It is a dark time for the rebel Falcons. Their home base in Atlanta has been found out and destroyed, a staggering loss following the defeat they suffered at the hands of the Patriot Order in Super Bowl LI, while New England's reign over the National Football League — with Supreme Leader Bill Belichick and Darth Brady at the helm — grows stronger by the day.
Despite these setbacks, hope springs anew for the members of the Wild Card alliance. The Falcons have set up a new base of operations in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Battling through a Super Bowl "hangover" this season, Atlanta has made it back to the playoffs and is preparing for another attempt to bring an end to New England's dominion.
After a win in the coliseum of Los Angeles utilizing some new weapons — with the Falcons having bolstered their defenses, boasting one of the top 10 in the NFL this season — Atlanta now prepares for an assault on the fortified City of Brotherly Love, the next phase of its plan to overthrow the Patriot overlords once and for all.
While writing my own opening crawl for this column, I could quite literally hear John Williams' score for Star Wars playing, the strains of the "Main Title" fanfare coming from my editor's office. It's only fitting, as Star Wars and football fill my mind — and have done so for well over the past month — so please indulge me as I give in to the dark side and allow these two worlds to collide.
Suspense and anticipation started building for me a long time ago as it relates to the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, "The Last Jedi." With each reveal of new information regarding the film, December 2017 couldn't come soon enough.
Upon arrival, it did not disappoint. So as not to spoil anything for certain persons in our newsroom who haven't seen it yet, I will not divulge too many details, but I greatly enjoyed the deeper, more philosophical journey into the Star Wars universe compared to what has come before — and the action sequences, from the opening scene to the climactic battle, weren't too shabby either.
During the weeks since seeing "The Last Jedi" for the second time, my attention has turned to the NFL playoffs (and the push up to it) — particularly in following those Atlanta Falcons, a fandom I believe I've made pretty clear in previous columns. This past week, though, I started to "cross the streams," so to speak — as I couldn't help but draw some parallels between the latest entry in the Star Wars saga and this Falcons team.
Like the Resistance, Atlanta seemed to strike a great blow to its enemies only to have New England (the First Order) shrug it off on the way to a historic comeback in Super Bowl LI and continued (galactic) dominance of the NFL this season.
Then, as the Falcons collected themselves and reached for even greater success in 2017, as well as a chance at redemption in knocking off the Patriots, their path looked as bleak as the Resistance's at times and mirrored Luke Skywalker's words to Rey that "this is not going to go the way you think."
With former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan off filling the head coaching position in San Francisco, that certainly seemed like the case as what was a prolific Atlanta offense in 2016 turned rather pedestrian — with almost the exact same personnel — in 2017, while losing four of five games (including one to the Patriots) after starting 3-0. It was the defense that rose to the occasion and helped lead the Falcons back to the postseason, with new heroes like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Grady Jarrett emerging this year.
Quite literally, the Falcons also "let the past die" this season — as they ditched their old home at the Georgia Dome for their new digs in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Additionally, quarterback Matt Ryan, head coach Dan Quinn and seemingly everybody on the roster was adamant there was no Super Bowl "hangover" as the team moved forward in 2017, looking to kill that narrative every chance they got.
Personally, as much as the odds have been stacked against Atlanta this season (a favorite theme in Star Wars, just don't tell Harrison Ford), I'm hoping all this is the spark that lights the fire of another championship run — with a little different result this time around.
Of course, obstacles still remain, as the Falcons take on the top-seeded Eagles today (Saturday) and a rematch against either Minnesota or New Orleans would loom in the NFC Championship game. However, if my fandoms did align to provide one of the best storylines of the year in both film and sports, well, I would be as happy as a Wookiee celebrating Life Day.
-Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.