Ring Out the Old, Bring in the New...
Convinced by Bama to join him in Tennessee for the final game of the 2006 season, Al and I added an addition trek to our plans. Of course, the fact that I didn't have to take any time out of school sealed the deal for me! In an effort to save a night's hotel stay, but still have as much time there as possible, we booked a 6:15AM flight out of Providence and arrived in Nashville on Saturday morning. What we didn't plan on was a party the night before and getting only 2 hours sleep! However, it worked out fine and we hit the breakfast buffet while waiting for our room to be ready for check-in.
Once we settled in, I camped out with my laptop and books in the lobby while Al took a nap. Bama and Judy came down then the boys went out to smoke while I waited for Erdoboy to check in. Things were pretty quiet in lobby until it got close to the time for the team to arrive then it began swarming with family members and (unfortunately) lots of eBay sharks... (I'm actually surprised that hotel management allowed them to camp out in the lobby with their duffle bags and follow players to the elevators as in most hotels it's prohibited.)
Bama talked quite a bit to Laurence Maroney's mom, Terri and her crew. I took an elevator ride with Ed "pipes" Hochuli during the afternoon, said hello to Jarvis when I saw him a bit later but just missed Tedy when I ran outside for a minute to talk to Al. Basically, I hang in the background on my computer and say hello to the guys that I know but don't pursue anyone. If they notice me, I say hello but other than that I keep pretty much to myself and my group.
During dinner, Bama was thrilled to have his Alabama boy Wesley Britt call him over to his table to introduce him to his folks. Other players dined with family as well. After eating, I spoke a bit to Pats photographer David Silverman and Patriots Video News man Brian Lowe as usual, and hung loose reading, blogging and surfing for most of the night. Unfortunately, the ebay crowd took over most of the primo seats in the lobby, so Ed and I moved over to some couches off to the side.. and got blasted with cold air as people headed in and out to smoke. It was worth it though, as the seating was comfortable and the wifi was steady :-)
The next morning dawned with a grey sky but it wasn't raining until we arrived at the stadium parking area. Luckily, we packed our ponchos from home and because the weather was 65 degrees at kickoff we were quite comfortable. Bama secured two sets of primo lower bowl seats and once again, Tennessee fans were cordial and psyched to support their team. In fact, the most obnoxious person in our section was a Pats fan... There was a steady rain until half time at which time the sun came out and shone brightly for the rest of the day. We stood for the entire game, sitting only during TV time-outs if we so chose.
Patriots were victorious, beating the Titans 40-23 and dashing their hopes of sneaking into the playoffs via the Wild Card. Tempers were flaring during the game, players were riding high on adrenaline and there were tons of flags thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct and roughing. The game was actually closer than what the score indicated and at one point the Titans came within 3 points and it was a bit hairy. By the fourth quarter with the game in hand, Cassel came in to relieve Brady then BB presented Vinny Testeverde with a veteran "gift" much like Flutie's drop kick to end last season. Vinny threw a touchdown pass to Troy Brown, beating his own record and throwing TDs in 20 consecutive seasons.
After the game, we returned to hotel and decided on a quiet New Years Eve dinner in the hotel restaurant. Besides the fact that reservations were nearly impossible to get, avoiding the possibility of running into drunk people on the road, staying safe in the hotel sounded great to this quad of party animals! So, while Ed and I fired up the computers, recapped the game, talked about a variety of subjects including our favorite books and authors, the cigar aficionados smoked their victory cigars outside and watched the southern ladies heading out for New Years Eve dates. With all of us having early departure times scheduled, everyone was upstairs in their rooms by 2007! We watched the highlights, packed up our stuff and prepared for a 4:00 wake up.
On departure day, we took the early shuttle to airport and were dismayed to find out that our flight was delayed and we could have stayed in bed longer had we known. Once it finally took off, our connecting flight in Detroit was also delayed and rather than getting home around 1:00 we didn't reach our house until after 5:00. Unpacking ensued and I prepared to head back to work, ending my Christmas vacation on a high note and getting psyched up for a home playoff game in less than a week!
Check out the Complete Titans Trek Album for more pics...