A podium, a trophy and a dance: Georgia Dome closes with an NFC championship

AP Photo/David Goldman

The funny thing about ghosts is they don’t show up when you’re shutting down a stadium that’s only 25 years old. Fortunately, for the Atlanta Falcons, Julio Jones showed up instead.

The Falcons are Super Bowl-bound after a 44-21 shredding of the Green Bay Packers in the final sporting event at the Georgia Dome. The stadium that has hosted Super Bowls, Final Fours and an injured Kerri Strug who performed one of the most incredible feats in Olympics history won’t be around much longer, giving way to a $1.5-billion work of art next door.

For Falcons fans, especially those (raises hand) who endured the lousiest years of the early and late 2000s on either side of the Michael Vick era, and for those who sat in disbelief as Atlanta squandered a 17-0 lead to lose to the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 in the only other NFC Championship game the city has hosted, this was sweet vindication.

An Atlanta stadium got its perfect sendoff, which is so much rarer than it should be – especially with our history of moving out of stadiums relatively soon after they’re built. When the Braves took down the Detroit Tigers 1-0 on Oct. 2 in the final game at Turner Field, I thought to myself, “It really can’t get much better than this.”

Oh, how wrong I was. With no fewer than 10,000 Packers fans – including five on either side of me – in the Dome on Sunday, and the red-hot Aaron Rodgers rolling into town, we had every reason to believe there’d be another chapter added to the city’s long book of sports misery.

Instead, we’re one win away from dusting off the ol’ parade route that hasn’t been used since 1995, when the Braves won the only major sports championship this city has ever seen.

As for Sunday, the event was absolutely perfect. The Falcons packed as many local celebrities into suites as they could, and a handful of Atlanta rappers kept the crowd riled up during halftime, as if a 24-0 lead wasn’t already doing that. Packers fans, who spent upwards of $300 for an upper-deck ticket, largely didn’t stick around to see the fourth quarter, let alone the final whistle.

Usually, it’s the Falcons fans who are leaving early. But this team is so special that the fans can’t be peeled away from it for a second, because if you run to the bathroom or concession stand, you might miss something jaw-dropping.

Led by one of the greatest offenses of all-time, I firmly believe this is the best Falcons team to ever take the field. They still have one thing left to prove – that they can be a world champion – but no matter what happens a week from Sunday in Houston, Atlanta got its perfect sendoff for the Big Dome.

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