Once you get past the initial thrill that live football is being played and broadcast, the first game of the NFL pre-season isn't really all that exciting. In fact, if you miss the first quarter of the first pre-season game, odds are you're going to see a lot of players out there that you'll never hear from again come opening day.
And while I can't say the first game of the pre-season for the Titans last Saturday was any different, I can say that I was pretty excited to head out to LP Field for the game.
It's because I was fortunate enough to win a pretty special experience before the game.
Before this year's draft, I heard a radio ad for a contest--pick the Titans' first pick and you might win a prize pack. So, I surfed over to the site and decided I'd pick Jack Locker as the Titans' potential first-round pick. (I'd heard some conversation on a local call in show that day that speculated that Locker was the one the Titans wanted.)
A few weeks later, the draft happened. The Titans picked Locker. I got pretty excited, but then realized that even though I had the right pick, there could be a lot of other people out there who did as well. I knew from the rules that the correct picks all went into a hat and the winner would be selected. I figured I could take pride in knowing that I'd at least got to the final round of the contest.
And then, I got an e-mail...saying that I'd won. The prize pack included a chance to meet Locker and get his autograph plus four tickets to the home season opener against the Ravens. I was pretty excited about it...until I found out that the season opener was six days before a big day coming up. If the NFL pushed back the season a week, I'd probably miss the game since I'd be on my honeymoon during the Titans vs Ravens game. My bride loves but I'm not sure that love extends enough to postponing our honeymoon a day for a football game.
Thankfully, the NFL worked all this out and the game will go on as scheduled.
The people in charge of connecting me with my winnings contacted me to try and figure out when I'd like to go out to practice and meet and greet Jake Locker. I was eager to go, but I figured since I could take family and friends with me, it might be cool to take my nephew along with me. For one thing, he loves anything that allows him to spend time hanging out with Uncle Michael. For another, I felt that I had a chance to help him catch the football bug at an early age.
Well, turns out that I wouldn't be able to take him. That's because the Titans upped the ante last week, giving me two club level seats to the game and a chance to participate in a pre-game ceremony to welcome back football. I'd get a Locker jersey, get to wear it onto the field and have Locker come over and sign the jersey before the game.
So that's pretty much what happened Saturday evening. In my years of being around football both as a fan and covering it, I've been on the sidelines and field of several venues for viewing the greatest sport EVER created. But I'd never been on the sidelines or field of a pro stadium. I have to admit, even just the pre-game it was pretty inspiring. Watching the players warm up, seeing punts sail over our heads as we lined up on the 20 for the ceremony and seeing all the players up close and personal. It was a very, very cool evening.
Of course, it was helped by the fact that Locker came in and had a marvelous play for a touchdown...if you've watched SportsCenter, you've seen it.
All that, plus the Titans won the game. Pretty exciting.
I'm not sure if the regular season game can top the experience, but I'm sure it will try. Of course, it can easily top it if the Titans beat the Ravens, a team I've learned to dislike as much as I do the Cowboys or the Gators.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/18/2011 12:49:00 PM