Apparently an NFL team that plays ping-pong together wins together.
To the surprise of many, the Atlanta Falcons are making the trip to the Super Bowl next weekend to take on the New England Patriots. If you need to be reminded of how nobody believed in them heading into the season, more people bet on the Cleveland Browns making it to the Super Bowl than the Falcons. They're now slight underdogs against the dynamic duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in what is expected to be the highest scoring Super Bowl we've ever seen.
What's funny about how they've exceeded just about everyone's expectations this season is ping-pong has been central to their success on the field. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Falcons have three ping-pong tables in their locker room and it has helped foster some much-needed camaraderie amongst the players. Each player has their own reasoning for why it's made a difference – Julio Jones, for example, says it's helped his hand-eye coordination – but the underlying theme is it's brought everyone in the locker room much closer together.
"Last year, it was just guys on their phones," Tevin Coleman told ESPN. "Nobody was talking, communicating, nothing like that. The tables helped a lot. It got players like me who had never played ping-pong involved."
As for how ping-pong helps them on the field, here's what head coach Dan Quinn had to say: "Usually, when you're really good on the field, it starts in the locker room first. Those are the moments where the guys spend the time on and off the field to grow their relationship, to get it stronger."
The players will also tell you Jones is the best ping-pong player on the team. In fact, he takes it so seriously that he even has his own paddle. It's probably why he's not comfortable telling the media who "humbled" him this week.