half the stands are empty behind the bench because some "fans" are busy downstairs ordering Appletinis or some mouth-breathing Cheesehead is hollering in the row in front of you... How about sounding off like you've got a pair!