The ever so famous Greg Young.
As he is the one that will guide you
through this convoluted mess.
Wake Up, It's Your Wake Up Call
For the 1997 season, the Oilers moved to Tennesse to start their business there. In 1999, they changed their name to the Titans, and became a popular team to the everyday sport fan. I was hoping that this year they could make it to the playoffs (something they had not been able to do for five straight years), but I did not see a significant change in the team to ever see them make it far. Soon I was to see them continuously win games and receive a great regular season record: thirteen wins, three losses.
The Titans did not win their division, so they were placed fourth of six teams in the AFC, their conference. I was not too happy for this because they were better than the clubs that were placed second and third, but they did not win their division, so they were placed behind them. All that means is that they have to beat tougher teams to make it to the Super Bowl. At the time, it did not occur to me once that they were a Super Bowl ready team; I had seen them so many times and I never saw anything that impressed me to the extent that they were really a good team. Regardless, their first playoff game was at home against the Buffalo Bills, and they had not lost at home yet.
At the time, I did not know that I was about to indulge myself into the most interesting football game in my life. Adam decided to watch the game with me because I was very happy that the Titans made the playoffs, something that has not happened for half of a decade. I prepared for the show by waking up early and reading the predictions for the game, and then watching the pre-game shows that were airing on various channels. I was hyped up and ready for the game by the time the opening kickoff started.
The Bills-Titans game was the first of the year 2000, and the commentators continuously blabbed about how everything that was happening in the game was a first for the 2000s. Even with all the talk, the first half of the game was really boring and it dragged on really slowly. Tennessee scored the first points in the game from a safety by Jevon Kearse, a rookie that already had made his imprint on the league. By halftime, Tennessee had stormed to a 12-0 lead. Of course, I was in an ecstatic mood, because Tennessee had taken a good lead going into halftime.
The second half was much less boring that the first. On their first drive, Buffalo scored a touchdown to put the game within five. I started to tense up because I knew that they could catch up whenever they wanted to. Adam noticed that I was getting nervous, and he tried to calm me down. It hit me worse when Buffalo scored another touchdown, but failed their two-point attempt. Now Buffalo had a one-point lead over Tennessee with only a few minutes left in the game.
At first glance, I thought that there was only a slight chance that Tennessee would be able to come back and at least take some sort of lead. Luckily, they drove the ball down and kicked a successful field goal, which put them ahead by two with 1:48 remaining. I told Adam that they had the game as long as Buffalo did not make it down the field. To my surprise, they did, and once again took a one-point lead. But this time, it was different. There was only sixteen seconds left on the clock.
I had waited five years to see them make the playoffs, and now to me it looked like the season was over for them. I could not bear it and I did not want to believe it. Adam, who had been by my side the whole time, tried to cheer me up by saying that miracles can happen. He did not know that it was practically impossible to run back a kickoff, especially with such pressure on them. I liked how he was trying to comfort me, but it just was not going to happen. The Titans did have a good season after all, and I was grateful for that. I was just hoping it could have ended more positively.
Regardless of all the talk about Tennessee losing, I still kept my eyes glued to the TV, just to see if there was a chance they ran the kick far enough for a field goal. When Buffalo booted the ball to the Tennessee side, it landed about twenty yards shorter than it should have. The Titans fullback caught the ball and immediately handed it off to the tight end. In what appeared to be an illegal action, the tight end threw the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, a kick returner. From there, it was history. He ran the ball all the way into the endzone, good for a five-point lead. I was still tense because I thought that the pass the tight end made was a forward pass, which is illegal, and recently in the NFL they were using instant replay, which would correct mistakes. On the field, the officials said that the play was completely fine, but the Bills insisted that it be reviewed. I was extremely scared that it would be overturned because I was almost certain it was a forward pass. After the cameramen showed a bunch of replays to the audience, I started changing my opinion, and I realized that it was not a forward pass, and it was legal. I was hoping the officials saw it that way because it was so close that it could have gone either way.
During the time the review was taking place, Adam’s little brother called me up to see what I thought of the play. He was excited because he thought the Titans had won, but I was still tense because I knew they still had to survive a review. While I was still on the phone with him, the official came onto the field to announce the results.
“After reviewing the play, the ruling on the field stands...”
Once he said “stands” everyone in the stadium started cheering as loud as they could. I could not heard the rest the official had to say, and all I saw him was raise his hands in the motion of a touchdown. I could not believe it. A miracle happened, and Adam was right.
There was still three seconds on the clock, enough time for the Bills to run back a kickoff. Their attempt was not successful, and it ended up being a circus of players just tossing the ball in weird directions in order to keep it alive. They knew that once the ball was dead, the game was over. Soon their attempts were over, when a Titans player was able to get a hold of a Bills player. He tackled him, and time expired. The Titans had won their playoff game, and in the best way they could have. I saved the newspaper the next day in order to remind me of what happened on January 8, 2000 in Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville.
