The Tennessee Titans. A long running urban legend among football fans. Do you remember the Titans? Does anyone? Most people these days casually dismiss the rumors of a team in the land of Tennessee. They will tell you they’ve never heard of such a land. Titans are a creature of greek myth, tall and mighty and elder gods that came before Zeus. These titans would make a perfect football team name, why haven’t we heard of them? Or seen them? Some intrepid pranksters even created an entire “site’ dedicated to the fake team and accounts of their games. The most popular name for made up franchises in Madden is The Titans.
It is easy to dismiss the rumors of the Titans. Tennessee cannot be found on a map, but has long been known as the fabled land of the south. Elvis liked to say he was from there, but Elvis was a known drug addict and tease, no one ever actually found his birth home. But yet, the rumors and stories of this “50th” state persist, because a lot of people truly do believe. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories, the unexplained phenomena in the central south area in lower Kentucky that many fear to tread, and their ghost football team. I decided to do some research to find out, is there any truth to these rumors? Is there any hint of the Tennessee Titans actual existence? I’ve had my own strange unexplained encounters before. One of these moments is detailed here in the blog post of my comic, but the other I’ve never shared with anyone.
I was watching a game in a little dive bar in the east side of town two years ago. Tiny place, crappy food, bad lighting. As I watched I noticed a fan over in the corner I hadn’t seen before, which was odd because there were only 5 people in the bar to begin with. He had an Eddie George jersey on, but one in a style I’d never seen. Blue with dark blue shoulders. I thought it was a Toronto Argonauts jersey. I sat down by him, he was watching the Bengals play the Argonauts in what I assume was a wacky exhibition game of Canada Vs USA. He kept calling the Argonauts “The Titans”, but he looked sad so I went with it. His name was Seth, and we talked for an hour about football and life. He was from Southern Kentucky, he grew up on a farm, he loved it there but due to family reasons he had to leave. But he always followed the “Titans”, and he remembered what joys and lows they had given him. He seemed like he had it rough so I offered to buy him a drink. I went up to the bar and asked if I could “Have a couple of beers, one for me and one for my new friend Seth over there” The bartender’s face went pale. “What friend?” “Seth, the Argonauts fan, he’s over there, watching the Bengals/Argonauts game” “The Nauts? They aren’t NFL you dummy, the Bengals are on a bye week.” I turned around. Seth was gone. The table was empty. The TV was showing golf.
Two days later the bar was closed and in shambles. It was torn down a week later, apparently because of a land dispute. These days the area is fenced in. No one goes into the lot, not even teens looking to tag some open wall space.
But that is just my story. I decided to ask around about the mystery, to anyone who would listen. I brought it up to my fellow KSK Kontributors. Most didn’t reply. Spilly threw food at me. Ape threatened to revoke my posting abilities for “wasting space on our football dick joke site with bogus rumors”. But a few actually revealed their own tales.
When I left home for college, it was a really tough transition for me. I was a homesick kid– I had trouble even going to sleepaway camp, so it was very hard for me to be living far away from home. I was really lucky that Dave Feldsen, my roommate in my freshman dorm was so friendly. We talked a lot, and became really close friends. He was like a brother to me, and having a trusted friend with me while I acclimated to college life really helped me out. We were at a party once, and I saw that he was wearing a Jake Locker jersey. Now, I got into football late in life, so I asked him about it. He responded that he grew up in Tennessee, and loved football. He had followed the Titans for years. After the party, he made it a point to sit me down and watch a game with me, showing me the intricacies of a game he knew more about than anyone I had ever met.
We stayed roommates for my entire college career, and kept watching football games together for that entire time. We split NFL Sunday Ticket, and Dave got to watch his Titans play. Graduation came around way too early. I was spending time with my family before they called all our names, so I didn’t see Dave. They called me up, I shook the dean’s hand, and I waved to my parents. I tried to find Dave in the crowd, but he was nowhere to be seen. They started calling out the F names: Thomas Fadden, James Falmouth, Stacey Feinbaum. Then they called up Daryl Ferguson.
