February 02, 2017
The last time the Atlanta Falcons played in the Super Bowl, a 34-19 loss to the Broncos in 1999, their signal caller was Chris Chandler, a respectable veteran quarterback who benefited greatly from the dominance of Dirty Bird running back Jamal Anderson.
Thanks for the reminder, Google. If the Falcons had beaten Elway and the Broncos, Chandler would have been Trent Dilfer before Dilfer was Dilfer, and then there's Brad Johnson and so on.
Anybody in their right mind would acknowledge that Matt Ryan, an Exton native and Penn Charter grad, is a far more accomplished quarterback than all three of those guys. Ryan has been a perennial MVP candidate on a team that often owns the regular season before falling apart in close playoff games. This year, he's setting postseason records and appears to have figured it all out.
Why then, Rolling Stone's Jason Diamond asks, does it seem as though the people of Exton could not care less about Matt Ryan being a hometown guy? By all accounts, the Penn Charter community recalls Ryan as a stellar person and world class athlete, but that's based in Philly. One would think a small Chester County town, known today for its malls and an abundance of chain restaurants you've been meaning to try, might rally around the hometown kid.
"He's from around here? I had no idea," a guy in a heavy Carhartt jacket caked in all kinds of dust says with a smile that makes me think he could be joking when asked his thoughts. Then he swivels around and goes back to watching the Villanova basketball game.
This is what Diamond encountered during his time in Exton, where he was sent presumably to talk to teary-eyed townsfolk about the making of a Pennsylvania hero. What he discovered instead offers an interesting commentary on the difference between football fans in western and eastern Pennsylvania.
Other than the fact that Matt Ryan is from Pennsylvania and he's playing in Super Bowl 51, one might expect some enthusiasm from the folks here since Ryan will join other Keystone State-born Hall of Famers the likes of Johnny Unitas, Jim Kelly, Joe Namath, Dan Marino and Joe Montana...
He's from Pennsylvania and did some great things there as a kid, but he's not one of those scrappy guys from some steel mill town. He doesn't fit the mold of what people from outside of PA. think about when they hear a player is from the Mid-Atlantic state.
For some reason, Diamond thinks there's an indifference to the way the Eagles side of the state responds to homegrown talent once players have flown the coop.
While the Eagles might finally be a team on the rise, as well as a franchise that boasts one of the most passionate fan bases in the sports world, maybe, just maybe, it’s a quarterback from the eastern part of the state winning a Super Bowl, albeit for a team from Atlanta, that helps change the narrative a little.
If anyone can handle the pressure on Sunday, it should be Matty Ice, who finally has an opportunity to immortalize himself in NFL history. That the Falcons are playing the Patriots should be enough for eastern Pennsylvania to have Ryan's back.