The Titans' next opponent was the Indianapolis Colts, ranked number two. The game was somewhat interesting, but nothing like the Titans-Bills game. AJ came over during the game to play computer games and he stayed to watch the Titans successfully beat the Colts and advance to the conference finals against the team they beat two times during the regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars stole the division title from the Titans, in my opinion. They had two losses the whole season, both to the Titans, and they were going to once again meet up with them in the playoffs. The game they were going to play in would be decider to see which team will make it into the Super Bowl. I hoped that the Titans could do it, but it was getting to my head, and starting to make me really nervous, even a few days before the game started. I needed to find a way to take my mind off of it for a temporary amount of time, and the best way was the upcoming Reveille concert.
Reveille was a band somewhat like Rage Against the Machine that I had grown to like over the past few months. I really liked the band name, which means “signal for awakening.” I had got AJ into their music, and convinced him to accompany me to the Reveille concert, a day before the Titans and Jaguars squared off. Michael, one of our friends from sixth grade, decided to join us too. He is a goofy man who is really tall, and he is known for his stupid comments that are without common sense. We took him along, so he could experience his first concert.
The venue was at the Nile, a place where local band concerts are held, but also small underground ones too. A cacophonic band was playing when we entered the building. After their set was reveille, so we hung off to the side and waited for the hardcore teens to hit the stage. Sitting beside us while we were waiting was a person with a “Masturbation is not a Crime” shirt, and I looked at it and giggled. It reminded me of when I used to make fun of a person in school about how skateboarding is a crime. Not too many skateboarders liked it when someone tells them that it is a crime. About ten minutes before Reveille’s set, AJ went to the stand and bought a Reveille CD, while I decided to buy a black and red shirt. We headed to the pit and found our spots to watch Reveille.
The kids from Boston hit the stage and started ripping up the crowd with their opening song “Butterfly.” For an unknown band like them, they did a good job stirring up the crowd. During the night, they played “Judas” which was my favorite song at the time. I kept moving forward during their set and I found myself about ten feet away from the stage. At this time, I was battling two mosh pits on both sides of me, but I survived until they closed up. I noticed AJ and Mike were far behind me, so I waiting until after Reveille was done to meet up with them.
Other than the Rage Against the Machine concert, reveille set was the best. They got me so hyped during their set, and I actually felt like I was the only one that was jumping to their music. After Reveille was Machinehead, another hardcore group. AJ really liked them so he listened to them with a sensitive ear. Close to the end of their set, Mike started to complain about how he wanted to leave because it was getting late. It was almost midnight and the concert had not ended, so neither AJ nor I wanted to leave. Still, Mike continued to bug us. Once Machinehead finished, we called our ride and made our way home. I was ready for the football game tomorrow; the concert had done the job because it calmed me down.
The next day during the pre-game show for the Jaguars-Titans game, they talked about how there has not been a time where a team has beaten another team three times in one season and the last game being away. The Titans were going to attempt that, and I had a feeling that there was a possibility they could accomplish it. When the game started, I was scared at how it would flow. Soon I was to see the Titans do some early dirty work.
From the beginning, the Titans had the edge. They continuously scored and kept the Jaguars in check. Unlike the Bills game, this lasted the whole time, and they mauled the Jaguars. The Titans had made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in their franchise’s history. It was a dream come true for me, and I immediately called my brother. He told me that it was going to be my day on Super Bowl Sunday, and he said for me to invite everyone over for a party. He was proud that the Titans could make it this year, because ever since the start of the playoffs, he never doubted Tennessee. Even I doubted them, but I was convinced when they received their conference’s title. The game that was going to air after the Titans game would decide their opponent in the Super Bowl. Their rival would be the St. Louis Rams, the one team I did not want to see play the Titans.
Over the course of the next week, I invited as many friends over as I could get, and that was only a few. My brother also invited his friends to relax and watch the Titans play in the Super Bowl. It turned out like the party I tried to plan would be at least mediocre after all and I spent the rest of the week containing my hyper attitude, because it was getting out of hand. I just could not believe that Tennessee had made it to the big game. I watch it every year, and now this year I was watching it because my favorite team was starring in it.
Once I woke up on January 30th, my brother told me how it was my day, and he said that no matter what happens, just have fun. Around an hour before the game started, some of my friends had already showed up. Adam came by himself, but AJ brought one of my older friends, Robby, along. Robby was someone I had known since sixth grade, but I had not had much communication with him ever since we left middle school. Even after all the years, he was still the computer gaming nerd and scholar athlete I had always known.
To set up for the game, the couch in my family room was pulled out so people could rest on it easily, and a bunch of lawn chairs were brought inside. My brother’s friends had come by the time everything was set up, so we had a full house for the game. Before the game started, my brother’s friend, Jason, started to tease me about the game, and I got a little mad at him. It was only because I was tense that the game was about to start. I calmed down slowly once the hype of the kickoff ended.
