Biased Banter: Titans vs. Steelers
Clay Travis is a Titans fan. Ryan Wilson is a Steelers fan. With Tennessee and Pittsburgh kicking off the 2009 season tonight, they decided to mock each other over e-mail.
Ryan: First off, congratulations on Patrick Ramsey making the 53-man roster. Pretty good chance he'll play before Week 6, and, really, the road to Miami goes through a former Tulane graduate who Steve Spurrier once pegged as the Redskins' future.
But that -- or the fact that the Titans' current starting quarterback is 36 years old and was once outplayed by Billy Joe Tolliver during a brief stopover in New Orleans -- won't be the story line Thursday. Not until the game starts, anyway. Nope, it'll no doubt be the fact that the last time Pittsburgh and Tennessee met -- a Week 16 Titans beatdown -- then-chubbier running back LenDale White (Seriously, how much tequila are you drinking that when you cut it out of your diet you drop 30 pounds?) spent the final minutes of the game celebrating the victory by disrespecting the Terrible Towel.
In a shocking turn of events, this did not go over well with Steelers fans. (Or the Steelers, for that matter.) Yes, I get the absurdity of it all; an adult taking great offense because another adult went to town on what amounts to a yellow hand towel. But it's bigger than that.
Myron Cope (R.I.P.), patron saint to Steelers Nation, invented the Terrible Towel. So to deface it portends very bad things on the perpetrators. Just ask T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who took great pleasure in cleaning his shoes -- in Heinz Field, no less -- shortly after the Bengals defeated the Steelers during a 2005 regular-season game.
Cincinnati finished the year with 11 wins, made the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and Carson Palmer's knee promptly exploded during the first offensive series. Against the Steelers. The Bengals have gone 8-8, 7-9, and 4-11-1 since, and Palmer's never been the same.
So here's what I'm saying: don't be surprised if the Titans tank. On the upside, Cortland Finnegan has repented and he should be fine. So there's that.
Clay: Wow, did you really lead by taking a shot at the Titans third-string quarterback? Was the third assistant groin-massaging trainer too uppity to be worthy of your attention? If you want to lead with third-strings, you could have at least led with the Titans third string defensive tackle from last year. You might remember him, guy by the name of Jason Jones. He sacked Big Ben three times and caused two fumbles. Then for good measure Jones impregnated Sienna Miller. They're raising a child who is only going to exist to ridicule the city of Pittsburgh.
All of his diapers will be terrible towels.
Speaking of which, why do Steelers fans always feel the need to mention Myron Cope, the "inventor" of the terrible towel--question, how does one invent a towel--can you copyright or trademark lifting an object and swirling it above your head? If I started taking off my baseball cap and twirling it around my head could I argue that I "invented" the terrible cap?
Second question, why do all Steelers fans mention that Myron Cope is dead? We all die, that's an awful and not insignificant counterpoint to life, but no one talks about cars or airplanes and then says, "Oh, by the way, Orville Wright is dead now." I don't get the death fetish. Maybe it comes from living in a rustbelt city that has slowly died as well, I don't know.
Come Thursday I hope LenDale White brings out a terrible towel, already prefrayed, and rips it apart like Hulk Hogan when he used to enter the wrestling ring. I want that, need that. Of course Emperor Roger Goodell would probably suspend White for violating the league conduct policy, but the thirty seconds of pure hate that move would engender would perfectly welcome us to the new season.
Thursday's game is going to be epic. I just hope your most explosive offensive weapon, 43 year old Hines Ward, doesn't need knee replacement surgery between now and then. Until that point I'm going to be inventing things. Look, I'm twirling a TV remote above my head, it's a terrible TV remote.
Ryan: I'll be honest: I don't know much about Nashville. Probably because the Titans have only been in existence since 1996, and the two most memorable events in the team's history are participating in the most boring Super Bowl ever, and having their mascot run over an opponent with a golf cart. Feel the tradition!
But I don't want to be accused of being close-minded, so I fired up Google to learn more about Music City, USA (!). Yeah, Myron Cope (dead or alive) is sort of a big deal in Western Pennsylvania, but I now understand why you were unimpressed. Search "Famous Nashville Residents" and this is the first link that comes up. For those folks unfamiliar with Nashville's elite (almost certainly everybody), take a gander at these gems.
At the top of the list: Bobby Hamilton Jr., professional NASCAR driver. Followed by: Bobby Hamilton Sr., professional NASCAR driver. Brilliant.
But it gets better. No. 3: Nashville's Most Famous Mascots! Seriously. (Maybe these are in random order, which means that the mascots could be ranked higher. Either way, T-Rac is fifth behind SnowBird, who "spends most of his time watching and reporting the local weather on the WSMV television.") Suddenly, I don't feel so bad about invoking Cope's name, or defending the Terrible Towel.
Brandt Snedeker is also from Nashville, apparently, and he might be the only athlete who cries more than Hines Ward. And that's only if you're willing to concede that golfers are athletes. The list of Nashville's finest goes on like this for several more names -- Michael W. Smith, Christian singer!, Miley Cyrus, teenage pop star! -- and I now feel bad for you, Clay.
I now understand why you lash out, taking great pleasure in mocking a dead man. You're stuck in Nashville, stuck with the Titans, and -- subconsciously or not -- hate yourself for it.
