Many years ago, Nashville opened a new football stadium and became a major league city with a REAL football team and a REAL stadium. My son, gave his pre-purchased ticket to me saying that a pre-season game wasn’t worth worrying about, and he’d rather go to St. Louis and watch the Cardinals play baseball.
So, I attended the opening game and it was certainly like nothing I had ever seen – more like a country music video production than a sporting event – but then, this IS Nashville, and it isn’t as if we’ve never seen show biz before.
It was definitely big time entertainment stuff. Four hundred media people there, and 65,700 fans. Even ESPN showed up. E-S-P-N -that’s another word for Every Screaming Person in Nashville. The stadium holds 67,700 and it was a sellout. I kept worrying about where the other 2000 were. “Ya’ll hurry up – somebody’s gonna get your seat! Don’t ya’ll care?” Probably stuck in the traffic outside or still waiting for the shuttle parade to get thru.
If you read my column very often, you know what kind of sports fan I am and probably wonder what I was doing there. I’m not sure myself except, like I said, the ticket was free – my favorite word. Since I worked downtown anyhow then, it was just a short walk across the Cumberland River bridge to the coliseum.
There were droves of people walking; seems planners forgot about building a parking garage and were running shuttles to remote cow pastures all over Tennessee. They do things like that here. Probably still people circling out there looking for a parking place. What I hadn’t figured on was those stadium ramps. Climbed for what seemed like an hour, passing mountain goats and weather balloons, till I finally made it to my budget-priced seat in the lower stratosphere.
I came prepared to hate the game – but turns out it was really just a flashy, well-staged show. Football was kind of the extra added attraction. There were fantastic scoreboards at each end of the field with slick video productions, rock music, and a light screen that told the crowd when to do the wave – football fans not being smart enough to figure it out on their own.
There were giant inflated football figure balloons, sexy cheerleaders, a raccoon mascot, video close-ups of fans being fans, and all of it was flashed on the big screen. Faith Hill, a country music star, sang the national anthem and a genuine bald eagle from a Tennessee wildlife refuge was released and soared over the crowd. (Even our wildlife is show biz.) Country music stars were flashed on the video screen to endorse and cheer the team, and Hank Williams, Jr. screamed, “Ere ya ready fer sum football?”
Fireworks erupted after every point scored. The crowd was wild, especially by the fourth quarter when the beer hit ‘em good. One fan took off his shirt and decided to lead the crowd in cheering, waving and yelling, “Roo, roo, never give up!” Excuse me, sir…but the Titans are winning. He must have been a student from Vanderbilt, not use to ever actually winning one.
And the game? Well, the Oil…. er…. Titans… (blush) did play hard. Wanted to win for the opening crowd, I guess. Scored early in the game and Atlanta was never able to catch ‘em. Nashville, cosmopolitan city with a rural flavor, has another entertainment extravaganza.
Course, they have already played many seasons and many games since all this happened, won some and lost others. The name of the stadium has changed names many times also. People from around here are football crazy, even about college sports. The University of Tennessee will be opening their football season soon, and many people have blood that runs bright orange and will always consider UT the REAL football team from Tennessee.
Roo, roo, never give up.