December 16, 2002
"Smash of the Titans"
Armed with high hopes, a suitcase full of clothes befitting a Winter Monday Night Football Game, and a couple of Bruschi Brew 7's, Big Al and I headed south to Nashville. Our adventure began on the evening of Friday, December 14th as we attended his department Christmas Party, hit a club in Providence until 2AM, and decided to pull an all-nighter, heading to the airport for 4:00.... Big Mistake!!
Being accustomed to working all night and also possessing the ability to sleep on a plane, Al crashed prior to take-off, which he repeated on our connection as well. I never sleep on a plane and usually read but was too tired, so the flights were endless for me. When we arrived in Nashville and took the shuttle to the hotel, I couldn't wait to get to the room. However, when we got there they informed us that we were bumped for the night and they would put us up someplace else.
We hopped a shuttle, arrived at a (Yuck!) Holiday Inn and were told that there were no available rooms there either... After many apologies, the assurance of 2 comp nights, an upgrade to a suite, and a free dinner, they finally arranged for us to stay at a nearby Marriott where we took a power nap and hooked up with ListBuds Bama and Steve. We hit downtown Nashville that evening and enjoyed a nice dinner at Big River Brewery, where I did Monty proud and ordered the sampler!
After a good night's sleep, an early morning run, and lots of coffee, we headed over to our hotel where we were immediately greeted by Willie McGinest's folks who recognized us from San Diego, and later by the Paxton Clan who did so as well. Seems we ALL were bumped the night before and were housed someplace else. While waiting in the lobby, we met a terrific Boston couple, Lillian and Don, who hung with us for the weekend and were quite amazed by our "subculture of Patriots fandom." They were a lot of fun and were aghast at my ability to identify every Patriot who came through the lobby!
Discovering that the Miami game was not on locally, and knowing that the team was not due to arrive until later, we hit a local sports bar for a few beers and some wings. It was distracting watching a small TV with other games on all around but it was fun nonetheless and killed some time. When the players arrived, they came in a back entrance then wandered into the lobby to greet family members and hang around.
The lobby of the hotel was huge and lacked the "professional" autograph seekers and throngs of people, so the guys felt very comfortable hanging around down there. I spent some time talking to a few players and even took some photos but steered clear when they were with family or were otherwise busy or wanting some private time. Some of them remembered me from Training Camp and/or San Diego so that was cool. Lawyer and Ty (who shares my birthday) recalled the pictures that I gave them this summer. I spoke to Joe Andruzzi at length as usual and since we were with Lonie Sr. quite a bit, Lonie Jr. was close by. Willie McGinist Sr. and I met up in the gym in SD and Big Willie was glad to hear that Dad was taking care of the the ticker each morning here as well. My favorite guy, Tedy was home rehabbing in NE, but alas.... there were pecs and pipes aplenty for Mrs. B. in Tennessee!
Spent a quiet evening sharing laughs around the lobby with Bama, Steve, and brothers Bob and Steve Wells, whom we dubbed "The Cruise Brothers" because of their resemblance to Al's coworker Jimmy Cruise. (Watch out boys....you know about the lasting effect of nicknames on our list!!) I think I blew them away as the Walking Media Guide, identifying everyone right down to the special teams players. Al was happy because his goal was to get Pepper Johnson to autograph his copy of Won For All, which he did. Al gave him a bottle of Bruschi Brew 7 in exchange for the John Hancock. At first Pepper didn't know what it was but when he realized he was excited to take it. He called over the other coaches and was showing it off as they were entering the elevator.
On Monday morning after our run, we decided to make our way over to The Grand Ol' Opry Hotel with Bama, Lil, and Don to check it out. OMG..... that place is absolutely awesome! Since it was decorated for Christmas the sites were spectacular. The place was mobbed and even hosted some school children on class trips! Ran into Mike Lynch filming a spot for Patriots All Access and talked to him once again about my displeasure at not getting it in RI this year. (I had previously sent him an e-mail asking whom I should complain to.) Master of the Game, Bama, was in classic form using his Southern Gent "f-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ne" on all the pretty ladies in sight! (You got game, baby..... G whiz!!)
As Monday wore on, we started getting fired up for the game and changed into some serious Fan Attire. I got my hands on a couple of big rocks, had a few Brewskies, took a group photo as requested by Lonie Paxton Sr. and were off! Bama's buddies drove up from Huntsville and put an a nice pregame tailgate for us. I was equipped with my mojo making beads and Bruschi Jersey, and brought along a "Get Well Soon Tedy" sign in hopes of making it on Monday Night Football bearing a message to my man back in NE.
When we got to downtown Nashville, we parked off-site, enjoyed our tailgate and took public transportation to and from the game. I must say, the Titans fans are some of the nicest people I've ever met! They support their team in stellar fashion, (cranking up the volume in the Coliseum big-time...) but are NOT trash talkers at all. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and actually had conversations with us. I dare say, they lacked the "In Your Face" qualities of the Foxboro fans. And judging by the poor play of our team out there, they had plenty of opportunities to rub our noses in it. The closest they came was the entire crowd singing "Hit the Road Jack" in unison at the end of the game.... and believe me, I had to try hard to NOT join in to the catchy tune!
Bama, Steve, Al, and I had excellent seats in the lower bowl and literally stood for the entire game. The home fans were really into it and the noise level was intense. We were blessed with unseasonably warm weather and I wore nothing but a turtleneck and Bruschi Jersey. The Titans played lots of spots on the Jumbo Tron such as Wheel of Fortune puzzles, commentary from celebs like The Rock, live trivia contests in the stands, and songs to keep the crowd pumped and into the game. It is truly a football experience designed to keep the crowd high and assure the home team that they are most definitely in their own house. I would have LOVED to have the opportunity to see that intensity deflate...... Too bad the Patriots didn't have what it took to get the job done that night.
After the game, Bama departed for Huntsville, we hitched a ride with Steve and the Wells brothers back to the hotel for the night and said our goodbyes. The next morning Al and I rode the shuttle to the airport with Lil and Don, enjoyed comfortable flights home (although I was not too keen about the tiny plane on the first leg...) and arrived to hear the "orders" of fellow Pats Fans to NOT attend any more Road Trips since our record stands at 0-2. Believe me, that won't stop us.... we'll get 'em next time!