Kenan Thompson stands up for Atlanta Falcons fans

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Kenan Thompson was born in Atlanta and grew up watching Falcons games with his father and brother.

Shortly after the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots claimed their spots in Super Bowl LI, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy bemoaned the matchup.

"A Super Bowl vs. the Dallas Cowboys or New York Football Giants or Green Bay Packers would have had so many more layers of story lines and history," Shaughnessy wrote. "Even a rematch with Pete the Poodle Carroll and the Seahawks would have drummed up some extra interest. The Atlanta Falcons? Meh."

The longtime Boston columnist went on to declare that the city of Atlanta has "absolutely zero enthusiasm for professional sports."

Shaughnessy isn't the only one taking shots. Some writers, like the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud and CBS Sports' Bill Reiter, have posited that the Patriots' real opponent on Sunday won't be the Falcons, but rather Roger Goodell. The idea that revenge for Deflategate might be the focus of Bill Belichick and company doesn't sit well for some Atlanta fans, who feel as though their team is being underestimated.

"Saturday Night Live" star Kenan Thompson, born and raised in Atlanta, joined my "That's What She Said" podcast to talk about the disrespect he and others Falcons fans are feeling.

"Every time I've ever been to a sporting event in Atlanta people give it up, just like anywhere else that I've ever been to," he said, adding that Shaughnessy "sounds like he's just hating on Atlanta 'cause we're awesome."

Thompson, the longest-tenured current cast member on "SNL," grew up in the College Park neighborhood of Atlanta watching Falcons games with his father and older brother. He's endeared himself to Boston sports legend David Ortiz, who said he loves Thompson's spot-on impersonation of him, but Thompson has never strayed from his Atlanta roots.

On Sunday, Patriots fans will witness their team's seventh Super Bowl appearance since 2001. Meanwhile, Falcons fans have had to stay strong through a lot of lean years. The team has made it to the title game just once before, a losing effort prefaced by safety Eugene Robinson's Super Bowl eve arrest.

"We've suffered!" Thompson said. "We deserve a little leniency as far as understanding what it takes to cheer for a losing team year after year. It takes a little bit out of you, but whenever they do show up and they play well, we're always there to support them."

Thompson said if the Patriots need to invent extra motivation to get them ready for Sunday's game, so be it, as long as they show up ready. "We're gonna be getting after Tom Brady like he's not been gotten after in the whole playoffs," he said. "It's gonna be like a whole new awakening for all of them."

Thompson won't be able to attend the game because of work, but he said he'll be watching from New York, screaming and cheering with every play. And he's got a message for anyone that might think he and the rest of Falcons Nation aren't enthusiastic.

"For anybody saying that Atlanta fans aren't loyal, you're out of your mind," Thompson said. "And you'll see on Sunday what I'm talking about."

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