I said good riddance to Houston Saturday and was on my way to Atlanta. My biggest sacrifice for all these NFL trips has been traveling during Ohio State games. I’ve missed the last two games and have felt like my week is off. Thank goodness I can check score updates on Twitter and get highlights. This Saturday I’ll be able to watch the primetime game vs Penn State and am strongly considering going to it, though it’ll be a struggle to drive to Buffalo the following morning! At least I arrived in Atlanta with a Buckeye win and took the MARTA to the Airbnb I was staying at for the night. It was down the street from the West End stop and again I wasn’t crazy about the neighborhood. I wasn’t about to walk around it in the dark, so stayed in and watched the TCU/Kansas State game. Though I wish K-State could’ve pulled off the upset, it was a great game. It’s good to see other top ranked teams get tested, makes me feel better about Ohio State’s close calls.

One of my smaller regrets with these trips is not having enough time to explore some of the cities I visit. It happens the most with cities where I’m seeing a Sunday game as I’m out shortly after for wherever I’m headed to on Monday. Denver was stiffed and so was Atlanta. I would’ve liked to visit the College Football Hall of Fame and walked around the city a bit more. Sunday morning I purchased my ticket off of Ticketmaster and found that holding off until about 10 am for a 1 pm game is the sweet spot. The prices had dropped about $15. I left for the city and on my way to the stadium, I took a small detour to the Centennial Olympic Park. This was a nostalgic stroll- I’m a 90s child and will always remember the 1996 Olympics vividly. Redskins fans were out in full force and there was plenty of trash talking between the fan bases going on even this far from the Dome. It all seemed good natured though and they were enjoying the back and forth as they headed towards the stadium. I made a pit stop in CNN for some coffee and the place was crawling with football fans doing the same.

Fully caffeinated, I made a beeline for the Georgia Dome, passing the Hawk’s arena and another MARTA station. This one was for the Blue and Green lines, which run east and west. I had taken the Gold line that runs north and south, though I could’ve transferred to the other lines at the Five Points station. Wanting to walk the city a little, I had opted to stay on until the Peachtree station. Gotta get my steps in as I’m not exercising on the regular! As I neared the stadium, I hit the Falcon’s Landing, a lawn in front of the stadium that served as the pre-game party for fans. The Falcons were 4-0 and you could tell the fans were relishing the team’s hot start. Even before I got to the stadium, people were saying hi to me and “Go Falcons,” and here that was on double time. I remembered that from my last visit for a Braves game in 2012… this city is super friendly. In the center of the lawn, a large dance party was forming, as both fan bases showed off their moves.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and I noticed there was only an hour until kickoff, so I left Falcon’s Landing after watching the Drum Line perform a little and headed toward the west gates on the other side of the stadium. I walked by the construction of the new stadium and was amazed by how much they have already completed. Atlanta is on the upgrade with new baseball and football stadiums over the next couple of years. Probably not the best time to be a taxpayer in this city, but since I’m just a visitor, I’m glad I have an excuse to come back. I rounded the back of the stadium and saw from across the street that there is a bit of a tailgate scene. There looked to be a few large lots and I could see tents and hear music blaring.

Entering in the stadium in Gate B, I was very disappointed to see that the main concourse and lower bowl were for 100 level ticket holders only. The Falcons were keeping the riffraff (aka me) out from the Atlanta elite. As a big fan of standing room zones and I’m guessing there were a ton and that’s why they had it closed off, I reluctantly headed up into the abyss that was the 300 level. The concourses were nothing to write home about and there wasn’t much for decoration. You’d barely know the Falcons were the team from the sparseness. Concessions and booths were limited as well, though I did see you could rent binoculars. How high up were we?! I stopped in one of the women’s bathrooms and even an hour before the game there was a line. Six stalls! Now I understand why they’re building that new stadium. Six stalls are never enough for a woman’s bathroom!