Or maybe I'm just projecting what I'd be feeling if I woke up in the middle of Tennessee relegated to cheering for the same team that has broken Kige Ramsey's heart too many times to count.
So I encourage you to continue "inventing things" between now and Thursday. I love the Terrible Fork idea, but you might want to focus your energies on finding a way to make LenDale something other than the Titans' glorified mascot. Although, to be fair, T-Rac might not appreciate the comparison; if given a chance to play running back he would probably have fewer fumbles in critical situations.
Clay: The most famous residents angle? Jeez. If we're going the celebrity angle, here are a few better ones that live in Nashville off the top of my head: Nicole Kidman, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, G Unit, Jessica Simpson, basically pick any famous musician and go ahead and assume they either live here or have a mansion in town. How is that different than Pittsburgh? I'll tell you, people choose to live here. And perhaps more importantly, they move here from other places. Probably quite a few from Pittsburgh. We're the future, the city of Pittsburgh and their cute, cuddly towel is the past.
Interesting that you chose to focus on the Titans mascot, an oversized raccoon. I'll grant you, mascots are awful. Anyone over the age of five who laughs at a mascot antic should be chemically castrated on the spot, but you know what's worse than a mere mascot--Steely McBeam! An oversized cartoon man who labors in construction,a field that, you know, has been outsourced from dying cities like Pittsburgh to growing cities like Nashville. But you know what's even worse than having an outdated mascot who haunts the dreams of Steelers fans everywhere reminding them of a time when their city was virile and people wanted to live there? Not having cheerleaders.
Seriously, not a single one. Even though Pittsburgh girls are generally ugly, overweight and still think xxx-tra large Starter jackets are cutting edge, does that mean that the city can't produce 10 or 20 girls who are smaller than a size 10? Not even in the entire city. No wonder your starting quarterback stumbles around in a drink like a champion t-shirt, the only way he's willing to sleep with Pittsburgh women is after he consumes an entire bottle of Jack. I mean, granted a conga line of Steelers' women jumping at the same time would likely topple the Heinz ketchup bottle with aftershock waves, but don't you have to take that risk in the modern era?
Otherwise you leave yourself open to this criticism.
What Steelers' fans are in favor of: "inventing" towels
What Steelers' fans are opposed to: attractive women.
It's no wonder Pittsburgh fans travel so well to support their team. The whole fanbase is ecstatic to leave the city for a weekend.
Ryan: I can not defend Steely McBeam, nor will I try. He was thrust upon Steelers' fans under the cloak of darkness and without warning. Which makes perfect sense when you see him stumbling around the entrance to Heinz Field on game days trying to avoid getting his ass kicked by fans.
And, sure, demographically, Pittsburgh trends toward the geriatric, and the city isn't exactly a hotbed for the young and comely. Point and gawk at the downtrodden and the ugly if you like. Make this a class issue. Come Thursday night, I can see you and your beautiful friends sitting around your ultra-modern apartments, sipping apple martinis, occasionally glancing at the game (only to bemoan the savagery) before turning the conversation to your new driving moccasins, or that chai tea is suddenly overrated.
Because your argument seems to be that, since the Titans seldom have a chance to sustain a playoff run, you'll celebrate the other great parts of the city in which they play. That's swell. Yes, the influx of new business, the semi-famous home buyers, and dearth of the hideously overweight makes it more desirable than Pittsburgh. Fine, I'll grant you that, but then what?
Does any of that matter once the game starts? Will a stadium full of gargoyles, trolls and Quasimodos make it more likely that Collins will throw an interception at a critical moment? Because if so, the Titans might want to look into that strategy against opponents for home games.
You can even give it an unimaginative name and call it an invention.
Clay: This is probably the first time that residents of any Tennessee city have been accused of sipping apple martinis during a football game. We're not even a generation removed from bottles of moonshine that actually have XXX written on the side. The only people who drink apple martinis in this town are the Yankees. And I'll grant you that there are Yankees in Nashville now. It happened in 1862 when the city fell to the North, so I don't know how we could expect it not to happen in 1992. They brought their girly drinks, their Kangol hats, and their abrasive accents with them. Also, they insist on ridiculing us throughout mild winter when we wear toboggans on our heads. "Eh, toboggans a sled. Don't you guys know anything?" they'll say.
But I'm glad to hear we've advanced up the stereotype ladder. Not being able to read or wear shoes, that's par for the Tennessee criticism course, but driving moccasins? That's gold. I don't even know what driving moccasins are and I'm laughing as I type. For the record, my friends are better looking than me, that's true, but given my physical appearance, it would be truly unfortunate for them if they weren't. I'd give Steely McBeam a good run in a hot or not contest.
So come 7:30 central (8:30 your time), just like you I'll be geared up and sitting in front of a large television, eyes aglow with hope, convinced that the season is paved with glory. At kickoff, I'm lifting my fork from a plate of warm nachos and twirling it around my head in celebration and mock salute to my NFL fan-brethren on the Monongehela. Thank God, the NFL season is back, and I'll be damned if it's not time to celebrate my newest invention, the terrible fork.
Somewhere, I hope Myron Cope grins--he's dead you know.