I’m a different person inside LP field. Outside the Titans’ home I’m a quiet guy who rarely raises his voice and gets along with everyone. Inside, I’m a maniac.
I let it all hang out when it’s game time. I yell, I curse, I tell an entire section of people to make more noise. Why is this? Because so many people are screaming, yelling, and acting like insane people, I can blend in. In most settings, I’m unsure of myself. When I’m cheering for my football team, I’m sure of everything. I know what’s happening and can explain every situation.
In a sure sign of maturity or age, last week’s game didn’t bother me as much as the previous two losses. Perhaps I’m getting to my saturation point in close losses. Honestly, watching the defense struggle like it did does not quite compute. I saw the signs during the Cowboys game. Dallas moved up and down the field with no problems. Of course it was preseason, and the usual party line of “we didn’t scheme for them” made perfect sense. I forgot that football coaches are a bunch of liars.
As a sports fan, I always believe that the bottom is going to drop out. I’ve seen it happen too many times. That’s what you get when you’ve watched so many events. Everything that could happen, happens. I know that great players can become mortal. I’ve seen seemingly insurmountable leads evaporate. This summer, Titan fans witnessed the bizarre death of one of their heroes.
Perhaps that added to the strange atmosphere. I have to admit, it got very dusty in that humid stadium when they did a tribute to McNair. The giveaway was a black sticker with the blue number 9. That added a pall to the goings on. Is there anything creepier than watching a dead man talk? McNair gave what was the usual retired athletes’ speech about how the fans were key to his success and they were the best in the world. Suddenly my feelings on his death became clear. Yeah, it was a tragedy. I think Mrs. McNair deserved an opportunity to confront her wayward husband. It’s very possible that they had an agreement, unspoken or otherwise, that his activities were condoned. I don’t think that murder-suicide was part of it.
On to the game. Forget what I said earlier, there hasn’t been a game like this in NFL history. I keep up with Chris Johnson’s tweets. He’s a 24-year-old (just a couple of days ago) with extreme athletic talents who can be a little full of himself. Fans were afraid that his transcendent 2008 season was a mirage. The Titans had drafted and drafted running backs, looking for the next Eddie George. We got it. We got the next generation of Eddie George.
I made a joke to my dad on the way in that the Titans were predictable on third and long. Run the draw. Most NFL teams do this to get a few yards and more or less throw away the play. It was third and 14. LenDale White was in the game. Had he run the draw, there would have been a punt the next play. After a penalty, Chris Johnson replaced him. He took the handoff, made a couple of moves and was gone. If he gets to the second level, forget about it. Touchdown. It was the first touchdown I had seen in our end zone by our team since December.
Later in the quarter, Johnson lined up wide. In the opener, one complaint was that the Titans didn’t throw the ball to Johnson enough. The Titans may have played bad defense last Sunday, but they didn’t forget to at least line a guy up against Andre Johnson on every play. No one from the Texans followed Johnson, and every fan in the stadium saw it a second before it happened. In perhaps the easiest 69-yard touchdown in NFL history, Collins immediately threw the ball to Johnson and it was over. There was no doubt that he was going to score. There might be half a dozen players in the NFL who just would have been able to turn on the jets.
The last score was on third and ten from the nine-yard line. Again Johnson replaced White. Do you think LenDale will get another draw play for the rest of the year. Johnson made maybe two moves and was gone for 91 yards. This woke up the fans stunned from watching the team give up 17 straight points in the second quarter. He scored and fans started wondering if Johnson was on the verge of breaking some league records.
He didn’t do much for the rest of the game. The lead disappeared and the hopeful game tying or winning drive ended when Collins inexplicably dropped the football as he scrambled. We were silent, but we were not surprised at the result.
I relished in the atmosphere. The silly inflatable helmet from which the defense was announced. The overpriced food. The normal cast of characters in the seats my parents have had for a decade. The pre-game flight. The amazing plays on both sides of the ball. It was a lot of fun. The slow walk up the hill was not quite as fun. Unlike the last walk, on a cold drizzly evening in January, it wasn’t the end of the world. It was clearly the end of 2008’s magic. Fans had to wonder if the run was finished. 0-2 is a tough spot, although I saw a Titan team start 1-4 and make it to the AFC Championship. Hope springs eternal.
By the time I walked to the truck, I wasn’t the maniac anymore. I was tired.