Contrary to what some people outside of the Atlanta may believe, there are some real fans in Atlanta. While Atlanta may not be a professional sports city (SEC football will probably always be king), the Falcons have a significant loyal fanbase that isn't always accurately portrayed by the national media.
How do you know that you are a true, diehard Atlanta Falcons fan? How can you test someone else to see if they bleed Falcons red and black?
The following twelve factors are not at all exhaustive, and in some ways they are a reflection of my age (I wasn't alive in 1980, and I wasn't old enough to appreciate Deion), but they're sure to get the conversation started.
Let's begin our look at 12 ways you know you are an Atlanta Falcons fan...
All historical references are based off of information found on Pro-Football-Reference.com
Do I really need to explain this one? The Falcons and Saints have battled like siblings since the Saints entered the league in 1967, and both teams have played more games against each other than they have any other opponent.
Part of what makes this rivalry so unique is that it is the only rivalry in the NFL that features two predominately SEC fanbases, as well as two teams who have significant African-American fanbases.
These two teams are still the only NFL franchises who play in what's generally considered to be the Deep South, and the passion and energy in the stands at a Falcons-Saints game can probably only be rivaled by a Saturday night in Baton Rouge or an afternoon between the hedges in Athens.
With a few exceptions, Falcons-Saints matchups usually helped one team avoid the basement of the old NFC West division before the NFC South was created in 2002. Since 2002, the Falcons and Saints have combined to win six NFC South titles.
There have been plenty of highlights along the way, including Michael Vick leading the Falcons to a thrilling 37-35 victory at the Superdome in 2002, and the Post-Hurricane Katrina game at the Superdome in 2006 that's still a sore spot for a lot of Falcon fans today.
Much to the chagrin of Falcons fans everywhere, the Saints won a Super Bowl following the 2009 season. However, if the last three seasons are any indication, these two teams will be at each other's throats for some time.
It'd be tough to call anyone who doesn't appreciate this rivalry an Atlanta Falcons fan.
This has been a common gripe amongst Falcons fans since the team began its run of five consecutive winning seasons in 2008.
Atlanta fans argue that no matter how well the Falcons play, they always hear the talking heads on the major networks giving coverage to the NFC East, the Patriots, Jets, Peyton Manning and occasionally even the hated Saints, thanks to Drew Brees.
If you've ever trolled a major network's blog complaining about what you perceive to be a lack of attention paid to the Falcons, you're probably a true Atlanta Falcons fan.
This is a throwback one for all of the pre-Michael Vick era Falcons fans. If that's not you then you should probably stop here.
Dan Reeves, Chris Chandler, Jamal Anderson, Morten Andersen and Jesse Tuggle had done it. After stunning the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, the 1998 Falcons were going to play in the Super Bowl against John Elway and the Broncos.
The night before the biggest game in Falcons' history, starting safety Eugene Robinson was arrested for trying to solicit an undercover cop posing as a prostitute. The next night Robinson was beaten badly by Rod Smith for a touchdown on a deep post route that opened up the floodgates for a Broncos' blowout victory.
If you're a real Falcons fan, you've been through some tough times like this before. Tap into whatever got you through them as I continue to our next slide.
I talked about the Falcons playing in the Deep South earlier, and some people might call that region the "Bible Belt." You may have a hard time believing that particular nickname is appropriate if you ask a Falcons fan what they think of ex-Falcons' head coach Bobby Petrino.
In the midst of a 2007 season that saw everything that could possibly go wrong end up wrong for the Falcons, Petrino jumped from what he thought was a sinking ship to take over at Arkansas the day after his Falcons team was humiliated at home on national television against the Saints.
Some Falcons fans may say that "the chickens came home to roost" on Petrino when he was fired at Arkansas before last season following his motorcycle accident, and you can bet that he'll get a few sarcastic jeers when he brings his Western Kentucky squad into the Georgia Dome to play Georgia State in November.
Jim Mora Jr. isn't hated amongst Falcons fans the way Bobby Petrino is, but astute fans will remember that Mora was partially to blame for Petrino getting hired in Atlanta in the first place.
Mora mesmerized Falcons fans with his energy and enthusiasm when he was hired to replace Dan Reeves after the 2003 season and he benefited from having a healthy Michael Vick in 2004 when "Run DVD" led the Falcons to their first NFC Championship Game since 1998.
Expectations were high entering the 2005 season, as plenty of Falcons fans believed that Mora was the man who was going to deliver a Super Bowl victory to Atlanta. However, Mora wasn't up for the task as his team collapsed in the second halves of the 2005 and 2006 seasons and missed the playoffs both years.
To make matters worse, Mora said that he would leave the Falcons in the middle of a playoff run to coach the Washington Huskies during a radio interview in late 2006.
A Falcons' coach leaving the team in the middle of the season for a college job? How crazy did that sound in 2006!
If you can laugh at the nonsense that you've endured over the years rooting for the Falcons, you're a real fan.
This is still a really sore spot for some "Michael Vick fans" who like to perpetrate like they're "Falcons fans", but real Falcons fans view Michael Vick like someone who they were once in a committed relationship with, but things ultimately didn't work out.
