“A dead-end street is just a place to turn around.”
In February 2002, business magnate Arthur Blank decided to take that Wynonna Judd song lyric literally…with the Atlanta Falcons.
Long, hard road? Absolutely. Any better candidate than the co-creator of the colossal Home Depot empire for that massive undertaking?
The Falcons and their fans were down and out by the time 2002 rolled around. After high hopes of a first-time Super Bowl appearance were unmercifully shattered on January 31, 1999, more than a few of the disillusioned fans had shown themselves the way out of the heartache. The tempestuous times continued, and the losses were tumbling out of control.
Redemption was on the horizon, in the form of Arthur Blank and a (not blank) check for $545 million.
Blank became the knight in shining armor for new—and newly enamored—Falcons fans and staff alike. With reduced pricing on tickets, expanded parking availability and added entertainment acts, the fans returned in droves. By revamping the staff and roster, the fresh and returning fans were getting more than their money’s worth in and out of game time.
The Midas touch…minus the negatives.
Through the revolving door of head coaches and the roller coaster that was Michael Vick, Blank didn’t throw in the towel on his investment. Mike Smith was brought in as head coach and Matt Ryan was plucked from the 2008 NFL Draft almost immediately to step in as new first-string quarterback.
Advantage Falcons, though none realized it at the time.
From Ryan’s being awarded AP Rookie of the Year and Smith’s being named NFL Coach of the Year in 2008 to almost making the coveted Super Bowl appearance in the 2012 season, Blank has assertively demonstrated the Midas touch. So much, in fact, that a new stadium is in the works for the once-beleaguered yet beloved Falcons.
Will the story for the Falcons turn out as it did for King Midas? Will the magic touch go too far in the other direction? Only time will tell for sure.
So where does Arthur Blank go from here?
All the way to the Super Bowl.