Greetings, sports fans. With the single exception of my Masters Moments, it has been some time since I have elucidated on these pages. I hope you have missed me as much as I have missed writing here.
Occasionally life happens, but hopefully I have rectified the situation and can get back to the business at hand, namely "professional" sports writing with an amateur perspective.
So, onward we go.
I know what some (most) of you are thinking: it is not possible to be truly loyal to two teams. You have to pick one or the other, right? Normally I would agree with you, but what if you don't pick the team, but instead the team picks you? What then?
This was the situation I found myself in a decade ago. As many of you know (or you could simply read my profile and find out), I am a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Don't ask me why; I was somewhere in the neighborhood of six years old when I made the decision. Possibly because my little brother decided he liked the Cowboys, the Steelers kept beating the Cowboys, and that gave me something to pick on him about.
Anyway, back to the "two team paradox", as I like to call it. Steelers fan since I could hold a football without falling over. Have a '70s era two-bar face-mask regulation helmet sitting on my dresser.
Atop that is a World Champions beanie cap from 1970-something. I actually own a Kordell Stewart Jersey. The Steelers were my team in EVERY Tecmo tournament I played (and I won a few, too).
One would think that nothing, no event, no bribe, no occurence short of the Steelers ceasing to exist could split my loyalties. In 1997 I would have agreed with you.
However, in 1998, something happened in my hometown. September 13, to be exact.
The Tennessee Oilers (remember them?) played their first game in Nashville, Tennessee at Dudley Field—the home field for the Vanderbilt Commodores—against the San Diego Chargers. Ironically, it was the first professional football game I ever attended.
That's right. I had been a Steelers fan since I could say the word "football", but had never had a chance to attend a game.
From the northwest corner of the end zone, I got my first glimpse of what professional football players looked like—LIVE.
Big names like Bruce Matthews, Eddie George, Steve McNair, and Yancy Thigpen—ironically a Steelers player the year before—and other names like Perry Phenix, Mike Archie, and the other George in the backfield, Spencer; there they were, right in front of me in full color 3-D.
Even Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf was a cool sight to see.
The Oilers went on to lose the game 13-7, and finished the first season 8-8. However, the next season would spell big changes for the team, and the entire city was caught up in the hoopla, yours truly included.
1999 saw the new team name, the Tennessee Titans, and new team colors, both arrived at after a citywide contest to submit choices for both.
It saw the grand opening of The Colliseum—regardless of who owns the naming rights, and there have been a few, Titans stadium is referred to by many as The Colliseum—on the east bank of the Cumberland River. It saw the Titans go 13-3 in their first year in the new stadium.
It saw the Music City Miracle.
Yes, THAT miracle.
Doubt it all you want, scientific review and prognosticators the world over have confirmed that the lateral was legal, and the result of the play sent the Titans on to their first Super Bowl in Franchise history, Oilers OR Titans.
With all that going on, how could I NOT be a fan?
I knew I was hooked after the Super Bowl. There I was, sitting in a hotel room in Norcross, Georgia—was on a job, and couldn't get tickets because they didn't pay quite enough—watching the game on the edge of my seat. Down 16-0, I watched and cheered—loudly—as the Titans systematically erased the deficit with power and precision.
2:12 left to go, and all they had to do was play defense like they had all game.
A kickoff and 73-yard pass later, and none of that mattered.
10 yards to the end zone with six seconds left in the game, and they call a slant route to Kevin Dyson by trying to use Frank Wycheck as a lure on the middle linebacker.
The result, of course, is now simply known as The Tackle.
As a newly-stamped fan, I was in shock. My trip to Georgia was ruined. I had just watched my hometown team LOSE in the Super Bowl. How could that happen? Why did the football gods do that to me?
Maybe it was punishment for rooting for two teams. Even worse, two teams in the same conference AND division.
Then again, I had been a loyal Steelers fan through the Bubby Brister years. And I hadn't picked the Titans, they had, in effect, picked ME. I was in Nashville first, dang it.
After rooting for the Steelers of the 80's, I DESERVED to be able to root for a winner.
Plus, with both teams in the same division, I got to watch them BOTH play once a year in Nashville, which was kinda cool.
So what said I couldn't have a favorite team, and a SECOND favorite team? Nothing, I said to myself. Nothing at all.
So here I sit, still pulling for my Steelers each week, and being a good hometown fan by throwing my support behind the Titans—unless, of course, they are playing the Steelers—and with both teams appearing to be contenders for at least the next few years, having the possibility of getting to see them live in Nashville for the playoffs.
From my point of view, it doesn't get much better.