A Strange, Surprising Football Season
by Laurie Brown (@lbrown1213)
The Rams abandoned me in 2016, but I was determined not to let that ruin my football season. I had been a passionate Rams fan and there was no reason I couldn't be a passionate fan of another team. It was all within my control. Enter the Tennessee Titans, chosen for the drivability to games and the fact that Nashville is a very cool town. Done. I was now a Titans fan and I had the infinity scarf and clear plastic tote to prove it. But, there were a few unanticipated issues. One was that unlike the Rams where I knew every player by name and number, I knew no one on the Titans. Okay, Marcus Mariota was number 8, that I knew, but the number inspired no confidence as any Rams fan will tell you (See: Bradford, Sam). With time I knew I could get past that but there were still 52 unknown others I had to contend with. DeMarco Murray...okay what number is he? 29. Okay, there's two. Derrick Henry, the Heisman Trophy guy...let me look up his number. Okay, 22. There's three. And so it went, slowly but surely, player by player I started learning the team. Twitter and Instagram helped too. I started to love Delanie Walker because he was always out doing stuff in the community. Taylor Lewan...he filled the interesting character spot vacated by Chris Long. Things were coming together.
There was one problem though...the Titans didn't always look too good and there were a few times they looked terrible. I didn't like that. I was carrying baggage from my previous team that left me intolerant of bad play and losing games. Not again. No can-do. Fortunately, there were some encouraging signs and a few good games that made me feel okay with my choice and proud of my team. Marcus counted for a lot. He didn't always play the best or necessarily make good decisions on the field but his obvious leadership, strength of character and maturity were huge assets and the guy was only 23. I'd never known a quarterback I could respect before. Marcus was only going to continue to improve and thus the Titans were only going to continue to improve. This was going to work out fine.
But then, a wrinkle. I became a serious Janoris Jenkins fan and wanted to watch all his games and that meant watching the New York Giants. After the Rams scurried off to LA, Janoris was the only Rams player that did anything for St. Louis fans. He held a meet and greet at the local ESPN station and made himself available for a couple of hours or more. He posed for pics, signed everything, and invited people to bring their kids down to meet him. The experience was very chill, very welcoming, very fun, and pretty sad. But not Janoris, he wasn't sad at all. He was happy to engage with the forgotten fans of St. Louis. We didn't want to lose him or our team and we were losing both. But, a seed was planted.
Janoris. I had met him once before during his rookie year when he was doing bell ringing for the Salvation Army at a local grocery store. He had already made some big plays and when I shook his hand I said, "Nice to meet you. You're a hero in this town!". He was so shy or uncomfortable or something he just quietly yes ma'amed me a couple of times as he signed my white football, not wanting to make eye contact. He was much more comfortable, more confident at his goodbye signing. He was going off to New York to be a star while we were staying behind, at a loss, without a team.
I started watching the Giants to see Janoris play. I had spent a small fortune on NFL Sunday Ticket to watch every Titans game, but it was coming in handy to catch the Giants too. I started learning the team and it was fun to watch them play. Janoris would eventually be voted into the Pro Bowl. I was still watching the Titans too and they had a couple of great games and were definitely making progress. Marcus was a star in the making and everyone could see it. I pronounced his name wrong all season, but that was an easy fix. The point of all this is, I was worried what this season would be like without the Rams. I was worried I wouldn't like football that much anymore. I was worried it would never be the same. And it isn't the same, but it's still good and in some ways it's better. I lost one team, but I gained two.