At his best, Vick was everything Atlanta fans dreamed about. He was a real superstar who brought in the kind of national attention that Falcons fans had long craved and still want to this day.
At his worst (even before the federal conviction), Vick was flipping the bird to some of those same fans as he left the field after a loss to the Saints—ever notice how nothing good ever seems to come from a loss to the Saints?
The franchise hit rock bottom when Vick pled guilty to federal charges in 2007. That's when the breakup between real Falcons fans and Vick occurred. A faction of Falcons fans still wanted to support Vick because of what he had done for the team, but they were disgusted with what he had admitted to being a part of and they knew that he'd never play for the Falcons again.
When Vick got his second chance with the Eagles in 2009, true Falcons fans felt like their ex-spouse had come out of rehab and hooked up with a sexy new partner. As much as you hate to admit it, you were a little jealous when the Eagles came to the Georgia Dome and thumped a Chris Redman-led Falcons team later that season.
In 2010, the "jealous ex" syndrome was at an all-time high when Vick put up MVP-caliber numbers for the Eagles. Many true Falcons fans asked, "why didn't he do that when he was here?"
Thankfully, in the end the "jealous ex" stage was just part of *Mike Smith/Thomas Dimitroff voice* "the process" of healing for true Falcons fans. After all, you were in a great new relationship another quarterback now...
You may be in love with Matt Ryan now, but a lot of genuine Falcons fans can't say that it was love at first sight.
Prior to the 2008 draft, there was debate amongst the fanbase about whether to take LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey or a quarterback from outside of Philadelphia who played his college ball at Boston College.
Sure, Matty Ice looked good on film, but by supporting the Falcons taking him you were being asked to dismiss every bad thing you'd ever said about the quality of football played above the Mason-Dixon line. Shouldn't the team just go with the "sure thing" defensive line prospect from LSU and draft a quarterback like Brian Brohm later on?
In addition to some fans being skeptical about his pedigree, Ryan also faced the daunting task of following Michael Vick in Atlanta.
Thomas Dimitroff went against your better judgement and took Ryan anyway, and 57 wins later Ryan is on the verge of joining the $100 million quarterback club.
Talk about a player who "started from the bottom" with the Falcons fanbase.
The Roddy White you know and love now is a far cry from the Roddy White that made Jim Mora Jr. fall to his knees in despair when he dropped a wide open pass against the Saints at the Georgia Dome in 2006.
White looked like he was headed to being where Peria Jerry is now after his first two seasons in the league before he became the team's lone bright spot during the doomed 2007 campaign.
Since then, White has emerged as a fan favorite thanks to his play on the field and his infectious personality.
Following the debacle that was the 2007 Falcons season, Arthur Blank knew he needed to make changes at the top of his organization. He swung for the fences, only the home run ball he hit wasn't the one that he aimed at first.
Before landing Thomas Dimitroff, Blank thought he had a deal in place to bring in Bill Parcells as the team's chief front office executive. Yet, in true "this only happens to the Falcons" fashion, Parcells leveraged Blank's offer into a similar gig with the Miami Dolphins. A devastated Falcons fanbase had taken another slap in the face.
Though Dimitroff came from a model franchise in New England, many Falcons fans preferred Parcells because the attention he'd bring to the team.
Over little five years later, Parcells is back on television and Thomas Dimitroff is widely regarded as being one of the best front office executives in the league. Go figure.
After Thomas Dimitroff was brought in as general manager, his first task was to hire a head coach. Steve Spagnuolo, Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano were a few of the names that came up during the search back then, but Dimitroff chose then-Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith as his head man.
Reaction from Falcons fans was subdued to say the least. You wanted a sexy name, not a guy as ordinary-sounding as "Mike Smith".
One of the television analyst whose opinions Falcons fans tend to value so much even went as far as to say he was surprised with the hire because Smith didn't command the locker room in Jacksonville.
If you're a real Falcons fan, you've had to get out of your own way and trust Blank and Thomas Dimitroff before.
It's only natural. The Falcons hire Thomas Dimitroff, fans are skeptical, Dimitroff produces. Dimitroff hires Mike Smith, fans are skeptical, Smith produces. Mike Smith hires former Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to replace Mike Mularkey after Atlanta's pitiful 24-2 loss to the Giants after the 2011 season, fans nearly revolt, Koetter produces.
Now what did we learn?
It didn't take Koetter long to put his mark on Atlanta's offense, as the team exploded for 40 points in a week one victory over the Chiefs in Koetter's debut last year. Koetter aims to take the offense to new heights in 2013 with the addition of Steven Jackson.
You can thank the Atlanta Falcons' marketing department for this one. Since transplant-heavy Atlanta doesn't have any local slang that rings out like "Who dat?" does, the Falcons needed their own slogan for fans to associate with. Enter the #RiseUp campaign that Sam Jackson has made famous.
If you're a Falcons fan who frequents social media, this one doesn't need much of an explanation.
Now it's your turn. How do you know that someone's a true Falcons fan?