Right this minute, I am thinking that it would be quite nice to see the Baltimore Ravens in possession of the Lombardi trophy at the end of the 2006 NFL season.
Ever since watching him put up 336 yards in the 1999 season opener (while being booed by fans, incredulously), I have been a fan of number 9. Before that day, I had marked myself as a fan only of a team and not a player. I knew that players came and went too often for me to put my loyalty to someone who likely wouldn't be on the team for any coming season. And so I was determined to not buy player jerseys, only team specific merchandise. For two seasons, I was true to my words. I watched the Oilers play in Memphis in 1997 and I watched them play in Nashville at Vanderbilt in 1998, and I hardly bothered to learn the names of the players. I rooted for my home team and that was that.
Then, 1999 came. My wife and I took our seats in what was called Adelphia Coliseum at the time. I was in my Titans cap and ready for another fun NFL game. I was ready to watch my team. But on the field that day, Steve McNair was on fire. He threw for over 300 yards and I think three touchdowns. I think his scrambling might have confused many fans, who started booing him as he was playing to catch up with the winning Bengals. All he was doing was putting up yards and points; our struggling defense was the only reason that Cincinnati was winning. And as we found ourselves down by two with about a minute to go in the game, Steve McNair moved the offense up the field, proving wrong his doubters, and got his team in position for a beautiful last second Al Del Greco field goal. With the first game of the season in the books, the Tennessee Titans were 1-0 and on their way to a terrific season, one where we would play in the Super Bowl on the merits of a 13-3 season.
Before the second game of the season, yours truly was wearing a Steve McNair jersey, a fan of a player, going against my game plan. I knew that one day, he'd probably be on another team. It happens all of the time. But there was something about him that was the team. And now he's a Baltimore Raven and the unimaginable has happened. I find myself wishing Brian Billick, the coach of one of our biggest rivals, a spectacular season. The Tennessee Titans are still playing in Nashville, but my team just moved to Baltimore.
Is it football season yet?