The beginning of the game progressed very slowly, and not in my favor. The Titans did very poorly in the first half, but still kept the game within reach. Every time the Rams had the ball, they would drive the ball the length of the field, but would always get stopped short of a touchdown. So at the end of the first half, they had settled for three field goals, while they shut out the Titans. Though the Titans were far behind point-wise and statistically, I still felt okay about the game.
During halftime, my father had a barbecue outside and fed everyone very well. He served hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, along with bacon. From what I remember, I did not each much because I was hung up from the game. I was too eaten by the game’s suspense to indulge myself into a lot of food. My friends, on the other hand, ate enough food to make them regurgitate. I had never seen any of buddies eat that much food in my life. While still many people were eating, the game continued as the second half started.
After the first half, I was hoping that the Titans could at least score the first touchdown in the game, and turn things around. That did not happen though, because the Rams drove it down once again, and scored a touchdown instead of a field goal. They now had a sixteen-point lead, and I was already thinking up of things to say about their season, because it was over. My brother told me to hang in there, and that there was some time left. I knew they could at least make an attempt to shorten the Rams’ lead, but I never thought that they could win.
As the third quarter passed and the fourth quarter rolled by, the Titans scored two touchdowns and brought the game within three. They were coming back just like they did during the regular season. I also noticed that during the fourth quarter, everyone in my house was watching the game. Before, there were some people on my computer, others mingling in the other room, and a few just not interested in the game. My mother stopped by to watch the same when she heard it was getting close. The suspense of the game was getting to me and the Titans made another drive to score, one that would tie up the game.
During the game-tying drive, there was an unfavorable call that the officials made regarding the ball spot on a third down play. The call forced the Titans to make a fourth down play in order to keep their drive alive. Because they had to make another play they were not prepared for, they used a time out. At the time, that decision did not seem like a big deal. It would show once the game winded down to its last seconds.
Once the Titans kicked a field goal and tied up the game, the Rams received the ball in order to make something happen in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl. I was in a happy mood at the time, mainly because Tennessee had a little advantage over the Rams if they could stop their drive. Unfortunately, they were not successful. Kurt Warner of the Rams bolted back and threw a desperation pass while he was trying to avoid a sack, and it turned out to be a touchdown. St. Louis had taken the lead with less than two minutes to go. The only hope in the Titans was that they had to score a touchdown before time expired.
The first few yards were easy for Tennessee. They started to waste a lot of time, but Steve McNair, the quarterback, used his legs to gain the extra yards they needed for a first down, whenever they were in danger. The final drive was seriously messing with my head and I had to pace back and forth the keep myself in line. The play that really caught me was when McNair ran around in the backfield trying to avoid a sack. He wasted so much time and I thought that the game was over until he threw a completion eleven yards away from the endzone. The Titans quickly called a timeout with only five seconds left.
This was it. It was the last play of the game. Tennessee only needed eleven yards and they would send the Super Bowl into overtime. I walked back and forth until finally the play was about to start. McNair made a quick drop back and fired a short five-yard slant pass across the middle to Kevin Dyson. He made his way toward the endzone, but he was caught by Mike Jones of the Rams and was wrapped up. He took a tumble but he reached for the endzone. When I saw him tackled, I knew he did not make it. I knew he was a yard short. There was a lot of commotion going on about if he made it or not, but I was already in the stage that the Titans had lost the Super Bowl. Even though they were the losers of the NFL’s biggest game, I was not at all sad. I do not know why, but I took it very well. Once the official announced that the Titans were a yard short of the six points, my brother came up to me and said, “Don’t worry Sunil, there’s always next year.”
I quickly walked out of the family room and toward the computer area where Adam confronted me and said, “Definitely don’t wear your Titans shirt to school tomorrow.” I thought to myself and said back to him, “No way man, I’m definitely wearing it tomorrow.” I was proud that the Titans made it as far as they did, because I knew they did not just make it to the Super Bowl and lose, they made it to the Super Bowl and played one great game. No matter what anyone says, they did not lose the game by seven points, but by one yard. Never will a game get any closer than that.
The next day at school was humorous to me because everyone repeatedly kept telling me that the Titans lost the Super Bowl, and I would tell them back that I already know that. I guess no one thought that I was watching the Super Bowl myself. Either that or they were trying to humiliate me because I was wearing a Titans shirt. Whatever it was, it did not bother me. The day still flowed like any other day, and the 1999 NFL season came to a favorable close. I would never be as close to football as I was that year.
Once the season was over, I started to realize how football was really a significant part of my life. Ever since that year, it has been degrading, and I have awoken from my football trance. Though I continued to love the game and all its glory, it became more of a passive hobby than an obsession. Even though I loosened the ties to football, I never let go of the Titans; they always stayed my favorite team. And they will always be known as the Houston Oilers to me, no matter how many times they change their name or move locations.