Cycling through the Parks of Atlanta last summer, one thing kept going through my mind, “this place is awesome”.
The weather was perfect, the streets were clean, the bars were cool and the city itself had a very chill atmosphere.
But when I had told people I would be going on vacation there for a week, most people questioned why and asked was there anything to do down there.
Well it turns out there is a lot to do and when you scratch beneath the surface, the city has been instrumental in shaping America’s popular culture over the past decade and a half.
Much of the music I listen to come from artists from Atlanta such as Childish Gambino, Outkast, Luke Brian, Lil Jon, Ludacris, TI and Usher. Many of America’s most popular TV shows such as “Stranger Things”, “The Walking Dead” and “Atlanta” are all filmed in Georgia as well as films like “The Hunger Games” and “Anchorman 2”.
Watching Samuel L Jackson, who went to Morehouse college in Atlanta, dancing during the NFC title game was perfectly demonstrative of the coolness that Atlanta now exudes.
This season the Atlanta Falcons have added to the city’s reputation for innovation and entertainment, as they have torn through their opponents all season to become the number one offence in the league.
Obliterating the Packers 21-44 was a statement by the Falcons that they do mean business and must finally be taken seriously as one of the (if not the) best teams in the league.
Atlanta looked like they were about to go to the Superbowl in 2013 when they led the 49ers by 17 points in the second quarter, but they ended up losing 28-24 in a crushing fashion. The worst thing about that loss was the fact that the next two seasons showed they were no way close to winning the Superbowl, and were in fact one of the worst teams in the league.
In 2015, they decided to hire Dan Quinn as their new head coach after he showed his defensive prowess by leading the Seahawks to two back to back Superbowl appearances as their defensive co-ordinator. Last season they looked promising, winning their first five games, before losing seven of their last eleven games to miss out on the playoffs.
This season Atlanta have grown as a team and their offence has looked unstoppable for most of the season, averaging 33.8 points per game, which is the most in the NFL.
But this team was not put together overnight and it has been a culmination of multiple draft picks that has finally resulted in the complete article that we see in 2017.
In 2011, the Falcons traded up in the draft by giving the Cleveland Browns a total of six draft picks to pick up Julio Jones. Trading up is generally ill-advised as the draft can be something of a lottery and good players in college often turn out to be terrible in the NFL, but Jones is a big exception as he has been one of the best, if not the best wide receiver in the NFL for the past five seasons.
Matt Ryan, who is this year’s regular season MVP, was drafted in an unusual manner. Micheal Vick had been the Falcons QB since 2001 and had electrified the fans with his entertaining mix of a duel rushing and passing attack.
However, Vick failed to cut ties with gangsters he had grown up with and was sent to jail in 2007 after he was convicted of running a dog fighting business that was inflicting unspeakable cruelty to animals.
Ryan was taken with the number three pick in the 2008 draft, and it was unknown if the Atlanta fan base would warm to a more traditional style of QB after they had gotten used to Vicks’ exciting style of play. Ryan soon showed that he was good enough for the job. and led the team to the playoffs in four of his first five seasons.
Ryan was overlooked throughout America just like Atlanta’s movie and music scene was until recently.
Georgia’s government decided to make some technical changes to how business was run in the state in order to help its stars gain a bigger spotlight.
Film studios can get a credit of 30% of the total budget if they spend over half a million dollars, and this has led to firms such as Cinipex to move from LA to Georgia.
In 2015, Georgia hosted 248 Film and television productions which had a $6 billion economic impact on the state according to the Georgia Department of economic development.
The Falcons made similar investments to allow their star players shine. In the 2014 draft the Falcons picked left tackle with the fourth overall pick. Then this offseason they acquired Alex Mack from the Browns through free agency.
Having a good offensive line should always be the number one priority for any team. A good offensive line does two major things for a football team:
- It allows a QB more time to throw to his receiver while also getting hit less by the defence.
- It allows running backs gaps to run through to gain yards.
So if your QB has no time to pass the ball and your running backs have no gaps to run through, your players will never look particularly talented, just like Atlanta’s movie stars couldn’t shine until the film companies started moving there. By improving their offensive line, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones can finally be seen as some of the best players in the game.
Atlanta’s celebrity and sports scene has been interwoven ever since the 1990’s when Deion “Prime-time” Sanders became a one-man self-promotion machine (to give a reference point, he makes Conor McGregor look humble). Sanders played professionally for both the Atlanta Falcons in football and the Atlanta Braves in baseball, while also appearing in rap videos with the likes of MC Hammer and producing his own songs such as “Must Be The Money”.
A win for Atlanta tonight will surely result in some epic celebrations over the next week, and the rest of America might finally realize just how cool the city truly is.