Titans Face Steelers in Season Opener; White Still Doesn't Get It

Bryan HollisterAnalyst ISeptember 10, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 3: LenDale White of the Tennessee Titans poses for the camera against the Green Bay Packers during a preseason NFL game at LP Field on September 3, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans beat the Packers 27-13. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Nashville, Tenn — look closely, folks. Because the face you see here will be watched—and hunted—closely once the Titans and Steelers hit the field.

You all remember the game AND the incident, I'm sure.

The Tennessee Titans faced off against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers last year at LP Field, in a game which ultimately decided who held the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs.

Despite more than 300 yards passing from Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers only found the end zone twice. Jason Jones played like a man possessed, and the final-minute pickoff of a Roethlisberger pass ensured that the Titans would not have to travel in the postseason.

A 31-14 drubbing was bad enough. Knowing that they may have to come back to Nashville, known throughout the NFL as a tough ticket in the postseason, gave the Steelers enough pause.

What LenDale White did on the sidelines gave them fire.

Apparently they put it to good use, because they now have a sixth Lombardi trophy adorning their hallowed halls. Tennessee, on the other hand, squandered a good opportunity and exited the postseason after an embarrassing showing against Baltimore at LP Field.

Didn't see LenDale stomping any stuffed Ravens that day.

Now, less than one week before arguably the biggest rematch in quite some time, the AFC Championship that never was, so to speak, LenDale White still refuses to acknowledge that his towel-stomping incident might have been in bad taste, at one point even asserting that he would do it again.

Come now, don't get all upset; who among us can deny the "power" of the symbolic talisman or gesture?

How many pitchers refuse to step on the baseline lest they jinx their pitching effort?

How many players wear their hat a certain way, or have a pair of lucky socks, or even a lucky "athletic supporter"?

How many times have we heard of the guy who refuses to wash his (insert chosen lucky item here) until the wining streak is over, which can occasionally span two seasons?

Who would deny that players are superstitious, and understand the power behind a symbol?

The Terrible Towel is such a symbol for the Steelers. Forget that it is considered to be the first "rally towel"; never mind that it has had appearances in such places as Mount Everest and on Saturday Night Live; give no mind to the probability that, besides possibly the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and the St. Louis Chicken, the Terrible Towel is arguably the most widely recognized fan symbol in professional sports.

And the $2 million in proceeds that have been donated to the Allegeheny Valley School for disabled children? Don't give it a second thought.

No, what really matters is that in stomping on the towel and grinding it into the dirt, White was sending a message. The message was, "you guys are worthless. We can destroy you at will. You and your symbols mean nothing to me."

Fair enough.

White cannot back away from the statement or the act. Ego will not allow for it. Sure, coach Fisher has tried to deflect attention from the incident, calling it on-field emotion, or some such thing.


White has been quoted as saying that if that's what the Steelers need to get fired up, then he's glad to give it to them.

My guess is, the video has been playing in the Steelers locker room all week.

Considering that the Steelers didn't get a chance to avenge a rather embarrassing loss to the Titans last year, allowing, even encouraging, this to stay in the public eye may not be the wisest decision. Pittsburgh is coming into this game with a mission, and the mission is entitled, "Show LenDale White how bad an idea it was to stomp a Terrible Towel."

No, really. It's stamped on the front page of the Top Secret dossier Coach Tomlin has stuck in his desk drawer.

They won't admit it, of course. They'll talk about getting the season underway, making a good start at defending their title, blah blah blah.

It is, after all, a Top Secret mission.

"The Incident" is on every Steelers player's mind whether they attest to it or not.

My advice? Shut up and play, LenDale. Enough with the silly antics. Strap on the pads, lower your shoulder, and play.

And if, by some chance, you and your teammates pull out a win against Pittsburgh, do us all a favor: don't show your butt and stomp another towel.

It's week one. Make it to the postseason, beat the Steelers in the AFC championship, go on to win the Super Bowl, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, some antics will be justified.

But you have to win first.