HOUSTON -- 51 years is a long time.
51 years ago, my dad was nine years old. Today his hair is all white.
51 years ago, my granddaddy was only a few years older than I am now. Today, his hair is basically gone. But he still makes wooden furniture, takes care of my grandmother and chases after his great-granddaughters.
51 years ago, Tom McCracken was also a young man. But that year, he bought in to the newest show in town. Rankin Smith had paid $8.5 million for an expansion NFL franchise called the Atlanta Falcons. McCracken was in.
"I'm an original season ticket holder," Mr. McCracken told me on Saturday in Houston. "You can't get much more loyal than that."
Nope. Especially with this team and in this city.
It takes a special skill to be a Falcons fan. Or a fan of any professional team in Atlanta. There's not much happiness and not a lot of heartbreaking pain. The teams are never good enough to cut you open.
Pain comes from dramatic failure to match expectations. When you have no expectations, you're never disappointed.
McCracken has only missed three seasons of Falcons football in 51 years. But he has a legit excuse.
"I was there in '66 and then spent three years in service," the 75-year-old said. "I came back and have been a season ticket holder ever since."
There are only a few people like Mr. McCracken. To watch bad football game after bad football game. Year after year.
"It's easy (to be a fan) now as winners," said McCracken. "But in the old Fulton County Stadium there were 15,000 people. It was fun. You had the whole row to yourself."
Alan Satterfield is a little younger than Mr. McCracken, but was there for those craptastic years too.
"I remember when you'd leave two tickets on your car windshield and come back and there were six," said Satterfield.
It's a commitment that's never easy. But it has brought these two men, their families, and thousands of others to Houston for history's sake.
Being a Falcons fan is never easy, but when your team makes it to the Super Bowl, going with them is even harder.
You can't get a ticket under $2,500. Satterfield has brought his family of five to this game.
You do the math. Get a calculator, because an abacus or your fingers won't cut it.
"For everybody involved," said Satterfield, "it's probably north of $30,000 when it's all said and done."
Alan is a CPA. He can count that high.
But if you have the money, numbers here don't matter. The Falcons are in the Super Bowl. I repeat, the Atlanta Falcons are in the Super Bowl.
Satterfield has the money. He loves his family and loves his football team. He wants everyone to share.
"To be here with my family, it's a bucket list thing."
But a few million other Falcons fans will be watching the game back in Atlanta. At a bar, or at a party, or most likely by themselves or with one other loved one.
This game is too serious to screw around with bean dip, appetizers and BBQ. One must be focused. The stakes are too high.
Atlanta and championship don't go together. Oil and water is a more successful mix. It happens for other cities and other people and that's nice. We are polite southerners. We only wish ill-will for New Yorkers and Saints fans.
We accept our fate. It's been ours for so long.
Atlanta is so overlooked, it's never included in the list of most suppressed fan bases.
You'd always hear people talk about Cleveland-anything fans or Cubs fans or anybody else. Never Atlanta.
We aren't even good at losing.
173 seasons of professionals sports season. Baseball, basketball, football, hockey. One title. One championship parade. Thank God for the Braves. But they are also the team that has brought true pain to this city.
Everything else, is just a meaningless season after another.
But not now.
The vibe in Atlanta these last two weeks and here in the Western Rise Up Bureau is "this is our time."
Even the boss man agrees.
"It does from a lot of perspectives," said Arthur Blank.
It's not just football though. Atlanta is hot. Between new stadiums, great food and an award winning TV show of the name, Atlanta has never been hipper or hotter.
I'm getting too worried that we are getting too confident.
This certainly feels different than 1999, the last time we saw this Super Bowl stage.
Maybe it was because the Falcons got lucky that Gary Anderson missed his only kick of the season. Or maybe it was Eugene Robinson's late night urges. Maybe it was because Chris Chandler was the QB.
But no one in Atlanta felt as confident than they do now. Maybe we don't know how to handle it, maybe we haven't felt enough heart break to be more guarded.
Or maybe the Falcons are just that good. Maybe this is truly is Atlanta's time. Matt Ryan just won the MVP award and Morten Andersen is going in the hall of fame.
And yet, there's still the four time world champion Patriots on the other side.
"I'm nervous about the game," said Satterfield. "I've been a Falcons fan too long."
That's the sprit.
But for Falcons fans of all generations, Super Sunday will be something special. Atlanta is ready for a party. Because as popular as the Braves are, no title means more to more people than this one.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta. Can it really happen?
"Probably tears," is how Alan Satterfield -- a grown man -- is expecting to celebrate this title. "That's ok. I'm comfortable."
Alan's son has never seen tears from his old man. This setting will be acceptable.
75-year-old Tom McCracken doesn't seem like the crying type. But this game has a special meaning for him too. Win or lose.
"This is my last-hurrah. I might go with my son to the new dome, but it's too hard at 75. It's time to retire."
Well Mr. McCracken a lot of stars of have walked away with titles. Hopefully you can to.
We might have true heartbreak awaiting us Sunday night. Or maybe, this is truly our time.