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VOL. 43 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 11, 2019

Titans fans need a reason for showing up

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Marcus Mariota sits in a familiar position during Sunday’s loss 14-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He was sacked five times while throwing for 183 yards and no touchdowns.

-- Photo By Mark Zaleski|Ap

Which came first: The Titans’ continued lackluster play or their fans’ apathetic attitude?

Don’t get me wrong. There are thousands of Titans fans who still show up each week – battling traffic, parking and undergoing security scrutiny to get through the stadium gates – to root, root, root for an often-mediocre product on the field.

But the fact that roughly 40% of Nissan Stadium Sunday was decked out in royal blue and cheering for the visiting Buffalo Bills cannot be ignored.

“I will be honest. I would be pissed off too if I was a Titans fan,” says Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan. “That’s what it is. One fan told me that his dad sold his season tickets because (the team) was going to break their hearts. We have to be better. That’s just what it is. I’m not saying anything that nobody sees.

“It has to be better, that’s myself included. That’s everybody – upstairs, coaches, players – everyone has to be better and that has to be consistent. It can’t be “Oh, we lost. Oh, (expletive). Well, let’s be better.’ Then, we win and we’re like, ‘Oh, we’re the greatest.’ It’s got to stop. That’s getting out of hand.”

In fighting the fight against HD TVs, high concession prices and parking – just to name a few things that keep more fans in their living rooms on Sundays rather than attending a Titans game in person, one thing is certain – this is nowhere close to the glory days of 1999 and 2000.

Back then the Titans owned the city of Nashville and there was a waiting list just to see a game live.

Welcome to the new normal, when ticket brokers have access to prime tickets and Music City’s reputation as the “It” city and a party town often makes a Titans game part of some out-of-town fans’ weekend getaway excursion.

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Case in point: Sunday’s 14-7 debacle by the Titans against Buffalo.

Bills coach Sean McDermott opened his postgame comments with that very topic.

“I want to open up by thanking the fans, what a fan following down here,” he said. “Unbelievable. I don’t think I have ever seen it like that at an away game. Fans, great job.

“As we pulled in on the bus, as I looked to my left, a couple of parking lots away from here, and it was all Bills fans, and it was awesome.

“I really appreciate that, the players felt it, the staff felt it.”

Bills’ defender Jordan Phillips said the players fed off it.

“It was a home game for us,” he said. “It was probably 80-20 with Bills fans. It was louder for us than it was for them. It was a great time.

OK, he exaggerated a bit. But it felt like 80-20 as the game clock wound down.

So what – if anything – can the Titans do to remedy this malady. The easy answer, of course, is win.

But for the three previous years before this season, the Titans have done just that, at least at home. The Titans have gone 17-7 at Nissan Stadium during that span before their two missteps this season in Nashville.

On the best days now, the Titans have a few empty seats. Occasionally, a bit of the old energy returns.

Then there are games like Sunday’s when Bills fans who, let’s face it, have had far less reason to support their team than the Titans fans have had over the past 15-20 years, still do.

Could the Titans’ on-field play, game day experience and overall efforts to better win back the fan base be better? Yes, yes and yes.

But could Tennessee fans have the same persistence and loyalty for the pro team they show with the perpetually rebuilding state college team to the east? Yeah, probably so.

But it kind of goes back to the chicken and the egg.

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