ATLANTA — If you walked around Centennial Park in Atlanta this weekend, you'd know the Patriots were in the Super Bowl.
But you might have had a hard time figuring out who they were playing.
Just based on the jerseys spotted around downtown Atlanta, you'd assume Tom Brady and the Patriots were playing either the Chiefs or the Falcons or the Steelers in Super Bowl 53, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Fans of the Los Angeles Rams (the team the Patriots are actually playing) haven't invaded the ATL quite the way New Orleans Saints fans would have.
To be fair, making a 4½-hour flight from the west coast to Atlanta and then forking up at least $2,500 for a game ticket (that was the cheapest as of early Saturday morning) isn't easy. Especially for a fan base that has had their team back for just three seasons after the Rams relocated to St. Louis for 21 years.
Regardless of what the scoreboard in Mercedes-Benz Stadium says Sunday night, the biggest loser in all of this may be the city of Atlanta. While the city surely made plenty of money this week, it could have been so much more if this was Saints vs. Patriots or Saints vs. Chiefs instead of Patriots vs. Rams.
Imagine the buildup of Brees vs. Brady in a battle of quarterbacks who are 40 and 41 years old, respectively. (That's XL and XLI in Super Bowl lingo).
Or the elder statesmen Brees vs. the young phenom Patrick Mahomes, who led the Super Bowl-starved Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs haven't been to a Super Bowl since 1970, so their fans would have traveled in droves. That was obvious by the number of Mahomes jerseys seen around town this week, despite the Chiefs losing in the AFC title game. (Perhaps many of them came because they knew the 23-year old Mahomes was going to take home the Most Valuable Player award Saturday night.)
Mahomes beat out Brees, who didn't attend Saturday's award show. You also couldn't find people sporting his No. 9 jersey like you probably would have if a certain official (or two) had thrown a penalty flag in the NFC championship game on the controversial play that grabbed most of the spotlight this week. Unless you've turned off your television and disconnected from social media for the past 13 days, you know all about the play.
Brees threw a pass to Tommylee Lewis, but Lewis was clobbered by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman before the ball arrived. A flag for both pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact should have been thrown on the play. The NFL admitted that right after the game, but no flag was thrown and the Saints settled for a field goal earlier than they would have liked to have kicked one and eventually lost 26-23 in overtime.
As a result of the no-call, many Saints fans are choosing to not even tune in for a Super Bowl that always will have an asterisk beside it in New Orleans. Instead, they'll be participating in events like the Boycott Bowl, a festival to show their displeasure of the no-call on the play that helped end the Saints' season.
Ironically, the Saints called the infamous "Buckhead," named after the section of Atlanta.
"Yeah, it was a play that was hopefully going to get us to Atlanta, right?" Brees said Friday in an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show.
Instead, Buckhead ended up causing the Saints to lose.
And based on the number of Rams jerseys seen around town, it may have caused the city of Atlanta to lose, too.