After the ceremony, I was able to track down the dean. I was furious and confused. Why didn’t Dave get his diploma? I was almost yelling at the dean at this point. The dean looked me in the eye.
“David FELDSEN. My best friend.”
The dean took a step back.
“Yes. Why didn’t he get his diploma?”
The dean looked at me with a combination of fear, surprise, and sadness.
“Son, David Feldsen has been dead for 40 years.”
I was down in Nashville hanging in the hip 12th and Porter neighbourhood, because that’s the kind of dorky tourist I am, and as the wife and I sucked down a few bushwackers with some locals, I mentioned that I wish it were football season so we could go see a Titans game. Half of them kind of snickered to themselves, while the other half just gave me the heavy eye roll. I let it go. Later, my friend Spice-J and I were outside smoking Marlboro reds when I thought I’d bring it up again.
“I was serious about that Titans game, man.”
“Listen, I know you come from far away, but you gottta learn a little geography. America is big. Just because you some some melodramatic Denzel flick about a team in the South, doesn’t mean we live anywhere near that. Virginia is a bit of a Greyhound ride away. It’s like me saying that i was thinking of a day trip to Winnipeg while we were hanging out in Vancouver. Also, I feel like adult guys who travel to see high school football are kinda creepy.”
I thought he was just utilizing his dry sense of humour, but as I headed downtown from Shelby Street the next day, the place where I saw the Chiefs beat a baby blue team quarterbacked by Ryan Fitzmagick was not longer there; replaced by a dilapidating, fourteen storey bronze statue of Jordin Tootoo throwing a haymaker at a ref.
We finally really did it.
Certainly something is going on. The Oilers are the most famous case. Bud Adams announced he was moving but kept declining to say where. When a reporter cornered him in the street demanding answers, he famously joked “We are moving to Tennessee, hows that for our plan” and laughed. But then one night they vanished. No one has seen the team since. Jeff Fisher recently reappeared but seems to not remember a thing. Steve McNair resurfaced in Baltimore, visibly older and broken down mentally, and many believe that he was going to finally say what happened when he was tragically cut down by an “angry girlfriend”
Bring up the rumors in your local pub and most of the interesting responses come from old timers who remember the Oilers.
“I really did love the Houston Oilers. Warren Moon was my favorite player. Then one day, they up and just vanished, just like that. No one knows what happened to ’em. Some say they moved into an abandoned building called LP Field in Nashville, but no one goes near that place.”
“You know, sometimes I hear my grandfather talk about the time an NFL team played in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl. That’s when we give him his meds because, seriously, the LIBERTY BOWL? Can you imagine an NFL team playing in that shit hole? Jesus, it’s so sad to see how much he’s lost it over the years…”
“They say a hooded figure wanders the hills of the Cumberland Plateau, ducking in and out of the early morning mist, and once a year, at dawn on the day of NFL Kickoff, he leaves a single rose on Johnny Paycheck’s grave and whispers, ‘Wyceck’ before disappearing into a whisp of smoke.”
“You remember that Super Bowl, right? The Rams/Titans one? Thrilling up until the end!”
“Son, are you alright? The Rams won without even playing. Marshall Faulk woke up with a ring and just assumed he’d gotten it on an extended bender”
“After Bernard Pollard killed all the Patriots, he was never seen nor heard from again. Some say he went to Tennessee, but you won’t find that on any map you can buy.”
“What about the Music City Miracle? Heck son, I can’t explain Taylor Swifts popularity any better than you can.”