The Falcons were another team that never replied back to be about someone being a stadium witness for me, so I asked the usher in my section, Debra, to vouch for me. She agreed and told her I would meet her back at the conclusion of the game. For now, I had a single track mind- take a picture with the Georgia Dome 50 yard line. I had had the Ludacris “What’s Your Fantasy” song in my head all day and knew that this was the only acceptable way to document my visit. Life only counts if you document it on social media, right?!
Though I’ve said I’m not much for domes, I didn’t mind this stadium and didn’t think the actual field and seating were terrible. I took my seat in section 305, which was off to the side of an end zone and had a good view (no binoculars necessary). The crowd was crazy late coming in. I’d say it wasn’t until mid second quarter that the stands were fairly full. Luckily the dome amplified the crowd and they were into the game, so it wasn’t quiet. There was also a large showing from the ‘Skins, so even when the Falcons were on offense, there was some noise. I ended up sitting next to a Washington fan, Dale, who lived in Atlanta (they’re his number two team) and we hit it off talking about different stadiums and our football teams. After my game of silence in Houston, he was a welcome new friend and even though I was wearing Falcons’ colors, I wanted the Redskins to get him a win. What they did give him was a game!

The whole first half was tight and who would’ve thought we’d see three missed field goals in a controlled environment? I’ve seen better kicking in a near blizzard in Cleveland. Look up the Browns vs Bills game a few years ago and check out the scoring. During the half, the Georgia lottery took over and revealed winning ticket numbers (we were given scratch-off tickets upon entry) for cash prizes. The anticipation for each of the three tiers was fun and it was my favorite halftime activity so far. They make sure to put close numbers on the losing tickets, to give you that “man I almost won,” feeling.  After they dropped prizes from the dome rafters on fans and that was cool, but a little surprising as the railings are low in the 300 level. Surprised no one’s fallen over the rail reaching for one.

I think the stadium experienced a bit of a lull in energy during the third quarter. Despite the great theatrics put on by the stadium announcer (very “Let’s get ready to rumble”y), the crowd seemed a bit passive. Maybe people were still stuck in lines for the restroom or concessions. The fourth quarter it picked up as did the scoring and intensity of the game. I hadn’t left my seat yet since there wasn’t much to look at, but I felt like I should at least get a few different angles of the game and headed down to the concourse. As for standing in the section entrances, I think it’s frowned upon, but the usher near the 50-yard line didn’t seem to mind, so I watched the Redskins and Falcons final touchdowns. Thinking that Atlanta’s touchdown had sealed the game, I walked back to my section for Debra to sign my log book. Well not so fast my friend, the ‘Skins weren’t ready to give up just yet and drilled a field goal sending the game into overtime. The dome was rockin’. It had gotten crazy when the Falcons scored to go ahead, and this game being sent to overtime had both fan bases on full alert. I grabbed an empty seat (sucker who left early!) in my section and got ready for what I hoped would be a thrilling finish. It was all that I wanted and more as the Falcons ended the game with a pick-six off Kirk Cousins. So far, I tend to see the visiting team win, but the Redskins went against the grain and are now 0-2 when I’m in attendance. Oh well…

“All I Do Is Win” blared as the teams exited the field and the fans began to file out of the stands. Debra signed my witness log and I joined the crowds moving slowly out of the stadium. There had been plenty of smack talk before the game and with the Falcons fresh off another win, they were letting Redskins fans have it. There was plenty of at least we have rings retorts which, come on guys, your last ring was in 1991. Then this Cowboy fan got involved and everyone turned on him. It had to be the most humorous walk down a ramp I’ve ever had. Again it has all in good fun and no one was really fighting or pissed. Before I exited the stadium, I made a quick stop at the 100 level to see what I had missed. I’m happy to report- nothing. The concourse looked just as uneventful as upstairs, though of course, the field view was nice. I took a view pictures and was back on my way out of the stadium. It was a little tight getting out by the new stadium, but once I passed the MARTA station, the crowds largely subsided. I headed back to the Peachtree station and managed to get back to my Airbnb relatively quickly. This was probably the quickest I’ve ever left a game via public transit yet. Atlanta you’re peachy!

Remember I am raising money for the Ronald McDonald House in Central Ohio. Please donate by clicking here.

Special thank you to Debra for her time and assistance during my visit!

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