ATLANTA — Perhaps the football gods knew it just wouldn't be right.

They figured all those black-and-gold-clad fans walking around and Who Dattin' in the street of Atlanta — much like oil and water — just wasn't a good mix.

So they answered the prayers of Atlanta's mayor, a pastor of one of the city's biggest churches and everyone else in the 404 area code.

The football just gods wanted to be fair, just like they were six years ago when they kept Atlanta Falcons fans from coming to New Orleans for Super Bowl 47.

The San Francisco 49ers upset the Falcons in the now-demolished Georgia Dome in the NFC championship game that year, sending a big sigh of relief throughout the Big Easy. That game, by the way, was the last time the home team lost in the NFC title game.

Until this year.

That's when the gods struck again, which may explain why neither Gary Cavaletto, Patrick Turner nor Bill Vinovich pulled their yellow flags out on that Jan. 20 afternoon in the Dome, thus leading to the heartbreak of all heartbreaks. Think about it: What are the chances of a guy named Nickell clobbering a guy named Tommylee in front of more than 70,000 people and everyone but the aforementioned trio of officials sees it?

But that's what happened. So Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta's top official, got her wish. 

Bottoms joked before the conference championship games that her preference for a Super Bowl matchup was "just anybody other than the Saints."

Dianne Piper, a Baton Rouge native and longtime Saints fan who now lives in Atlanta, heard a similar message from her pastor at the Greater Traveler's Rest Church.

"He made it real painful for us throughout his sermon," Piper said. "He made it clear that even if the Falcons weren't in the playoffs, he didn't want the Saints in town hollering 'Who Dat.' "


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Piper and her son Mercer were two of the few Saints fans sprinkled amongst the crowd Monday at the NFL Experience, a fan fest held inside the Georgia World Congress Center.

Jerry LeBlanc, who grew up in Uptown New Orleans but now resides in Atlanta, made his way to the festivities as well. He was joined by his wife, Portia, a Falcons' fan, and his daughter Avery.

"Obviously I'm still upset about what happened with the game, but I decided to take in all of the atmosphere.," LeBlanc said. "I was expecting the Saints to be here and this being a much bigger experience."

But instead of the Who Dat chants he wanted to hear this week, he had to settle for billboards in Atlanta that screamed "Saints Got Robbed" and "NFL Bleaux It", two giant 672-square-foot middle fingers to the NFL.

And instead of Drew Brees at the podium for Monday's Super Bowl media night talking about his upcoming GOAT vs. GOAT showdown with Tom Brady, we instead get GOAT vs. Goff.

We didn't get to hear Alvin Kamara at media day explaining to some reporter what his favorite brand of Airheads is.

Instead of Saints receiver Michael Thomas getting to look into the cameras and tell everybody why he chose CantGuardMike as a Twitter handle, you'll have to settle for former Saints receiver Brandin Cooks, playing in his second straight Super Bowl since he left New Orleans. Cruel, I tell ya. Just cruel.

And to show you just how cruel the sports gods can sometimes be, the basketball gods even got in on all the shenanigans. How else do you explain Monday's news that New Orleans' biggest superstar not named Drew Brees — Pelicans forward Anthony Davis — is requesting to be traded right while Saints fans are still licking their wounds from eight days ago.

"It's hard, but that's football," said Chris Atkinson, who made the 30-minute drive from Douglasville for Monday's pre-Super Bowl events. "Sometimes calls go your way and sometimes they don't. But Who Dat Nation has been very positive. We didn't get in and that's all right. I just pity the fools that play us first next year."

Brees, who plans to return for his 14th year in New Orleans next season, posted a message on social media on Monday. The message was about adversity, which was just what fans like Mercer Piper needed to hear.

"We were that close, and this time a bad judgment call cost us the game," Piper said "But Drew Brees made a valid point. We persevere. That's what people from Louisiana do. We get through all obstacles and hurdles. This is one more hurdle we will have to overcome. We'll get past this."

And even the football gods likely won't be able to deny that.


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.