“The Music City Miracle? That’s just an old Bills thing a bunch of die hard fans invented to rationalize just missing the playoffs that year, everyone knows that”
“You remember when Lendale White stomped on the Terrible Towel?” “What are you talking about? Lendale White died of an artery failure years ago”
“What did Bill Murray whisper into ScarJo’s ear at the end Lost in Translation?” “Apparently, the first draft had him saying, ‘I’m so sorry about Dyson…”
“How do you think the Titans will do this year?” “The New York Titans? Are you serious? That’s the Jets’ AFL name from the 60s. Get with it, man” “No, no, the Tennessee Titans.” “Get out, I don’t need some crackhead spreading nonsense in my bar”
Of course, there are still the matter of the many images taken over the years, not to mention the vanishing players. The sightings of people wearing “Blue jerseys with dark blue shoulders, unlike any other NFL uniform you’ve ever seen”. Here are the famous ones:
The Famous “Chris Johnson Running” picture.Taken in 2010 at an abandoned football field in East Carolina, near where he played college ball. His jersey is shaded in the manner of the Titans rumored look, and if you look to the right along the wall you can see graffiti of the Titans “logo”, a flaming shield that some people call the fire thumbtack. Johnson famously vanished in 2008 after being expected to be a record breaker in the NFL. He was never drafted. Recently he turned up in New York, devoid of all talent he might have once had. He does not remember anything according to sources close to him. Just like Fisher and McNair.
“QB at the window”. Taken in 1999 season, just a month before the super bowl. An old Oiler fan doing some exploration at an old abandoned home snapped this artsy picture of a staircase, only to have it develop and see what appeared to be Steve McNair at the window. McNair also vanished right before being drafted, but this was in 1997 right as the rumors of the Titans started to spread. The oilers demise was still on everyone’s minds and many feel McNair’s disappearance helped fuel the Titan legend. A month later the Rams were automatically given the Super Bowl victory after the Jaguars, the AFC Champion, boycotted the game. Many say the Rams played a game with the Titans, inventing a whole elaborate story that ended on a play that came up “one yard short”. These days, one Yard Short is a common element to many myths, including the Southern Kentucky town of Youngstown.
A record from a reporter details his experience in the woods by Youngstown:
“In the woods of very southern Kentucky lies a small town that has a long tradition among the teens. You go into the woods as far as you can until you reach the border of “Tennessee”. But you stop one yard short of the border line. The borderline is marked by a mass of bluegrass that simply does not grow past a certain point. If the moon is full, you see strange things. Some have seen Lendale White. Others have seen Eddie George. I did as I was told. After 1 hour of waiting I turned to leave then saw a large shirtless man standing 20 yards away across the line. He stared at me, shouted “HOOK EM HORNS”. I snapped a photo and looked up, he had vanished. I ran into the woods after him but he left no trace save for 3 letters burnt onto a tree. JWG. I heard a soft whisper in my ear “Just wins games.” I’ve never run so fast in my life. Never looked back, haven’t been back. I’m a woodcutter now. “
“The Phantom Stadium”Taken by a University of Alabama student on a camping trip in the northern woods of Alabama, the student describes going on a hike early the 3rd day of her trip and coming into a clearing, and seeing a giant spectre of a football stadium in the distance. She snapped a photo, and claimed to hear shouts and announcers. She ran to get her friends, but when she got back, it was gone. She added “Roll Tide Paw”
These days the Tennessee Titans have become a meme. Within hours of Ken Whisenhunt’s reported vanishing twitter was already full of people claiming he is now the coach of the Titans, and some intrepid artists immediately photoshopped him in Titans gear. Even the NFL and ESPN got into it, going along with the joke. But the players who came back wrong are no joke, not to mention the large number of players who never came back at all. Jake Locker. Kenny Britt. So many others. The fact that the NFL has 31 teams and can’t seem to find a place to settle down for that 32nd, which would even out the conferences. Some have even suggested the NFL should expand into Europe and call the team the London Titans.
So what do you think? Are the Titans just the dream of a bunch of bored football fans who needed an urban legend? Or is there actually a team out there? Do you have any stories? Any encounters of the Titan kind?