In recent weeks the Tennessee Titans have enjoyed an influx of new fans from the St. Louis area thanks to the departure of the Rams franchise from that city. It's an interesting dynamic considering the history that the Titans and Rams franchises share, but one that the Titans organization has embraced.
Consider that the two franchises faced each other in one of the best Super Bowl games ever played. Then there is the Jeff Fisher effect. The former Titans coach left Nashville and after a year away from the game, he became the coach of the Rams and remains in that position today.
Fans of the Rams in St. Louis loved their team, they cheered them to the Super Bowl victory over the Titans, yet now they find themselves fans of their former enemies. Those fans were forced to make a choice, continue to support their former franchise who deserted them for another city or change their allegiances to another NFL franchise.
Kansas City would seem to be a logical choice considering they share the same state, but considering the Chiefs alienated many Rams fans by voting to allow the Rams to exit St. Louis, those fans chose the Titans since Nashville is a relatively short distance from their homes.
Those fans went to work quickly to become Titans fans, as a blog page aptly named the St. Louis Titans Blog sprung up on social media. Fans of this page and others around that area became followers of mine and TitanRedZone immediately. Those fans have shown an impressive knowledge of the current Titans roster and a thirst to learn more about their new team.
It's been a very memorable time to be sure for those fans and for myself personally.
To their credit, the Titans organization have embraced their new found fans, That embrace included a personal tour for one of the writers of the St. Louis Titans Blog page.
Last week Laurie Brown, made the trip to Nashville along with her husband for a first hand look at the home of their new favorite team. Brown shared her impressions of the "Home of the Titans" in her article on their site, and it seemed like a good idea to share her impressions with long-time Titans fans who have been watching games inside the stadium for the past 17 years.
***Editor's Note: Laurie Brown, a writer for the STL Titans Blog, was invited to take a tour of Nissan Stadium and visit with team officials last weekend. This is her weekend recap.
"I was so nervous the morning of my tour of Nissan Stadium it was ridiculous. I had only been a fan for two weeks (my former team had scurried away to LA and made no attempt to include me) so I was basically meeting the Titans for the first time. It felt like a first date or maybe a job interview and I wanted to make a good impression. I had on my Marcus Mariota #8 t-shirt, the one with the lei. I doubted my choice...was it too dorky? Should I be wearing something more professional since this whole tour was possible because I would be writing an article for the STLTitans Blog and had used my "credentials" to get a foot in the door? My hair, which had looked perfect the night before looked wonky too and I hoped I would have opportunities to see my reflection in windows and things so I could keep an eye on it and make sure it didn't get any worse. It sounds lame, but I wanted them to like me.
Of course we were early. I had my husband with me, he was my ride and would help the conversation along if I should falter. We parked and immediately my phone rang. It was Clayton, an account executive with Group Sales, checking in. I told him we had just arrived and he said great, he would meet us at Gate 1. Clayton sounded a lot like Peyton Manning on the phone and that intensified my anxiety. My worry was needless, however. Clayton opened the massive gate and invited us in and was warm and friendly and seemed genuinely happy to show us around.
We started with a quick visit of the group party spaces available to rent which seemed like a good deal and then were off to the owners box which was a surprisingly practical space with a fantastic view of the field. Here Clayton gave us the seminal piece of information that would set the tone for the rest of the tour, the overall feel of Nissan Stadium and the mindset of the Titans organization as a whole. Jon Robinson their new GM had proclaimed, "We're a first class organization and we need to look like one." That commitment to quality was readily apparent. The field had been stripped of grass for a Monster Truck event the weekend before but was now being readied for the laying of fresh sod. They replace the grass three times a season Clayton told us and it was mowed every day. This mowing takes all day long and the guy that does it starts early in the morning and is still mowing when the rest of the staff goes home. He's been doing this job for years. Every seat in the place was being replaced, a massive undertaking, and fresh paint was being applied all the way up to the lights. People were working everywhere spiffing the place up for the fans and a lot of energy was being poured into the new season ahead.
