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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Eric Gay/AP/Press Association Images The Patriots are here in numbers but Falcons fans are few and far between on the ground.
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Letter from Houston: Where are all the Falcons fans?
With just hours to go before the Super Bowl, there are not many Atlanta fans in Texas.

Steve O’Rourke reports from Houston

EARLIER THIS WEEK, I wrote about how “can I come with you?” was the question I’d heard the most since finding out that I was going to Super Bowl LI.

However, there’s now a close second.

Over the course of the past few days, my colleague Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh and I have been taking in some of the fan experiences in and around the Discovery Green area of the city.

This involved taking in some great bands like Catch Fever and chatting to locals and visitors alike about what having a Super Bowl or competing in a Super Bowl means.

If you missed it, you can see the results of our efforts here.

One thing that didn’t make the cut in that video is the amount of times, when people found out we were from Ireland, we were asked “do you guys know Conor McGregor?”

Not so bad on its own, but usually the question was followed by an Irish accent only slightly better than Tom Cruise’s in Far and Away.

The guy with the best impression turned out to be a third-generation Irish American who had travelled from Atlanta for today’s big game. However, it isn’t his ability to take off The Notorious that made him stand out.

Instead, it was the fact he is a Falcons fan who has travelled for this game.

As of Saturday night — and I’m typing this at 9am on Sunday morning — the Patriots fans were outnumbering their rivals by 10 to one.

Things were so bad that reports emerged early yesterday afternoon that a Falcons pep rally in Houston was being cancelled because of lack of fans. However, it did go ahead with a couple of thousand people in attendance but was on a much smaller scale than the one New England held hours earlier.

The other big event in Houston last night was the NFL Honors (their spelling, not mine).

Some of the awards were obvious. Matt Ryan was the league MVP and was rightly presented with it. However, he should note that not once this century has a player in the Super Bowl been awarded that honour and gone on to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.

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Likewise Khalil Mack, with his 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and one interception returned for a touchdown, was the obvious choice for Defensive Player of the Year while it is difficult to argue against Joey Bosa as Defensive Rookie of the Year.

However, after that, things got a little funky. Dak Prescott was the Offensive Rookie of the Year despite his Cowboys’ team-mate Ezekiel Elliott being the better player this season.

The most curious decision of the night came in the Coach of the Year category. Despite not having Tom Brady for the first four games, and being without Rob Gronkowski down the stretch, Bill Belichick oversaw a team that is 16-2 this season but was still overlooked for the Cowboys’ Jason Garrett.

The other big news was Terrell Owens being left out of the Hall of Fame yet again. Given that he has career numbers better than a lot guys in Canton, you can only assume it’s a personality issue with the former Cowboys’ man.

But all that was just a distraction from today’s main event.

Out and about this morning, the crowds are still massively in favour of New England. Will that matter in the end?

We’ll see in a few hours.

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