ATLANTA — There’s nothing more inspiring than watching a video staring Samuel L. Jackson preaching to the fans about “rising up,” as he’s surrounded by a choir singing “rise up.”
There’s nothing less inspiring than watching the video, looking in the stands and realizing there’s hardly anyone there to heed the man’s and the choir’s words.
But that’s how it was Friday night during the Falcons’ preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs when the stands were less than half-full at kickoff and remained that way well after the starters were pulled after a few series.
Now I know we’re pretty much talking about practice here, and no one really cares about preseason NFL games, but when it comes to supporting a team with high expectations, fans need to show up. They need to treat the Falcons like the rest of the NFL’s elite teams, who practically sell out games whether it’s the regular season or not.
Maybe Falcons fans don’t realize what they have going here. Maybe they don’t realize they have a bright, young quarterback, a Hall of Fame tight end, an All-Pro wide receiver and running back, and a defense ready, and capable, of limiting the success of some of the most potent offenses in the league.
Either that, or maybe they realize that this IS just practice, and the driving time, cost, hassle of attending an 8 p.m. game on a Friday night isn’t worth it. They realize attending regular season games are more important, and “defending the Dome,” only matters when the games count.
It’s hard to argue that point if you’re a fan of a lousy team, like, ah… the Chiefs.
I know it’s tough to take the preseason seriously. Unless you’re a fantasy football geek like me who wants to try to evaluate some players most haven’t heard of, then the preseason is kind of a bore. Starters play a few series, players unlikely to make the roster finish the game, and while there are exciting plays, it’s hard to really get excited about a fourth-string cornerback intercepting a pass from a third-string quarterback.
That’s why I like to think of the preseason like the trailers for blockbuster movies; they show you just enough to make you want to see (or not see) it, they come out weeks in advance to tease you and keep you anxiously awaiting opening night, and they consist a cast of characters who you’re probably are familiar with. And more times than not, they come with a lot of hype, and you never know if the movie will live up to the hype until you see it.
If that’s the comparison, consider this year’s Falcons the “Inception” of the 2010 NFL season.
The first time I saw a trailer for “Inception” I was confused; I had no idea what the movie was about, how good it was or the reasons for all the hype.
I left the Falcons game Friday feeling the same way.
The offense looked great to start its first drive, but stalled in the red zone and was forced to settle for a field goal, the only points of the first half.
The defense looked solid too. They forced and recovered a fumble on the Chiefs first possession and constantly got in the face of quarterback Matt Cassel. But then they allowed running backs Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster to consistently find open space to gain positive yards and at times they looked slow and confused.
The inconsistencies on offense and defense are to be expected in the first preseason game, and although they may be cause for concern, I think the Falcons will be able to iron out those issues once they return to full strength.
Because like the trailers, the Falcons left some players and scenes out during their first preseason game.
Absent from Friday’s game were a slew of players who will be heavily relied on this year like cornerback Dunta Robinson, wide receiver Harry Douglas, linebacker Mike Peterson, running back Jerious Norwood and the top-two draft picks from last year, Peria Jerry and William Moore.
When those guys return, they’ll probably help the organization in its goal of getting the fans to “rise up.”
Maybe by then the fans will rise up and have a reason to show up.
Jonathan Zopf is a sports writer for The Times.