Opinion: Stadium Amenities Put Football on Back Burner

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Mercedes-Benz Stadium is too nice. It is a landlocked cruise ship with a football field attached. It's a cabana shy of a destination resort. Just add a blackjack table and an imitation Elvis, and you've got a casino to rival any on the Las Vegas strip.

What we have here is a pub crawl occasionally interrupted by a concussion.

The gentrification of our arenas has consequences. The distractions of all the modern amenities in today's stadiums are bound to eat into a collective attention span already dulled by Twitter and cat videos. Wandering the concourse and bending an elbow at some 100-yard bar become the preferred activities to staying anchored in a seat and creating havoc when the visitor has the ball.

The football, the presumed reason for the gathering, gets lost. The football is just background noise, the Happy Hour guitarist playing Jim Croce songs for tips.

We're talking exclusively professional football. The college games and the Atlanta United games seemed to have carried on quite raucously. You know the coming national championship game will survive as the central attraction, just given the passions and the importance. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be the inside of a storm cloud that night.

Against the Cowboys on Sunday, any scan of the building during any quarter seemed to reveal the same thing — plenty of paid-for seats unoccupied. Who knows where their owners were wandering in this food court on steroids? What the Falcons have is a great home stadium — just not a very intimidating home stadium. Not yet, anyway. It has earned no personality beyond being just another pretty face.

During the regular-sea-son opener at the Benz against Green Bay, a rematch of last season's NFC Championship game on a prime-time stage, there was noise. You could measure that by four Packers' false-start penalties.

Offensive linemen have not found it nearly so difficult to function since. The subsequent three visiting teams have been flagged for a total of three false starts.

By heavens, old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was a cold, unwelcoming place. It would rank as one of the worst venues in the NFL. Come late season, you had two alternatives: Watch the Falcons lose or watch your extremities turn blue.

We'll see what happens when the Falcons play an all-caps BIG GAME at Mercedes-Benz. The excitement of the moment should galvanize the audience. But first they've got to get there.

Following this Monday night's journey to Seattle, four of the Falcons' next six games are at home. We recommend the Mongolian beef on Concourse 100, the vodka cart on 200, and the brisket taco at the 300 level. With perhaps a small side of football.

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November 16, 2017


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