Falcons owner and Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank is a pretty stand-up guy. Having built an utterly sprawling empire of businesses that include retail outlets and a pretty snazzy guest ranch, Blank owns both the Falcons and Atlanta United in the MLS. But for years he’s channeled his energies into The Arthur M. Blank Foundation, driving tens of millions of dollars into community projects designed to revitalize neighborhoods, to help struggling families, to give a foot-up to youths and to promote the arts. Fans saw him dancing in his luxury suite during the Super Bowl on Sunday night, as his Falcons systematically dismembered the New England Patriots in the first half of the game. Destiny had almost certainly ordained Atlanta as the newest champions of the NFL, but as we now know, behind the hydra-headed onslaught of Brady, Belichick and an unbelievable play by Julian Edelman, the Pats orchestrated the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, winning the contest in overtime and sending Atlanta fans into a dark, chilly abyss. I’ve been there. Any Red Sox fan from the 70s and 80s knows that feeling well- that pulverizing sense that the Universe hates you like a rival from the old neighborhood. That feeling that your city will never know the sweet taste of a championship. That only places like New York and Dallas, packed with gloating, insufferable New Yorkers and Texans, will ever raise a championship trophy.
So yeah, I get it. And I get this little kid’s tears after the game. Look at the little dude, wearing his Falcons shirt and hat, which he undoubtedly donned that afternoon with a wild grin on his face and an endless stream of questions and comments to his parents on his way to the game. I picture him bouncing up and down in the car on the drive to the stadium and his wide, unbelieving eyes as he stood on his seat, watching his Falcons rattle off 28 unanswered points in the first half. And then the merciless chain of events as his beloved team gradually ceded one touchdown after another to the hated Patriots. To lose in such cold, surgical fashion at the hands of Tom Brady seems uncommonly cruel.
On his way out of the stadium that night, this kid ran into Arthur Blank, who undoubtedly wasn’t feeling a whole lot better than the kid. Blank sees the kid, stops what he’s doing and… well, see for yourself.
Arthur Blank is a pretty terrific human.