MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – More than two decadesafter the Tennessee Oilers first and only season in Memphis, are fans stillbitter now that the Titans are one win from the Super Bowl?
While the Oilers waited for a new stadium in Nashville, theyplanned to call the Liberty Bowl home for two years. But the then-ownerinstituted the biggest season ticket price hike in the entire league, andMemphians spoke with their feet.
The home attendance during that 1997 Tennessee Oilers seasonended up being dead last on average in the NFL.
“A lot of people are able to forgive and forget. Theyare better people than me,” Greg Akers said.
Memphis Business Journal Editor Greg Akers makes noapologies in his ongoing animosity towards Nashville’s NFL team. In 2012, hewrote a Memphis Flyer series titled ‘Why Memphis should hate the TennesseeTitans’.
“Memphians have pride and don’t want to be told theyaren’t good enough,” Akers said.
That’s how Akers felt then-Oilers owner Bud Adams treatedthe Bluff City during the 1997 Tennessee Oilers season.
Memphis fans hardly showed up at the Liberty Bowl, knowingthe team planned to move to Nashville and a new stadium.
Adams’ frustration boiled over in the 1997 home finale, whenPittsburgh Steelers fans overtook the stadium.
“They came in and basically acted like they deservedadulation and didn’t have to do anything to earn it,” Akers said.
Jim Rout, the Shelby County mayor in 1997, remembers thingsa little differently.
“It was a tough situation because you wanted to go outand see a NFL team, but you knew that they weren’t going to be there, wethought two years, but it ended up one year in the end,” Rout said.
Rout is hopeful enough time passed for most Memphians tomove beyond the bad blood and celebrate the Tennessee Titans’ underdog run tothe AFC Championship game Sunday.
“I think it’s settled out and I think everybody shouldbe proud of the Titans, and I would hope people in Nashville would be excitedabout the Grizzlies,” Rout said.
The Bayou Bar and Grill in Overton Square is known as a NewOrleans Saints bar, but come Sunday, staff expects crowds to wait out the doorto snag a seat for the unexpected AFC Championship game participant.
“To be honest, there’s already people calling, tryingto set up – like, we don’t do reservations – trying to set up party tables,trying to sit together, figure out how to do it, we just say, get here early,game starts at 2, 2:05,” Taylor Pfohl said.
To this day, Local 24 News found out the feelings about theTitans in Memphis remains a hotly divided topic.
“Part of it, too, was we didn’t feel like they wereinvested in Memphis, because they would not show up at the schools, at differentevents,” Eva Mosby said.
“Let bygones be bygones, everyone get along,”Damien Klingberg said.