After that auspicious start, next up was the craziest, funnest stop, mascot T-Rac's dressing room, garage, closet, whatever. This team raccoon (it was uncertain why the Titans mascot is a raccoon) has at least six vehicles, one of which is a white chariot complete with white armor-wearing horses with impressive feathered plumes. (Clayton told us he had other vehicles stored elsewhere.) T-Rac had a massive collection of bicycles, signs, accessories (including a space helmet), alternate body parts and at least one custom made parade float. (Clayton may have inferred that T-Rac gets a new float for every parade.) It was dazzling, funny and tangible evidence of the Titans investment in the fan experience.
One thing I'm always curious to see is the locker room and after a brief stop in the room where the post-game press conferences were held a light was flipped on and a moment later we were inside the sacred space...and I'm not even joking when I say that. It was pretty bare with no name plates even slid into place yet, but it appeared ready and waiting. Marcus Mariota's locker is in the first spot left of the showers/bathroom and DeMarco Murray's is the first spot to the right. I smiled at that...seats of power right outside the bathroom. I took a peek into the showers too because I could and I have to say both the locker room and the bathroom were spotless. In fact, the whole facility was very clean even in the midst of construction and Monster Truck things and Guns and Roses concerts. Actually, the Guns and Roses concert was upcoming and I found out that G&R would be getting a locker room tour too.
We peeked into a darkened training room. We took amusing pics pretending to be the coach in a spartan Mike Mularkey office which looked like it had been furnished with items from the cast-off furniture storage closet. That was sort of charming, down to earth and it felt oddly reassuring. We hung around in the tunnel trying to get a feel for what it must be like hearing your name called and running out onto the field to a cheering crowd. I was pleased to see two full-sized scoreboards, one at each end zone. It's always a bummer when you find yourself at a game facing a scoreboard junior. We went onto a sort of sportscast set, we hung out in the enormous press box, and we visited the impressive Club Level with it's magnificent view of downtown Nashville. The Club Level offers local food choices, nice bathrooms and free massages courtesy of local massage school students. A free massage! At a football game! All along the way, through all the corridors, in and out of all the public and private spaces, we heard time and time again how important St. Louis fans were to the Titans. We didn't have to ask, we were told. Clayton wasn't just a tour guide, he was our host and he made us, and in extension St. Louis fans as a whole, feel welcomed, valued, like part of the family. It was Southern hospitality at it's finest.
Nissan Stadium is in a lovely setting on the bank of the Cumberland River with downtown Nashville a reasonable walk across a pedestrian bridge. Downtown sounds like the pre and post-game party zone too. The stadium is well-maintained, Titans themed everywhere down to the trash cans and the surrounding area is safe. Parking sounded like a bit of an issue as lots are reserved for season ticket holders which is a nice perk for them. However if you keep your eye on NFL ticket exchange STH's do sell their parking passes there. Otherwise you park downtown. There was some mention of a shuttle which I failed to retain due to my dislike of any/all shuttles. If you're a tailgater you might want to minimize your gear your first trip down because of the downtown parking situation. But maybe not, if you're a motivated bunch you can probably make it happen regardless.
In sum, from the moment I made my first tentative overture in asking if I could come for a visit until the moment I walked out of Gate 1 with a bag stuffed full of complimentary Titans swag I felt welcomed, appreciated, taken care of, and encouraged. There was an overall optimistic feel in the air about the teams' improvement and chance for success evident at both the stadium and around town as I asked people if they were Titans fans and how they felt about the team. I myself am excited to be a Titans fan and looking forward to the season. This is indeed a first class organization that not only looks like one but acts like one too."
While I have never met her in person, Mrs. Brown and I have become friends through social media, talk regularly about the Titans. I appreciate her and the folks at the St. Louis Titans Blog page for allowing me to share her work with our readers here.
Here is a link to her story, with pictures on the site should anyone here like to visit our new fans.